Robyn Chachula and Visual Crochet

Robyn Chachula was at the front edge of the crochet revolution, making her debut with a pattern on the CrochetMe Web site in 2005. She had two designs in the groundbreaking book CrochetMe: Designs to Fuel the Crochet Revolution (Interweave 2007). In 2008, Interweave published her book Blueprint Crochet: Modern Designs for the Visual Crocheter.

In this remarkable book, each f Robyn's 19 stunning designs is represented visually, using what she calls "blueprints" (Robyn is an engineer by trade) to illustrate the patter. Folowing the patterns using a blueprint rather than words is a very liberating experience—kind of like flying without a net, since you don't have the written pattern, but also very grounded because you have a very definited albeit different, condensed pattern. (it put me in mind of the time I went hang-gliding, where I leapt off the sand dune, but was tethered to a more experienced flyer. Really, it's that liberating.)

We recently caught up with Robyn to chat a bit about crochet.

I have to ask: When did you learn to crochet and who taught you?
I learned to crochet 8 years ago when I was taking care of my sister after the birth of my niece, Isabella.  I asked my mom to show me the basics, then I learned the rest on my own. At the time my mom had not picked up a hook in over 15 years. Since then, we both have come to adore crocheting.

What do you love most about crochet?
I love how just a simple hook and piece of string can make such beautiful fabric so quickly.

What led you to your visual approach to crochet?
I was a structural engineer in my past life. And you learn very quickly that you need to be able to communicate in pictures so that construction goes smoothly and safely.  

Your book, Blueprint Crochet, was a breakthrough in crochet for the visual crocheter in America. Can you explain the concept behind Blueprint Crochet?
When I design, I sketch everything out in symbol format. As an engineer, I was trained to figure out all my details before I begin to build. So when I design in crochet, it is no different. Since I am dyslexic I draw pictures. The technique of diagramming crochet is not new at all. It has been around for years.  I just could not understand why it had fallen out of print publication. So I figured if I was crocheting, I would much rather crochet from a diagram then from written instructions, and I bet there was a number of people just like me out there.  

What pattern in Blueprint Crochet would you recommend for the beginning crocheter?
I would recommend the Nicki Tote. It is a quick project that gets you started easily on how to read diagrams while only using a few different stitches.

Do you have a favorite design from Blueprint Crochet?
I am quite fond of the RaeAnne Sweater. It was my first non-structured garment. See, before that one, all of my garments were very classical in style with waist and bust shaping to be form-fitting. With RaeAnne, I let the garment float around the curves of the body instead. Out of all the projects, it was the only one I made for myself. Granted by the time I was finished, I was six months pregnant and I have yet to be able to fit in it.



The Nicki Tote The RaeAnne Sweater

One section of your book is called “Vogue Granny Motifs.” But what you call a Granny motif or Granny square is not the quintessential afghan Granny square. Can you tell us how you define a Granny square?
To me any motif is a granny square. Any block that starts in the center and works out is a granny square to me.  I think it is funny how the term “granny square” gets such a bad rap. I love granny squares, and can’t understand why anyone would think differently. 

Your blog is called, named for your dog, Faye. Tell us a little about Faye and how she inspired your initial crochet work and how she continues to inspire your work.
You are right, “Crochet by Faye” is named for my dog Fayette Anne. My very first submission was to Crochet Me (back when it was an online magazine) for a dog’s leash and purse to keep plastic bags for our walks. Kim Werker, the editor at the time, wrote me back immediately after opening my submission photo. She said she laughed out loud when she saw us, because she was expecting a little teacup dog not my huge German Shepherd. And from that cheerful and positive feedback from my dog’s leash, my career in crochet design was born. Thus I only thought it was right to name my business after her, since she was the one that got me published. Faye is my sidekick, especially now that I am designing fulltime and staying home with our new baby girl. She lets me know when Fedex has delivered yarn or when the mail carrier is here to pick up a package of ours.  

How has your new baby altered your approach to crochet–both design and production?

Elianna has opened me up to a world I really did not know much about. I knew kids, since we have 17 nieces and nephews combined; but before she was born I really did not know much about babies.  She constantly shows me how to be excited about anything new. To her, a swatch I might just discard is a new toy or a partial hank can be a cuddle toy. I just delight in watching her explore and discovering what colors and textures she is drawn to. Now as for production, well that has slowed tremendously. In the past, I could crochet and design a sweater by myself in a week. Now it is more like 3 weeks for a sweater if I am doing it. I try to get help crocheting whenever I can now to meet deadlines, since I know that I can not do it alone anymore.

Little Elianna has inspired Robyn in another way as well: Robyn has a new book forthcoming in 2010 titled Baby Blueprint Crochet. Stay tuned for more info.

Robyn will join us again on Thursday to reveal the secret to successful pattern design and alterations. See you then!


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