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.
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!)