Designer Interview & Review Series featuring Shelby Allaho

Throughout 2015 I will be doing designer interviews and reviews. Each month I will feature one industry designer, ask them some questions, and then I will actually make something from one of their patterns and do a review of it.

Interview with Shelby Allaho

For February I am feauturing Shelby Allaho from Stitch-Story. I first met Shelby at the Knit & Crochet Show in NH this past summer. When we were introduced I instantly recognized her name from some publication work I have done, and was aware of some of her designs. Shelby is super friendly and has a very unique style that she adds to the crochet community. While I know every designer has a different approach to designing, I definitely had some a-ha moments as I read her responses in our interview.

Read to the bottom of the interview to see my review of one of her patterns, and get a discount code for her jewelry eBook.

Interview

K (Me): How did you get started designing?

Shelby: Although I learned to crochet at an early age, I became even more interested in it after receiving a beautiful crocheted bracelet from a dear friend. It came from Paris and was unlike any crochet I had ever seen. This completely revived my interest in crochet and I began to see it in a completely new light. I started taking courses to learn more about it. Then I discovered Freeform Crochet, which is essentially crocheting without a pattern. I loved being able to doodle with a crochet hook to create pieces that were rich with color and texture. I found a community online that was passionate about Freeform Crochet and I became a very active member. One of the members, Bonnie Pierce, was assigned to be the editor of a crochet pattern a day calendar, and asked me if I would be willing to submit patterns for it. I had never actually written a pattern, but I decided to give it a try. I fell in love with designing crochet patterns and wanted to submit to more publications. After that, I submitted a few more patterns that were published online, while continuing to create freeform crochet pieces for exhibitions. I took a few years off when I had my daughter, then I became serious about becoming a crochet designer in 2009.  I joined the Crochet Guild of America and I was assigned a wonderful mentor, Margaret Hubert, who helped me reach my goal of becoming a professional designer. Since then, I have been fortunate to design for various yarn companies, magazines, and books. I recently co-authored a book of children’s crochet patterns for Creative Publishing International, entitled “Crocheting Clothes Kids Love”.  (Please note: CGOA & Creative Publishing International are NOT affiliate links. I get no commission if you visit their sites. I’m just providing links if you would like more info.)

K: Do you remember the first pattern you ever designed?

Shelby: Yes, it was the Blossom Necklace for the 2006 Crochet Pattern a Day Calendar. I now offer it as a free pattern, and it is my most downloaded free pattern with over 11,500 downloads recorded on Ravelry.

K: Where do you get your design inspiration from?

Shelby: I am very inspired by vintage pieces and things I find in nature, and I love translating them into crochet.

K: What is most important to you when choosing yarn for a design? Look? Feel? Weight?

Shelby: The success of a design often depends on the yarn choice. Choosing the right yarn and hook size is so important to the look of the finished piece. I usually swatch in several different yarns to see what type looks the best. Many times I am surprised at what looks best! I rarely end up using the first one I try, unless I am doing a project that is similar to one I have done previously.

K: How long between when you first have an idea to the finished pattern being released?

Shelby: Actually that is hard for me to say. It varies by design. I often start with a sketch or a paper mock-up, and then I start trying to create it in crochet. Sometimes it doesn’t look the way I intended it to, and I am taken down a completely different road. Sometimes I will end up using just one element of my original idea. For example a floral motif I designed to be an embellishment on a handbag, ended up being the main element of a cowl! When I work in this freeform manner, I come up with my most creative designs. That is why I have a hard time submitting a sketch to an editor. I prefer to design the piece and make a full sample before I submit. Most designers would tell you not to do this, but I feel the most comfortable working this way, and I think editors are happy knowing what they will actually be getting from me.

K: What makes your designs unique?

Shelby: I try to use simple techniques to create something that looks more complex, and has an unusual twist or detail.

K: Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?

Shelby: Put your heart into your designs. Strive to be original and find your niche. (Note: I personally love this and think it’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve every read.)

QUICK QUESTIONS

K: Favorite part of designing?

Shelby: The beginning when I have an idea that I am excited about, blocking the finished piece(s), seeing the finished sample, and is when it is published!

K: Least favorite part of the designing?

Shelby: Writing the romance copy to describe the design. (more about romance copy in an upcoming post)

K: Favorite yarn?

Shelby: I always love working with a wool and silk blend!

K: Do you have a crochet “hero” or someone you look up to in the industry?

Shelby: I would have to say my CGOA Mentor, Margaret Hubert. She is so prolific, and has a wonderful personality that makes her a favorite in the industry.

Review

Ruffles Scarf - Shelby AllahoRuffles Scarf (photo by Harper Point)

Because I do editing work through a publisher I have seen Shelby’s patterns in the raw (unedited). I can tell you, she writes a very good pattern! She takes time to make them easy and readable for the crocheter. I have wanted to make many of her patterns for over a year now, and it’s always hard for me to choose just one pattern to make, but I’m a sucker for scarves, so I decided to maker her Ruffles Scarf.  Made with worsted weight yarn, this scarf is practical and pretty all at the same time.

For my review, I used Hobby Lobby “I Love This Yarn!” in Cranberry. Once again I grabbed a skein from my stash and ran out! I only had about 10 stitches left to go. SO frustrating! But, because it was from my stash I may have used some of the skein for something else previously. (or the skein may have been a little shorter than estimated on the label). TIP: If you’re going to substitute the yarn called for, check the yardage on the yarn label and make sure you will have enough. Read these 2 articles I’ve written for more info and help.

5 Tips for Substituting Yarn – overall help for choosing a different yarn

Tips for Substituting Yarn – info based on yarn label

Either way, it came out gorgeous! I love the deep color to contrast all the snow we have here in New England. This feels like the perfect, pretty accessory to keep me warm. The pattern was easy to read and once I got the pattern down I could do it without having to keep referring to the pattern. Great for those times when you don’t want something hard that needs your constant attention!

Ruffles Scarf pattern by Shelby Allaho

It has a natural curl to it that make it fit perfectly around the neck!

Ruffles Scarf - pattern by Shelby Allaho

Next I will be making her Nouveau Necklace Kit that I purchased at the Knit & Crochet Show. Isn’t it gorgeous?!

wood necklace shelby allahoNouveau Necklace Kit

This weekend only she is offering my readers her jewelry ebook on Ravelry for $7.50 – which is 25% off the normal price, and 50% off each pattern individually. You can purchase the ebook here: Jewelry Collection By Stitch Story ebook – patterns. Use this link and enter code ambassador to receive the discounted pricing. Click the link below the photo, or the photo itself, to see her blog post about the jewelry.

jewelry collection - shelbyJewelry Collection by Stitch Story

For more information, visit her at the links below:

Blog

Ravelry

Etsy – (eWood Story – etsy shop by Shelby & Emad Allaho)

Shelby has a unique style that she adds to the crochet industry. I’m sure you will love her patterns!

If you have any questions you’d like me to ask in upcoming interviews, leave a comment and let me know. Make sure ou come back next month when I interview April Garwood from Banana Moon Studio!

Other designers in this series:

Jocelyn Sass

Happy Crocheting!

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Crochet Softies Book Review

Crocheted Softies book reviewCrocheted Softies

Publisher: Martingale

Author: Stacey Trock

Number of Pages: 82 pages

Number of Projects: 18

Types of Projects: Softies (crocheted stuffed animals)

Size Range: 4.5″ – 13.5″

Difficulty: Projects include beginner, easy, and intermediate.

Yarn Used: #3 and #4 (one project calls for #5)

Crocheted Softies book reviewMilton the Slowpoke Snail

Review: There are 18 different animals, broken down by the 7 continents, and then an additional category for oceans and one for outer space. Each category has 2 animals. The main section shows you how to make the main body parts that are used in many of the animals (sphere, legs, and arms). Then each element exclusive to a certain animal (ex: elephant ears or alligator snout) is written under that particular animal. The layout is very easy to follow. Martingale has included general information (gauge, terms, abbreviations), as well as stitches and techniques.

Bonus: There are “Fiber Notes” throughout the book, giving you bonus info about the yarn that was used.

Owl - Crocheted Softies book reviewHootie the Owl

Snake - Crocheted Softies book reviewSlithers the Snake

Alpaca - Crocheted Softies book reviewSherwin the Alpaca

I’ve only shown you a few of the many choices. You can click on any of the photos, or the link under the cover photo, to go to Martingale‘s website and view the rest of the projects.

Happy Crocheting!

 *Disclaimer* – This book was provided to me for a review, but all opinions are strictly my own.
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Boho Crochet Book Review

Boho Crochet Book ReviewBoho Crochet

Publisher: Martingale

Number of Pages: 147 pages

Number of Projects: 30+

Types of Projects: Home & Fashion (afghans, pillows, scarves, hats, bags, and more.)

Difficulty: The difficulty rating for these projects are – Beginner, Intermediate, Accomplish, & Advanced. The book has project of all levels, but the majority of them seem to be beginner and intermedite.

Yarn Used: This book did a great job of including projects from each yarn weight category. The patterns themselves only list the weight yarn used for the project, not the brand, but the back of the book does include a section that tells you what kind of yarn was used for each project. The only downfall I noticed is that the back of the book lists what kinds of yarns were used, but it doesn’t tell you what weight the brand is. I didn’t recognize all the brands, so I had to go back and look to see what weight it was. Not a huge deal, I think it just may have been more convenient to have all that info in the same place.

First Impression: Lots of color!

Favorite Project: Vintage Fan Ripple Blanket

vintage ripple patternVintage Fan Ripple

Review: Not only are there over 30 patterns in this book, but by changing your color options it makes endless possibilities! While there are a few exceptions (ex: afghans) the majority of the projects will work up quickly. Martingale has included stitch help, with color photos, along with general information (gauge, terms, abbreviations).

granny crochet ornamentsOrnaments

wrist warmersWrist Warmers

mandala crochetMandala

I’ve only shown you a few of my favorites. You can click on any of the photos, or the link under the photo, to go to Martingale website and see the rest of the projects.

NOTE: The release date for Boho Crochet is actually tomorrow (2/17/15).

Happy Crocheting!

 *Disclaimer* – This book was provided to me for a review, but all opinions are strictly my own.
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“Oliver” Baby Boy Crochet Pattern

Oliver Crochet PatternOliver – Sweater, Hat & Booties Crochet Pattern

Are you looking for a crochet pattern designed for a baby boy? Here it is! This adorable pattern set includes the sweater, hat, puddle jumper booties, and elbow pads.

Introducing the “Oliver” pattern set! It comes in 0-3 month size for the hat & booties, and the sweater is 0-6 months. When I introduced this on my fb page the response was amazing! I immediately got orders for more.

baby booties

And because you’re a reader of my blog, 24 HOURS ONLY the pattern is $3.50 in my Ravelry shop. Enter coupon code BLOG. 

Get your pattern today! The new baby in your life will look adorable coming home from the hospital in this set!

Happy Crocheting!

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Top 10 Crochet Patterns in 2014

The last 4 months of 2014 I did a lot of personal, and business, reflection. I’ve been working through the book Your Best Year by Lisa Jacobs, and it is making me think…..

Where do I want my business to go?

What do I want to change, or do differently?

Top 10 Patterns 2014

I want to create more patterns this year, but I also want to narrow down what I’m making and refine my niche a little. So, the first thing I did was review my pattern sales for 2014 and see what some of my best sellers were. I was shocked! Here’s what I found….

My TOP 10 Patterns

#1 – Once Upon a Time Afghan & Crown Set

Once Upon A Time Afghan & Crown Crochet Pattern Set

#2 – Candy Shoppe Dreams

Candy Shoppe Dreams

#3 – Slouchy Beret

Slouchy Beret

#4 – Bows

Crocheted Bows

#5 – Chunky Infinity Scarf

chunky infinity scarf

#6 – Cluster Hat

brown cluster hat

#7 – was a tie

Snowflake Hat

snowflake hat

Blooming Clusters

blooming clusters logo

The last 3 weren’t necessarily in my Top 10, but I was so shocked at how much you love them! So I’m adding them as my Top 3 Shockers.

Frog Pond Afghan

I couldn’t believe how much Ravelry buyers LOVED this!

Frog Pond Afghan

Chevron Infinity Scarf & Boot Cuffs

I was surprised this made it into my Top 20, considering I didn’t release it until fall.

chevron set logo

Awareness Ribbon Afghan

While this project was close to my heart, I was surprised with how well it was received.

Awareness Ribbon 1 Logo

Now that I know you’re favorites, I want to create more of them.

What are some patterns you’d like to see me make in 2015?

I’m offering 30% off these 11 patterns through Monday, Feb. 9th at midnight. Use coupon code REVIEW at checkout.

Happy Crocheting!

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A to Z of Crochet Book Review

A to Z of Crochet                                                                            A to Z of Crochet

A to Z of Crochet

Publisher: Martingale

Number of Pages: 160 pages

Number of Projects: 30+ stitches and techniques.

Difficulty: Stitches range from beginner to advanced beginner.

First Impression: Pictures!!! I wish this book was around when I learned to crochet! This book is a great investment if you’re a visual learner!

Favorite Attribute: This book is loaded with photo tutorials. If you are a visual learner, or if you have a hard time with written instructions/stitches, you should consider this book for your crochet library.

A to Z of Crochet table of contentsTable of Contents

Review: This book is loaded with stitches that the new crocheter will love. There are also techniques to learn broomstick, entrelac, filet, hairpin – just to name a few. Plus, they have a section called “special touches” where you can learn buttonholes, edging, spirals, and more. Note: There are no projects in this book. It is stitches, techniques, and learning tools only – 160 pages worth!

Bonus: There are so many pictures! Every stitch is layed out step-by-step with a photo of each step. I hear many say that youtube is just too fast. If you feel that way, you may love this layout!

Basic Sts

Ripple

I’ve only shown you a few of the pages. You can click on any of the photos, or the link under the cover photo, to go to Martingale website and see more pages from the book.

Happy Crocheting!

 *Disclaimer* – This book was provided to me for a review, but all opinions are strictly my own.
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Designer Interview & Review Series featuring Jocelyn Sass

I have a few new things planned for 2015, and one of them is a monthly designer interview and review. Each month I will feature one industry designer and ask some questions, then I will actually make something from one of their patterns and do a review of it.

jocelyn interview

I asked Jocelyn from Jocelyn Designs & Too Cute Crochet to be my January designer. Jocelyn has become a good friend in the past couple years and I was looking forward to getting to know more about her crochet journey. (Read to the bottom of the interview to see my review of one of her patterns.)

Interview

K (Me): How did you get started designing?

J: Many years ago, I was a knitter who fell in love with crochet and actually crocheted every free moment I had. Eventually, I started dramatically changing the patterns I was crocheting from, to improve the design. When I started doing that quite often, I realized that maybe I could start creating my own!

K: Do you remember the first pattern you ever designed?

J: The first actual pattern I designed was a set of Cabbage Patch Doll clothes for my daughters. I sold the set to TD Creations and was on my way!

K: Where do you get your design inspiration from?

J: My inspiration can come from many places, but I love browsing through fashion magazines and home décor magazines. Necessity (such as warm scarves for Winter) is also a great inspiration!

K: How long between when you first have an idea to the finished pattern being released?

J: When designing crochet patterns for magazine or book publication, guidelines and deadlines are given for you to follow, so you always know how long you have to complete the process. When I self-publish a design, though, the process can vary greatly! Some of the designs that I have in my Etsy shops literally took only a week or two to complete the whole process before they were ready for release. It all depends on my design ‘mojo’ and how quickly I want to see the finished crocheted item and put it up for sale. Seasons of the year can make a big difference in how quickly a design gets to completion and is ready for sale. I will put a design through the process quickly if it is a Christmas design, for instance, because I know there is a limited time that the pattern will be purchased for that year. On the other hand, I have quite a few designs in my office that I have finished crocheting and writing the pattern for, yet I still haven’t formatted the pattern or had them photographed!

K: Do you ever look at a pattern and wish you had been the one to design that?

J: LOL, I think all designers have probably done that at one time or another! We usually have so many ideas floating in our heads or sketched on paper, that there is not enough time to complete them all! So many times, as a designer, you see something that has been created in crochet that you planned and hoped to do! Sometimes, though, the items are so generic, that there is plenty of room for everyone! Each designer can bring their own unique style to the crochet design. One example would be a teddy bear. There are literally thousands of crochet designs for bears, and while some of them can be similar, most designers can put their own ‘mark’ on the design to make it look unique.

K: What makes your designs unique?

J: I would say that it is the simplicity of the design process itself. Most of the time, less is more. I love creating quick and easy designs! I have been told many times by editors and publishers that my designs have a simple, light-hearted style and that I have an eye for color.

K: Any advice to crocheters that want to keep their work fresh and exciting?

J: First and foremost, KNOW YOUR MARKET!  Keep abreast of the trends NOT ONLY FOR FASHION, BUT FOR HOME DÉCOR AS WELL. Study home décor catalogs and look for innovative colors and designs. If you really want to know what is going to be the next ‘in thing’, buy a single issue (such as in Barnes and Noble) of a European fashion and/or home décor magazine or purchase a subscription to one. What is currently ‘in’ around Europe right now, will probably be what is sweeping America the following year. You should also regularly visit the color website, Pantone.com, to see which colors are in vogue and which are on the horizon for the future. The only problem with this, is that crochet and knitting designers are ‘limited’ to what color schemes yarn manufacturers are putting in their yarns that we buy in the stores. Yarn colors usually follow trends but are not always as up-to-date as some designers would like. Good yarn companies will try to be, though.

K: What is most important to you when choosing yarn for a design? Look? Feel? Weight?

J: I would say all three of those aspects play into the yarn that I choose for a design. Color is also a very important part of the process. After I have narrowed down the weight and feel of the yarn, if I have two or more similar yarns to choose from, color will always be the deciding factor.

 

QUICK QUESTIONS

K: Favorite part of designing?

J: My favorite part of designing is when I get the item to look exactly as I had originally envisioned it!

K: Least favorite part of the designing?

J: Most designers would say that it was writing the pattern, but I think for me it would be if and when I need to remake any aspect of the pattern to re-check it. Once I have figured out how I am going to execute a design, I don’t want to make it again! It is the actual challenge of the design process that I like the most. So when I have achieved this, I want to get on to the next design!

Review

One thing I know about Jocelyn is that she tries to write her patterns in such a way that anyone can do it! I have a similar philosopy, so that was something that attracted me to her patterns right away. I have wanted to make many items from her shop for over a year, so it was hard to pick just one to review. I ended up choosing “The Boston” which is a chunky chevron infinity cowl. I chose this because it’s versatile, so I can either wear to church, or with a pair of jeans. Perfect!

jocelyn - the bostonThe Boston

The pattern called for #5 bulky, and Jocelyn used Bernat Softee Chunky for the one in the photo. This year, I put myself on a “stash only” yarn diet (I will be holding myself accountable in a monthly post), and I didn’t have that in my stash, so I used Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick (also #5). I grabbed the only 2 balls I had in my stash and ran out the door to take my girls to dance.

Note: Here are 5 Tips for Substituting Yarn

The pattern was perfect!….and easy. I had the scarf done in less than 24 hrs. (and that was doing many other things during that time.) Perfect for that last minute gift! Or like me, you just want something new (and warm) to wear to church on Sunday.

The Boston WrapWrapped twice

The Boston Infinity Scarf   Wrapped 3 times

Here was my only downfall….. (This has nothing to do with Jocelyn’s pattern!)

I didn’t check the weight, or the yardage, of the skeins I grabbed. The skeins were slightly smaller than the Bernat Softee that Jocelyn used. So I ran out before I had the right number of rows. 

TIP: If you’re going to substitute the yarn called for, check the yardage on the yarn label and make sure you will have enough. Here are some Tips for Yarn Substitutions to make sure you’re going to have enough.

You will love Jocelyn’s patterns! Whether you’re picking something from her Too Cute Crochet shop or Jocelyn Designs, you will have no trouble with the pattern you choose.

For more info on Jocelyn, visit her at the links below:

Blog

Ravelry 

Etsy – Jocelyn Designs (stylish accessories)

Etsy – Too Cute Crochet (patterns for baby, children, and photographers)

If you have any questions you’d like me to ask in upcoming interviews, leave a comment and let me know.

Check out other designers in this series!

Shelby Allaho

Happy Crocheting!

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