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Profile: Ann E. Smith, Designer

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The name Ann Smith may be familiar in a lot of places, but with the addition of the "E." from her birth name, Ann E. Smith is a familiar name as a designer in the crochet world. Not only is her name often seen, but her technical skills make her a sought-after designer. Ann's design, Fall Foliage Tunic is on the cover of the fall issue of Crochet! magazine. In a recent interview, she shared a bit of history about her successful 29-year career.

"I was a knitting technical editor for the Better Homes & Gardens knitting magazine until eight years ago when the magazine ceased publishing," explains Ann. "However, I didn't know how to crochet . When the crochet technical editor of the BH&G crochet magazine quit, my editor asked me to take over. I told her I would like to, but I would have to learn to crochet first!" Ann said that her editor told her that whatever she could do would be better that the editor herself could produce, so Ann spent one year with a crochet book in her lap as she edited crochet patterns. That's how she fell in love with crochet! "Knitting and crochet are very interrelated," she explains. "Both are very mathematical. It did take me a while to learn what yarns are appropriate for good results in crochet."

Determination like that comes from Ann's expertise in knitting. "I learned to knit in a yarn shop at age 14," she says. "The owner was so kind to me, and she asked me to help teach younger 4-H children to knit. Having to explain technique as I taught was a very good learning experience for me, as well. I was very small at the time and pattern sizes did not fit me, so I also learned how to rework patterns to fit."

Now living in Tulsa, Okla., Ann says she has lived many places, and the fact that crochet is so portable is one thing she loves about her career. "Being a designer is portable too, and it doesn't matter where I live." Ann says that she honed her skills as an editor/designer when she lived in Kansas City. She edited patterns that were sent out in the mail from a newspaper craft column. "I learned to write and edit patterns while working on this column with a manual typewriter," she recalls. "My fingers would be stiff after a long day at the typewriter. Eventually, I got an electric typewriter, but there were still challenges. More than once, I received a designer's pattern to interpret written on a napkin! Today, a design submitted on a napkin would be thrown in the trash! The computer came along as my career evolved; and once again, I had to sit with a book in my lap to learn computer skills."

After all these years as a designer, Ann is no less enthused. She believes that the potential of crochet has hardly been explored. "There are not as many crochet designers as there are knit designers," she says. "Therefore, crochet is a new venue. It is faster to design crochet, and this makes experimenting easier. I've enjoyed playing and creating in crochet. It seems like 'it's all been done' in knitting, but I've been able to create some never-before-seen pattern stitches in crochet."

Specializing in adult female garments, Ann says she felt truly like a professional when editors began approaching her to request her garment designs. Many times her inspiration comes from editors' requests. For example, if they want something for fall, she thinks about what fall looks like or what happens in the fall, and she goes from there. Ann shares, "I also like to remain relaxed and playful with my designs, so sometimes I'm inspired by little things that pop into my head. For the Fall Foliage Tunic, I was thinking about a beautiful dogwood tree in my yard, and how in the spring it is popping out with tiny berries. I used post stitches combined with puff stitch on this design."

Ann strives to keep her designs at the intermediate-easy level. "It is very hard to design a garment at the 'easy' level," she says. "My instructions are user-friendly, and I believe that if a pattern is well-written, the maker will be able to complete the pattern." Ann believes that the more garment patterns that are provided by designers, the more crocheters will want to make garments. Her hope is that the maker will stay true to the suggested yarns in the instructions. "If a crocheter substitutes yarn that is inappropriate for my design or uses a different weight yarn, she can end up with a different size than she was expecting or the drape of the garment may be disappointing."

At one time, when Ann lived in Milwaukee, she had 14 home-workers who assisted her. "Milwaukee was a great resource for talented crocheters," she recalls. "At that time, I would have my assistants make the various parts of a garment, and I would do the finishing. Finishing can make or break a garment." Today, Ann is slowing down a bit, and with the deadlines being much shorter and the cost of shipping escalating, she prefers to work alone. "I love all aspects of this career that has kept me entertained for so long. Today, I divide my time between designing and the elder care of my parents. I am selective and am as busy as I want to be without tech editing anymore."

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