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.
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.
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.)
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.
Ruffles 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!
It has a natural curl to it that make it fit perfectly around the neck!
Next I will be making her Nouveau Necklace Kit that I purchased at the Knit & Crochet Show. Isn’t it gorgeous?!
Click the link below the photo, or the photo itself, to see her blog post about the jewelry.
For more information, visit her at the links below:
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: