Crochet It Away With Dora Ohrenstein

From Marcy: I love talking with Dora Ohrenstein. I learn something new with every conversation I have with her. Often in our conversations, she is exuberant to the point that she seem about to burst into song. This is not surprising, given that much of her adult life was dedicated to professional singing. You can read more about Dora in our profile in the Spring issue of Interweave Crochet. In the meantime, she has provided some exclusive travel photos for Crochet Me, as well as providing insight into the motivtion behind the designs in her new designer eBook.

Pamir women show Dora how to crochet socks.

Designing takes up a lot of the creative energy that I used to spend on singing and performing. As a classical musician, I love how music from centuries past teaches me history—you can't perform a Mozart or Bach aria well unless you understand the spirit of the time it was written. Yet I spent a lot of my professional singing life performing brand new music. The same interests show up in crochet: I love to study techniques from the past, and am motivated to update and reform them with an eye to the future.

A lot of times what motivates me in a design is learning something new and exploring how it can be applied in a design. Kristy Cardigan was my first top-down design. I wanted to make it relatively simple, but added the dimensional stitches around the yoke to make it a little special. I was seeing a lot of knit cables worked in a circular way around the neck and wanted to try to get a similar dimensional effect in crochet.

I fell in love with Tunisian crochet when I found a gorgeous Bernat booklet of Tunisian fashions from the 1980s. I had already designed a couple of Tunisian jackets, and for the Katharine Vest, I wanted to show that the drape could work for an indoor garment as well. I also wanted to explore the interaction of two different Tunisian stitches (Tunisian simple stitch and Tunisian knit stitch) with a self-striping yarn.

The Sage Jacket was motivated by a stitch pattern I found in a Japanese stitch dictionary: the angled front post stitches. I was looking for just the right garment and fiber, because unless worked in a fine-weight, supple yarn, the stitch would be too bulky for wearables. The style of this jacket came from contemporary fashions. I'll take a magazine and sketch styles I like, then when it comes time to submit a design proposal, I'll match up my swatch with a style that suits it.

Acorn Cap was inspired by the surface design possibilities in slip stitch crochet. Sandra's Bobble Bandanna was motivated by a desire to use big dimensional stitches in a hat. At first it was a whole hat, but I removed the top to fix its dimensions, and realized it made a great bandanna. As a person with big poufy hair, I can see the advantage of a bandanna over a hat, at times.

The Boatneck Tunic was from an earlier period in my design life, when I was obsessed with color work. I used spike stitches to create an overall textured effect on this piece.

Many design ideas arise accidentally. I'll have swatches I like lying around in my "work area" (a big chair!) and notice that two adjacent stitch patterns look interesting together, then try to see how they can be combined in a design.

What next? The Ukrainian magazine Duplet is filled with ideas I want to explore. They are all done in thread so using them in wearables will be a challenge. When all is said in done, challenges are what motivate me.

Dora bursts into song in a Dubrovnik cafe.

Dora dancing in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Join Dora in her crochet adventure by exploring the diverse, wearable designs in A Designer Profile eBook, with 6 Crochet Patterns by Dora Ohrenstein. I can assure you that you will learn a great deal about technique and design, as well as the pure joy of crochet.


p.s. The votes are in for the Proactive Crochet-Along! With 1,599 of you voting, Agora Totes, Cool Wave Shawl and Moth Wings Shrug were the top picks. The winner, with 39% of the votes is (drumroll, please) Cool Wave Shawl! Check the Crochet-Along forum for details on the timeline and tools for the fabulous project. I can't wait to get started! (I already have my yarn!)


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