I have found that creativity begets creativity.
On a solo flight before kids (I can’t remember the exact flight and why Nic wasn’t there) I had the pleasure of sitting next to an exceptional woman. She had a pragmatic artist vibe about her. Someone who knows how to make something from nothing, but with a sensible filter for only applying this creativity to viable, valuable products. She was sketching in a journal and her drawing caught my eye. She indulged my curiosity and we started chatting.
She was sketching some new ideas for accessories that embraced ruffles, embroidery and other feminine touches she had observed at fashion week in LA. I asked her if she was a designer and was tickled to learn that she was.
“Who do you design for?”
“Target, really? I love Target!” (The flight was from LAX to MSP so this makes perfect sense. “Do you design accessories?”
“No, actually, I design boys clothes.”
I didn’t have a little man of my own at this point in time. While I knew that Target boys clothes had some fun features and a, sometimes, funky aesthetic, this didn’t match what I saw in her journal. We chatted and she said she just taps into wherever her creativity takes her. She loves feminine flair and made a lot of her own clothes and accessories in her free time. She felt that feeding her creativity in one area resulted in creative bursts in all of her designs. Even though she wasn’t planning on any ruffles in any of her designs for boys, playing with lines, structure and embellishment helped her to explore new ideas. The fact that she was getting paid to turn her designs from ideas into reality felt like meeting the winner of a reality tv show. It seemed like she had struck the vocational lottery and I was in awe.
She had a gorgeous bag she sewed for herself with a swirl of ruffles. I loved the lines and the playfulness, but the fabric seemed to limp after its use. I thought, “If you could crochet those ruffles, they may hold the shape better.” I thought about crocheting ruffles quite a bit as I started to see them pop into many styles. I played around with crocheting them a bit, but I found it hard to nail the tightness of the ruffle with its depth and the way it pulls the base. I experimented quite a bit and my first crochet pattern, the Olivia Ruffle Headband was born.
For about 6 1/2 years that was the only pattern I’ve put out. It took a lot of trial and error and the dividends were pretty small compared to the mountain of time and effort I put in. This didn’t stop me from crocheting, though. I love crocheting, especially when I make it up as I go. The thing I found unsatisfying and frustrating about the first design I made was the unpredictability and lack of control. I had ideas on my head, but really struggled to nail it. Instead, I felt like I never quite got what I wanted. It’s definitely not worth the slog of analyzing every detail and slowly documenting it for something you can’t embrace wholeheartedly. Thoughts of designing patterns were shelved while I focused on other things that gave me much better results.
Last year I decided to conscientiously expand my crochet repertoire. I got the book “Vintage Modern Crochet” because it included sections on Bruges lace and Irish lace - two forms of the craft I adore, but have always been intimidated by. Bruges lace is also know as crochet tape. You work short rows back and forth and it works wonderfully well for joining motifs. Irish lace is the quintessential picture of lace. Delicate white doilies with gorgeous elements joined by a light-as-air mesh. What I didn’t know is that Irish lace is basically freeform. You make an element, place it where you want (traditionally by sewing onto cloth) and work your infill around it to hold it in place. This book is fantastic. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Not only does it have the pictures and charts you need to confidently try something new, but it includes a brief history of the lace. For me, understanding the “why” behind something is as important as the craft itself. These lace techniques helped me learn how to curl and swirl my lines. I learned what to do in crochet when you don’t know what to do. I now had solutions for almost every crochet problem I could think of.
With this newfound knowledge, I dipped my toes into the world of freeform. I’ll do another blog post about freeform crochet sometime, but I wanted to highlight a few lessons I learned:
1) Start with learning what foundations and increase are needed for something to lay flat.
2) Learn how to break out from the row/round with new elements that come from your starting element.
3) Explore 3D with textures, layers and expanding techniques.
These skills gave me a fresh perspective on my crocheting and my trial and error turned from a haphazard chore to a delightful journey. More often than not I can turn an idea from my head into a reality with surprisingly few iterations. It’s like I started to speak the native language of crochet, so I could correctly translate my ideas into reality.
I revisited the idea of the crochet spiral ruffle bag and was able to fix some mistakes from when I tried in the past. I got the right expansion, lift and crinkle to make it work. I was thrilled with the result and it came together surprisingly quickly in the end.
When I launched this website, I also started pitching ideas to magazines. In my first round, Crochet World picked up my Herringbone Scrap Scarf idea. I have been bursting to share about this scarf with you since February! I couldn’t post any pics or specifics until the magazine came out. The scarf is deceptively simple, but I was able to do a slight twist on double crochet to get the gorgeous angled results (plus, it is worked in rich autumnal tones, so it is equal parts nostalgic and inviting.) I never would have pulled this off without my technique learnings from last year. And now, I’m getting paid to turn my designs into reality. While I’m not making “quit your day job” kind of money, it is helping to subsidize my hobby.
Mostly, it just feels like incredible validation. Every pattern sale and now being published in a magazine makes me feel like celebrating. I was chatting with a co-worker (at my day job) about it and he said “You just want to frame your check from the magazine rather than spend it.” That’s absolutely true, but since I was paid over PayPal, I won’t be able to frame anything. Still, it feels like a dream realized. I wish I could go back to show the lady from the plane what her ruffles inspired in me. I also wish I could go back and show myself when I first attempted writing patterns that the effort wasn’t wasted, but that a bit of critical learning made all the difference. I wonder what other portals we could open - things we had considered “off limits” years ago - with a bit of new knowledge. I’m excited about where I am now and even more excited as I think about what creative ventures exist that I haven’t even dreamed up yet. Best of all, like the lady from the plane, I have found that creativity begets creativity. Even if my ruffles and crochet designs will never directly relate to my work and home life, it stimulates my brain and fosters innovative thinking. It awakens the kind of problem solving that is desperately needed when you’re faced with the biggest challenges. Even if crocheting isn’t your thing, I’d encourage you to find something that gets your brain to think differently. This kind of thinking can’t come from doing the same things in the same way - it only comes in testing the unknown. I feel the benefits in my work, my relationships and in all aspects of my life. That’s why I crochet and have this website. I don’t have a “goal” other than pursuing creativity and connection. As long as that is happening, then it’s all worth it.