There are basically three types of crochet books. First, there are stitch dictionaries which provide you with detailed instructions for completing many different types of stitches to use in your crochet work. Second, there are crochet pattern books which typically have between 10 and 20 patterns for complete crochet books. Third, there are crochet books that provide you with advanced education in crochet techniques so that you can take what you want from the first two types of books, combine it with your own imagination and create items that are exactly what you see in your head. Dora Ohrenstein’s Custom Crocheted Sweaters falls into that third category of books, making it a terrific addition to the library of a crocheter who doesn’t want to just copy what else is out there. Let me tell you a little bit more about it then we’ll enjoy an interview with the author and at the bottom of this post you can enter to win a copy of this book for yourself.
What You’ll Find in Custom Crochet Sweaters
Here are some of the things that you’ll get out of this book:
- A better understanding of how sweaters are constructed and what sweater types there are, allowing you to design your own crochet sweaters or alter other people’s patterns as needed.
- Information about taking body measurements to make crochet sweaters that are properly fitted to flatter your body.
- Insight into the differences between top down and bottom up construction.
- Tips for choosing yarn when making crochet garments.
- Tips for understanding how to adjust your gauge to change the width and length of your garment.
- Patterns for a variety of stylish sweaters and information to help you make adaptations to those specific patterns that you can apply to other crochet garments as well.
All of this information comes from the experienced hands of Dora Ohrenstein. This crochet designer started crocheting when she was young, put the craft down for awhile and then picked it up again a few years ago and has really taken it far in that time. She is the head of Crochet Insider, has been published in several crochet magazines, teaches classes in crochet and brings all of that to the table to present the material in this book in a well-written, professional but approachable manner.
Let’s Talk with Dora
Q: You’ve created a fabulous book that address a need that was lacking in the crochet community – the need for people to learn how to customize crochet clothing so that it fits their bodies and their sense of style. Now that the book is here, it seems so obvious that this is something we needed … so why do you think a book like this didn’t exist before you thought of creating it?
Dora: Here’s the thing: what’s obvious to us in the crochet community is not necessarily what publishers are interested in. What’s available in stores is a result of business decisions by publishers, not what authors want to write. For many years publishers were convinced they could only make money selling beginner’s books to crocheters. Authors like Lily Chin, Doris Chan and Kristen Omdahl have really forged the way, demonstrating that crocheters do want higher level books. But it’s still not an easy task to convince publishers, so I hope crocheters will buy them so we can keep writing them!
That’s a great point. I sometimes forget about that aspect of the publishing world because I choose to self-publish my work. Either way, though, people have to be interested in the material that you’re putting out there for you to be able to continue creating it. I think it’s great that you’ve covered an important niche topic here and I definitely agree with you that Chin, Chan and Omdahl are doing the same.
Q: In your book you identify and address several reasons that crocheters tend to be afraid of making garments (not knowing their own measurements, discomfort with shaping, etc.). In your experience which reason is the biggest reason that makes people wary of garment making?
Dora: It’s all of them put together! People often don’t realize that shaping is nothing more than counting stitches. They may not understand what information is being given to them in a schematic, and even if they do get that part, they may not know their own measurements. Many people assume that if they buy a size medium or large at the store, they should just make that size when they follow a pattern.
So I felt I had to cover all of this in great detail to address all of the concerns that plague crocheters. But the bottom line is: none of this is rocket science! People have an idea that it’s really difficult material, but the basic principles are quite simple. Putting them to use with different stitch patterns and yarns, that takes time to become really good at. Your skills grow with every piece you make, and this is a lovely groove to get into! That’s why I’m so passionate about designing. Creating and learning at the same time – my idea of heaven!
You can definitely tell that you’re passionate about it which is what makes you a great teacher. I know that I’m one of those people who probably doesn’t understand my own measurements so that’s an important area for me. Another thing for me is that I’ve been intimidated by crossing the line into what I consider fashion design as opposed to just crochet. I’ve always felt like I’d do better at it if I had taken classes in fashion design and understood non-crochet garment instruction. So I’m curious, I know you have a long history with crochet, but have you taken courses or studied fashion design in particular to help you get the skills we see demonstrated in this book?
Dora: I really don’t have a long history with crochet – I did it for 6 months when I was 20 years old (this was in ancient times), and then didn’t touch it again until 6 or 7 years ago. In blissful ignorance, I just went ahead and started designing clothes right off the bat. I studied several knitting books about sweater design, even though I don’t knit. I am still learning all the time; I study schematics and fashion magazines to learn about garment construction and fabric drape and texture. I even get great lessons from high fashion crochet garments that I find in thrift stores for $15! The designing on crochet garments from the last few years is often very ingenious.
I did take a course at FIT here in New York, but I flunked! The industrial sewing machines were very scary to me. I did learn quite a bit about sewing language and construction, and it is useful. But sewing is in many ways a different technique.
That does make sense. It sounds like you’re self-taught in basic garment construction and maybe that’s what I really need to devote some time – which I can learn in a nutshell from your book! I definitely agree with you that some of the crochet that designers are putting out now is really unique.
Q: Okay, so let’s say that I’ve read through the book and I’ve worked a pattern or two, frogged a few times, am still trying and don’t quite get how to do the adaptations. What would you recommend as a next step for making the information in your book become a reality on my hook?
When I first started seriously designing, I had to do things many times over until I got everything right. But the garments with mistakes — I used! You can’t get it perfect every time. So I urge people to start with simpler garments and work their way through the patterns in an orderly way, so that in each garment they learn something new. But I think people are often tempted to dive right into the sweater they like the most – who wouldn’t?! Still, I do think success with this is about building skills one by one.
People have a great variety of stumbling blocks. I have taught this subject in my online classes and people have responded to that forum really well. The ongoing interaction people have with a teacher in a class can be very helpful in overcoming whatever issues one has. We break down the information that’s in the book into even further detail. People ask questions online, and I answer them. It’s a pretty cool experience, for me as the teacher too. So if readers are interested, please check here as I will be offering these classes again soon.
Q: While I can see the great sweaters in this book being worn by women everywhere (especially after they make their own adaptations to them as you’ve taught them how to do!) I definitely see a New York sensibility in their style. Can you describe how New York influences you creatively?
Wow, I wish you’d tell me what seems New York to you, because I don’t see it. Most people have been very enthusiastic about the sweaters, but one commenter said they were “not cutting edge.” I hate to think they are conservative! I was trying to make stylish, classic shapes that are suitable for every day life, rather than something you’d get dressed up in. Maybe the NY part is “no frills?” In Manhattan, where I’ve lived most of my life, women are either in jeans or their work clothes, and these sweaters could be worn with either.
I think a main reason I see “New York” in these styles is because I think of New York fashion as always having those staple items that can “go from day to night” and I think that these sweaters fit the bill. You can dress them up or dress them down. I also think of New York fashion as being unique and one of a kind but not necessarily “funky” like out here in California. These seem like designs that would fit in but when you look they’re unique. Finally, the whole concept here is “great fitting” and well-tailored well-fitting clothes is something that the rest of the country has learned about from New York fashion.
Q: What is some of the best feedback or inspiring stories you’ve received about this book so far?
I have a Ravelry friend who has been a devoted fan for years. She was one of the first to get the book and immediately made one sweater after the other, 4 or 5 of them in a row, all of them beautiful! I was so flattered and touched. To be honest, I’ve read some lovely reviews of the book, for which I’m grateful, but not yet received much direct feedback from readers. How can I get people to do that? Maybe I’ll open up a comments page on my website – is that a good idea?
Absolutely! I definitely think it’d be terrific for people to comment on your blog. And we can also start the process here … I know that several of you have already checked out this book so if you have and you want to let Dora know what you like about it then just leave a comment. That will also get you an entry to win a copy which you can keep or give away to another crocheter in your life.
Lark Crafts has generously offered me a giveaway copy of this book. Following this you will find the options to enter to win. You can do any or as many as you want; each one is worth one entry. When you’ve done them, leave a comment on this post telling me how many entries, leaving links to the entries (such as your Facebook page link or the link to the Tweet). Only one comment is necessary regardless of your number of entries.
Entry options in addition to the comment are:
- Tweet something like the following: “Learn great crochet sweater skills from the @crochetbloggergiveaway of Dora O’s book”. Add the link to this giveaway to your Tweet.
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This giveaway will end at midnight PST on Friday March 23rd. The winner will be announced on the blog on Sunday March 25th.