Crochet Designer Interview: Akua Lezli Hope

Akua Lezli Hope with Akua Designs

I first met Akua when she interviewed me during the 2013 Gift-A-Long.  It was then that I realized I had long admired one of her designs, the Daisy Hat, and decided to make one as part of my 2013 Stash Bust for Charity Challenge.  Her designs are so unique and so creative.  She is an artist who designs from the heart and someone I would very much like to sit down with and share a cup of coffee.

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Sun Rays Shrug/Shawl by Akua Lezli Hope photo by Knit Picks

How long have you been crocheting and how did you first learn?
I’ve been crocheting over 50 years. My mother taught me, though she said she didn’t remember doing that, which underscores for me the importance of the person to person transmission. Her forté was knitting and sewing. She was a brilliant seamstress and tailor. Having her show me the basics launched me for a lifetime of exploration.

How long have you been designing and what led you to design?
Informally, it was just something you did to get what you thought about or wanted into being. When I began as a young person, there were few books and no patterns for hats I and my friends wanted, so I just made them up. So that mindset was a precursor to formally undertaking designing – that is, creating something and then writing down the process in such a way that others may replicate it. Encoding my process for sharing is relatively recent, just 9 years.

Why knitting/crochet? What is it that interests you?  What do you enjoy most about the craft?
I used to crochet on the way to work, standing on the subway train , briefcase hanging off one arm, leaning against the door or arm wrapped around the pole — with one hook I could do it. It felt like freedom to create as I commuted, so it was self-reinforcing. A poet, I love the poetry of transmutation, transfiguring a line into a statement, a protection, a garment, a volume, a vessel, ornament, adornment. I love fiber from plant to thread, from animal to yarn and immediacy of creating that crocheting so generously offers, is healing and fulfilling.

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Daisy Hat by Akua Lezli Hope photo by Tangled Online Magazine

What other crafts do you enjoy? or is there another craft you would like to learn?
I enjoy weaving, sculpting, hand paper-making, glass casting, flame working, and wire working. I occasionally work in polymer clay and shrink plastic. I like making earrings and am proud of my mixed media ones — glass and fiber, wire, etc. I love but can’t afford precious metal clay –I would love to do more in that. Metal-smithing, torch work is so compelling – I would like to do more of that, too. I would also like to learn about resin.

What influences your style?
My experiences, science fiction, the cold, indigenous design.

What inspires you and/or your designs?
Indigenous peoples, science fiction and the 4 seasons ( actually more like 3 here- cold, very cold, warm) that require different garb.

I used to live in NY, yes, it is COLD!

What challenges do you face when designing and how do you overcome them?
Patience with the process —I am usually swift in making, but find the challenge in doing it again and describing what I did. The way  I think about creating an effect, or even in telling how to create an effect, is often at odds with how others describe it and do it. I am ever in search of the shortest way to achieve an effect. Testing and self-publishing eases that pain – there is no need to argue with a publication that has a ham handed way of describing a decrease or insists on loading a pattern with impenetrable jargon.

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Leaf Bagette by Akua Lezli Hope photo by Knit Picks

What is your favorite design of yours, why?
Now that I’m up to about 140, that’s too hard. I’ve published 116 and I have a long list of designs that are done and may even have been out in the world in shows or competitions, but haven’t been tested.

What is your favorite project of yours, why?
It’s hard to choose among the hundreds, though I have a special affection for the sweaters I’ve designed. I’ve been unable to find testers for them, but I have great affection for them.

What pattern/design are you most proud of, why?
My sweaters, because they were so hard to write up, hard to grade and making them more than once was a long process, but alas, they remain unpublished until I can find testers.

How many WIPs do you currently have and do you think you will ever finish all of them?
I’ve lost count. I’ve come across a baby hat and sweater for a baby that is now 27. There’s finishing and there’s finishing, though …. to explain a bit, I work in freeform and so have bags of motifs and scrumbles on the way to becoming artworks or garments. There’s my 10 foot or so floral freeform door curtain that has pulled in a bit and so needs more motifs.

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Flying Dragon Bookmarks by Akua Lezli Hope

What was the last thing you crocheted/knit for yourself?
I was taken by skulls early this fall and so made a couple and then designed one and made some more. Then I made some black cats and pumpkins for window decor. Although I’m not sure if decor is what you mean by for yourself.

What are your favorite stitches?
I like standing stitches, these have liberated crocheting for my appliqué/figure motifs, where I also delight in using extended single crochets. Earlier this year, I became enamored of tape lace and so explored stitch combinations that made quick lengths of braid. I adore cables and figure out how to do them in the round (Chemung hats) as well as in my sweater. Catherine’s Wheel and variations remains an enduring favorite. Then there’s this Russian/Ukranian rising falling form that increases and gathers/decreases across each row to create mountains and valleys…

What is/are your favorite crochet tool(s) or notion(s)?
My hooks, my hooks – hook anatomy is a subject I’ve thought and written about and researched. So my bullion hooks are beloved as are a particular Bates afghan hook that has an inline head. A Rav friend sent me some small- gauge inline head afghan hooks from Europe, so I could make e the tiny tunisian leaves and shells I designed this year. I now have hooks for particular yarn types as well as gauges. I use my Etimos for general work, but when I’m wrestling with piping and making rugs, I turn to my wood Century hooks. Sadly there are hook heads that are perfection but they may be on shafts that are too short for me as in Collage.

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Freeform Crochet by Akua Lezlie Hope

How long have you been a member of the International FreeForm FiberArts Guild? What drew you to it and how has it inspired you as a designer?
I’m not sure how long, but at least 12 years. I was drawn to the Guild because I love freeform. I began doing dimensional crochet in the 90’s and found the books of James Walters and Sylvia Cosh. By this time, I was no longer in an urban area, and have been online since the late 80s, I was always in search of, or in touch with any creators I could find online. The Annual Challenge has always been a personal rallying point, to begin and complete a freeform project, be it art wear or art work. From the freeform explorations, directed by a topic have come many pattern ideas. This year’s Challenge, native flora and fauna, inspired me to design buffalo, deer, squirrels, several different birds, moose, and trees.

When you aren’t crocheting, what are you doing?
Writing poetry — my collection, THEM GONE, is due out this year; making paper — I’ve been exploring figured/shaped paper and layering using my vacuum table, watching anime, singing and dreaming.

Where can we find you?
Blog: zencrochet.blogspot.com
Website: www.akualezlihope.com
Etsy: www.etsy.com/people/akuadesigns
Raverly: www.ravelry.com/designers/akua-lezli-hope-akuadesigns

Thank you so much Akua! I LOVE your freeform representation of native flora and fauna.  I lived in the same area of NY and you have truly captured the beauty of Western NY.

Would you like to learn more about other crochet designers?  Check out this link and be sure to follow CrochetByDarleenHopkins.com!

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Family Fun on Christmas Day

Family Fun on Christmas Day

I just love Christmas stockings.  As a kid, I remember mine and my sibling’s stockings being filled with lots of candy and a giant peppermint stick.  As a parent, I love to fill my children’s stockings with candy and some surprises too.  I have the best time picking up small gifts to stuff in the stocking and surprise my boys.  And every year I pick up too much and the stockings end up overflowing.   When they were little we would put in giant bouncy balls, wind-up toys and silly putty.  As they have grown into teens the surprises are less toys and more unique or fun gifts.#familyfun crochet pattern for tic-tac-toe travel game
Something that would be a lot of fun to make as a stocking stuffer would be the #FamilyFun travel Tic-Tac-Toe game.  The board turns into its own travel pouch keeping all the pieces secure inside.  And check out these tic-tac-toe tips .  How fun will Christmas Day be relaxing with family and friends while enjoying some competitive tic-tac-toe game play!

The holidays are coming!  Get your crochet on with some festive Christmas Crochet.  All three patterns featured here are including in the 2016 Gift-A-Long.  Join in the fun and win some prizes too.

Crochet pattern for a Christmas tree by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

Table Top Holiday Tree

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Elf Socks Stockings

It is almost time for the 2016 Gift-A-Long!

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The 2016 Gift-A-Long is about to begin!

This is the fourth year for the Indie Designer Gift-A-Long and I’m super excited for it to begin. What is Gift-A-Long? It’s a multi-designer promotion to help you kick your holiday gift-making into high gear!

Basically, 335 indie designers of knit and crochet patterns, have banded together to support each other and help everyone get their holiday to-do list done while having a lot of fun and possibly winning patterns and yarn and kits and lots of other fiber finds.

In a nutshell there are:
335 designers from 33 countries.
Lots and lots of donated physical prizes, and more coming in…(2015 had over 150)
Over 2,200 digital prizes (patterns!)

There are over 17,500 patterns to knit or crochet that will make you eligible to win one (or more) of the fabulous prizes.  Of the over 17,500 patterns, 5,106 of them will be on SALE for 25% off!  Yup! Big Savings so stock up on your favorites.  The sale runs from Tuesday, November 22nd at 8:00 pm US EST to Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 11:59 pm US EST.

There will be Pinterest boards and Ravelry Bundles available to peruse for all the sale patterns.  Each designer has at least 5 and up to 20 patterns on sale. Once you get your sale pattern, check out the other patterns the designer offers.  All patterns are eligible for the KAL/CAL threads and all paid for patterns (self, or third party published) are eligible for prizes.  Did I mention the prizes??? Tons and tons of prizes but you gotta’ be in it to win!

Check the Ravelry group for more information.
You can find all my GAL eligible patterns here: Crochet by Darleen Hopkins on Ravelry

Confused?  Check out the FAQs!

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Crocheted toy from child's drawing.

Designer Interview: Martina Gromova

Martina Gromová with Kid’s Creations

When I first saw Martina’s crocheted toys, I actually squealed with delight.  They are adorable.  She takes a child’s drawing and turns it into a toy.  Adorable.  So sweet and so special.  I immediately contacted Martina and asked her if I could interview her.  I was delighted she said yes.  It turns out she is as sweet as the kids’ drawings. Crocheted toy from child's art.Please, tell us about yourself.

08 09I am married and I am  mother of four wonderful children.   I live in the most beautiful city in Slovakia, Bojnice (I have to add some photos, because it′s really stunning)  I work as a professional soldier in the armed forces of the Slovak Republic. I love my job, but I miss that creative activities.  Therefore, in my spare time, but especially during evenings and nights, I’m turning into a creative person with a high addiction on crochet. I love to crochet and I feel nervous when I  am not holding a crochet hook. I love to crochet while watching TV, listening to the radio while traveling, during my lunch-breaks and also while breast-feeding.

Crocheted toy from child's drawing.How long have you been crocheting and how did you first learn?

I started to crochet 7 years ago, when my twins were born. I wanted to use the time in addition to breastfeeding, and at the same time to make something nice for my kids. I knew how to knit since childhood. Maybe I tried to crochet as a child, but I do not remember it now. Mama led us (me and my twin sister) to handicrafts. I can cope with sewing, embroidery, macramé but also with cooking and baking, and I am open to other techniques and skills.Crocheted toy from child's art.How long have you been converting children’s art to adorable dolls and what led you to this business?

I have started with crocheted toys from drawings and photos just last year. It came as request from my son who wished for his birthday only one thing and that was toy from his drawing. It was a figure of  “Boxie” as he named him. I enjoyed this work very much and, of course, the same request came from the rest of my children. It was so funny to crochet these toys from drawings and based on this, I decided that this is the right work that I enjoy and that fulfills me.

Crocheted toy from child's art.If someone wanted to order a toy, what is the process?

I have a Facebook fun page named “From Drawing to toy”  and also I have a second fun page named “el.key handmade”. The second one is for other crocheted items I am making – clothing, toys, accessories, crocheted jewelry.

If somebody is interested in converting a drawing into a toy, he only needs to contact me via personal message on Facebook page “From Drawing to toy” or via email: elkey.handmade@gmail.com

I have no problem with international shipping, it depends on customer whether the postage isn′t too expensive. But I think the postage is ok (for example from Europe to USA 5-10 euro).

I′ve already sent some items all over the world, and there was no problem.

The price depends on “difficulty of drawing” and required size of toy. Just send me the photo of drawing or any photo you would like me to crochet and I will answer  you back with price offer.Crocheted toy from child's art.Why crochet? What is it that interests you?  What do you enjoy most about the craft?

I love crochet for its form-ability, usage, also for the use of math when creating patterns. For its compactness, you don′t have need anything, just one tool – crochet hook and one skein of yarn. And also nearly no mess remains. You can use any material and crochet around things. In event you are shipwreck on the island, crochet can help you in many cases, you are able to crochet various baskets, clothes, shoes …

What other crafts do you enjoy? or is there another craft you would like to learn?

From other crafts I like also knitting, sewing, baking. But in crochet craft there is freeform crochet I have already tried, but would like to learn much more. I’d like to make more crocheted art instead of common crocheted items. I would like to try convert some famous paintings into crochet…but it´s just the plan, what I need the most is the TIME.

Crocheted toy from child's art.What challenges do you face when converting the drawings and how do you overcome them?

The best challenges for me are the drawings from the littlest ones. These are so cute, but sometimes you have problem to understand what child wanted to draw. Because of that parents usually attach remarks about drawings.

What is your favorite drawing to doll, why?

My favourite one is “Person in shoes with little whale friend”. This drawing drew Caleb 4 year old from Arizona. It´s my favourite because of its cuteness and the challenge itself – how to deal with this drawing. It was just in black and white. But I am proud of every one toy from drawing.

I am the most proud on toy from drawing that I mentioned before (Person in shoes with whale friend). But in case of crocheting from photo I am the most proud on crocheted accordion for my son and purple car from photo.  The accordion pattern is available in Slovak, contact Martina if interested in English 🙂

Crochet toy from children's art.

Person in shoes with little whale friend.

Crocheted accordian from photo.

Crocheted car from a photo

What other types of crochet do you do?  How many WIPs do you currently have and do you think you will ever finish all of them?

I was crocheting almost everything but because of lack of time I limited my crocheting to crocheted toys from drawings and photos and any special crocheting instead of common crochet. I’d like to improve myself and need to try other techniques of crocheting and that is not possible while crocheting same items and items following patterns.

I don’t like to have many WIPs. I don´t like to start new crochet thing unless I didn’t finish previous WIP. But sometimes it’s impossible and I have the most of 2 WIPs.

What was the last thing you crocheted for yourself?

The last thing I crocheted personally for me was this summer top and some necklaces.

Crocheted necklace pattern, Roses in Bloom by Martina Gromova.

Roses in Bloom, pattern by Martina Gromova

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Martina’s summer top. Adapted from Slovak chart (center panel) and free handed design. Gorgeous!

What are your favorite stitches?

My favourite stitch is single crochet for its use in amigurumi. But I like bobble stitch, popcorn stitch and also crocodile stitch.

What is your favorite crochet tool or notion?

My favourite crochet tool is crochet hook, I need new one every time. I have a little case with approximately 100 hooks in various sizes.

When you aren’t crocheting, what are you doing?

When I am not crocheting I usually spend time with my kids and family. And there is a lot of work around the house, like cooking, washing, tidying up and so on.

Where can we find you?

I don’t have a website but planning to have in future. At this time I have only two Facebook pages, first for crocheted toys from kid’s drawings https://facebook.com/fromdrawingtotoy/ and second for other crocheted items and my own patterns https://facebook.com/elkeyhandmade-796329807074848/

You can also find Martina on Ravelry as El.key Crochet.

Thank you so much, Martina!  Love, love, LOVE these toys from drawings. I can’t wait to see what else you make 🙂

#familyfun tic-tac-toe game board crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

 

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The Potholders Have Arrived!

YIPPEE!  They arrived!  The packaged didn’t even make it to the house before I ripped it opened.  And they are gorgeous!  In May I posted about a crochet potholder swap  (Post 1 and Post 2) and I’m super excited to share with you the three beautiful potholders I received in the swap.  I can’t wait for the next one 🙂

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The round purple/teal was crocheted by Sybil. The pattern is called Disc Disc.

The lavender and white was crocheted by Linda. The pattern is Vintage Climbing Trellis Hexagon.

The dusty red and indigo was crocheted by Linda. The pattern is an Ornamental African Flower Potholder!

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crocheted scarf pattern, del mar, by Darleen Hopkins

New Pattern Alert! del mar Scarf, crochet

I’m super excited to share the latest #CbyDH  pattern! The del mar Scarf. The crochet pattern is pretty easy.  There is one tricky part where one motif ends and another begins (all worked in one piece, seamlessly!) but the scarf is charted so if you get a little confused, you can always refer to the chart.  After you make a couple motifs you won’t even need the pattern, it is that easy!

Did you know? del mar is Spanish for “from the sea” or “of the sea”.

Pattern information can be found here: The del mar Scarf

And, like all my patterns, the del mar Scarf is included in the Crochet by Darleen Hopkins Buy 2 Patterns, Get a 3rd for FREE! sale on Ravelry. No coupon needed.

Black Raspberry Shawl Crochet Pattern by Darleen Hopkins

Crochet Potholder Swap!

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First completed potholder for the swap!

I’ve always loved potholder patterns.  There are so many cute, silly and fun patterns available.   I have a lot of crocheted potholders.  They were my first crochet projects.   It was a great way to perfect my tension.  But because they were so simple, they are plain and not at all exciting and are showing some wear.  I’ve had them for about 10 years now.    So when I heard about a potholder swap, I was super excited.

I’ve never participated in any swaps before and have always been curious about them.   I’ve learned that you make the item then mail it along with return postage to whomever the organizer of the swap may be.  She (or he) sorts them all and mails you an item made by another person.  For this swap we are each making three potholders of the same pattern.  The colors can vary but the pattern is to be consistent.  Then, we will receive back three potholders made by three different people!  I think it will be awesome to see the work of others.

I had a heck of a time deciding on which pattern to use.  I was tempted to go whimsical.  Many of my bib patterns could easily be converted to potholders and I was really leaning toward making three pigs (three little pigs, get it?)  But then I saw this Granny Stitch Potholder pattern by Recycle Cindy.  I thought it was adorable and genius in its simplicity.   And I’m really into grannies lately as I’m working on three different pattern designs that incorporate granny squares.  So, the combination of this cute potholder pattern with my quest to work from stash and I quickly became hooked (sorry, no pun intended).

So far I’ve completed one potholder.  Each one is using up a lot of scraps, which is great but results in a ton of ends to weave in.  My goal is to get them in the mail this weekend.  I have a lot of weaving and crocheting to do to in order to finish!

Are you interested in participating?  Check out the Ravelry group here: http://www.ravelry.com/groups/2016-potholder-swap

hotpadsHot Pads-Peppermint Pals, Snowman and Gingerbread Man

New Pattern Alert! The Modern Tote

New #CbyDH Pattern Alert! The Modern Tote is now available!

crochet pattern for a bog. The Modern Tote by Darleen HopkinsAn easy and versatile tote bag for you to make. Use yours as a gym bag, a project bag, a take my lunch and other necessities to work bag, a book bag, a beach bag, a large purse, or make yours in thinner yarn for a smaller purse. Whatever purpose it is made for, it will look fantastic. Pattern is written for heavy worsted/aran weight but it can be made in any weight yarn. Your bag will vary in size if you use different yarn.

Find out more about the pattern here: The Modern Tote

Modern Tote Bag crocheted by Jean, crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

Crocheted by Jean!

And check out these awesome totes made by some awesome pattern testers!  Interested in testing patterns?  Read this post, How to be a Crochet Pattern Tester.

Modern Tote Bag crocheted by Amanda, crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

Crocheted by Amanda!

Modern Tote bag crocheted by Sharon, crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

Crocheted by Sharon!

Modern Tote bag crocheted by Erika, crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

Crocheted by Ericka!

Modern Tote bag crocheted by Gina, Crochet Pattern by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

Crocheted by Gina!

Modern Tote bag crochet pattern in Lion Brand Vanna's Choice. Pattern by Darleen Hopkins

I was so inspired by the testers that I made a second tote for myself! Crocheted in Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice.

Crochet Pattrn for Kitty Cat Throw Blanket

The story behind the Baby Kitty, Patchwork Throw Blanket Crochet Pattern

The Baby Kitty Blanket

BabyKitty Halloween

Josh, dressed as a kitty for Halloween. He’s showing me his tail with his right hand and you can see Baby in his left.

Some people are dog people, some are cat people.  I’m a cat person.  I’ve had a cat for most of my life so it wasn’t much of a surprise that my youngest son, Josh, loved kitties too.  When he was about three years old, my mother bought him a beanie type stuffed kitty.   The kitty was named “Baby” and Josh carried her around everywhere.  At night I had to wrap Baby in a blue cotton blanket.  She had to be wrapped really tight, rolled up in the middle with just her head popping out.   Baby went on many adventures and very quickly became one of many stuffed kitties that had to be in bed at night with Josh.  But Baby was always his favorite and always the one to be wrapped up extra special.   Like all sweet little boys, Josh has grown and is turning into an amazing young man (14 just last month!) and the kitties have been replaced with things like an iPad and XBox.

Baby Kitty throw blanket crochet pattern by Darleen HopkinsA few years ago I was working on a new method for a blanket design, Made with Love, Patchwork Heart Baby Blanket.   When I was drawing it out, Josh watched me.  After a few minutes he said I should make a kitty blanket.  He said I should make it like the heart blanket, but a kitty.  It took me a while but I did design that kitty blanket.  Josh helped me a lot.  He worked with me on the preliminary drawings.  He helped me pick the right colors for both the kitty, blacks and grays of course, just like Baby, and the background, blue of course! And he helped me arrange the squares to avoid the placement of identical colors next to each other.  The child is a puzzle whiz and his help was greatly appreciated!  The naming of the pattern was easy, Baby Kitty.

This blanket has so many memories stitched into it.  Not only the precious memories of Josh’s suggestion and help, but I made most of the squares while on a family road trip.  It was a wonderful family adventure of which the blanket serves as a souvenir.  This blanket will be treasured forever, as will Baby, with her matted fur and scratched up eyes.  She is a sweet reminder of the past and of the sweet little boy who loved her.

In celebration of National Crochet Month and Crochetville’s Blog Tour, I’m giving away 5 copies of this pattern.  Find out more on how you can win a digital copy on my Facebook Page.

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