Designer Q&A: Tamara Kelly
Tamara Kelly is the designer and blogger behind Mooglyblog.com, where she shares her crochet patterns (and a few knitting ones, too), video tutorials, and whatever fun yarny goodies she can find. Her new book, Quick Crochet for the Home, recently hit shelves, so I figured this was a great time to sit down for a Q&A about crochet, design, and how a home can never have too many afghans.
Content Editor, Books
Maya Elson: Thanks for taking time for this little chat! Let’s start at the beginning: How did you get started with crochet design?
Tamara Kelly: I think maybe I was always meant to be a designer—but then, I also think most crocheters have that in them! I remember when I started my first ever project: it was a scarf, like so many first projects, and I foolishly decided on black yarn, making single crochet stitches in the back loop only—classic rookie mistakes!
After getting the “scarf” to about 18 inches long, I realized my error and decided to stop, but I didn’t want to waste what I’d done. I folded it in half and seamed up the sides with more single crochet and added a handle to make a purse—all without a pattern! My daughter ended up carrying that little purse for years!
While learning to read patterns, and eventually charts, opened up whole worlds of possibilities, I never lost that urge to strike out on my own, try new things, and discover just what crochet could do! Of course, I just did it [design] for myself for years, and then I decided to publish a simple washcloth pattern to see if anyone else was interested. And they were! With that, a career was born!
ME: You were quite the resourceful and tenacious beginner! I love how you were able to turn an “error” into a finished, practical piece. But you’ve come a long way since then. Now that you’re a professional designer, are there any techniques you’ve come to favor?
TK: One of my favorite things about crochet is learning new techniques—I’m so happy I don’t know them all yet, and that there’s more for me to learn! I think I’ll be pretty sad if I ever get to a point where I feel like I know it all.
My favorites change over time, and every time I discover a new technique I have to play with it for a while. But I’m definitely addicted to colorwork, and I love making crochet cable projects. I’m hoping to get the chance to do a lot more with cables in the future—the only impediment is time!
ME: Constantly having something new to learn certainly does keep things exciting and interesting. I’m guessing it’s easier to come up with new designs when you can look to a new-to-you technique as a fresh starting point. Where else to you find inspiration and new ideas for designs?
TK: I love going to my favorite stores and seeing what colors and shapes are trending. IKEA is my favorite, but the closest one is a few hours away so I don’t get to visit as often as I like. Often, yarn will seem to speak to me, telling me what it wants to be—I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true! And then there are my three kids—they love telling me what I should make next. When all else fails, I have a stack of stitch dictionaries full of sticky notes marking stitches I want to try!
ME: I don’t think it’s crazy that the yarn speaks to you! I know I’ve had that feeling before. Are there any stitches or techniques you haven’t explored that you would like to give a little more love?
TK: I would love to do more Tunisian and broomstick lace, as well as Bruges crochet. I’ve done one or two projects in each, and have even designed a couple patterns with Tunisian and broomstick lace, but they contain whole other universes of possibilities! I’ve also never done hairpin lace, but it’s on my list of things to try!
ME: That sounds wonderful. Is that a little hint of what you might be cooking up next, design-wise? Do you have any fun projects in the works that you can tell me about?
TK: I’m currently taking a little breather after the publication of Quick Crochet for the Home, but of course I’m still designing weekly free patterns for my blog! I have ideas for a couple of larger projects, but right now they are still in the planning stages. I really need to clean out my craft room before I start another big project, or I’ll end up trapped in here!
ME: Yikes! Don’t drown in yarn! But seriously, I think all crafters can relate to the disarray that sometimes comes with creating. Do you have any tips for newbies in the exciting, if sometimes messy, world of crochet (and design)?
TK: I would say that the best advice for new crocheters is to count your stitches! Not counting seems to be the root cause of most of the troubles you’ll experience when you first get started, and it’s how you end up with that first scarf with all the wavy sides. I know it’s not the fun part, but it’s important! Also, try to relax while you crochet—getting tense and nervous will change how you hold the hook and yarn and can cause unevenness in your stitching. Lastly, don’t be afraid to frog it all and start over. It’s just yarn, and it’s good to try to enjoy the process as much as the finished project!
For designers, it can be even harder to enjoy the process, I think! But I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better to start over than finish something you know could be better. Additionally, if you’re new to designing, I’d suggest reading and making lots of other people’s patterns first, and really paying attention to how patterns are written. It’s the best way I’ve found to learn to write them!
ME: Solid advice. I know I could benefit from undistracted counting with most crochet projects! And speaking of crochet projects, ever since Quick Crochet for the Home came out I have been itching to make more crochet items for my home. Do you have any practical (or fantastical) ideas for making crochet part of your day-to-day home?
TK: No matter how many blankets I crochet, it seems there’s always room for another one somewhere in the house—they have a knack for disappearing into kid spaces! Also, don’t feel like you have to stick to the recommended usage of a pattern. I’ve seen blankets used as rugs, rugs used as blankets, trivets used as doilies, and hats turned over and used as baskets. It’s all about using your own creativity and colors and making the project your own. That’s why we make them, after all—to have something personalized for our own homes!
Tamara is so right. Sometimes a pattern isn’t a recipe to follow from A to Z, it’s just a starting point. Do you feel some stitchy ideas coming on? Time to take your copy of Quick Crochet for the Home and do a little stash diving!
Crochet for the Home