Monday, August 17, 2015

Author Interview: Colorful Crochet Lace, by Mary Jane Hall


I had the pleasure of reviewing a complimentary copy of Mary Jane Hall's newest book, Colorful Crochet Lace.
 
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51eyhTmAsOL._SX378_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
 
I'll leave the stats about projects and page counts and jump to some questions that I think other reviewers won't ask! Click on the link above for more information on Amazon. All the photos are also posted on Ravelry.
 
Ellen asks: Can you tell me a little about how you found Paris as your inspiration?
 
Mary Jane replies: I've been to several countries, and lived in Asia for 3 years when I was young, but it's always been a dream of mine to go to Paris and Italy (where my ancestors were from). I love sidewalk cafes and that European look in buildings and decor. I was born near San Antonio, Texas and if you've been to the Riverwalk with sidewalk cafes everywhere, it would remind you of cities in Europe. I told my editor I would love to have the photos for the book taken at a sidewalk cafe as well as photos outdoors, because I love nature. Photo shoots on other books were in the middle of winter making it impossible to shoot the photos outdoors. The publisher of Positively Crochet! (Krause) asked me to come to Wisconsin, and it was so cold, the wind chill was 45 degrees below zero!
For the new book, Colorful Crochet Lace, the publisher (Interweave Press) liked my Parisian idea and agreed so they found some gardens and a quaint sidewalk cafe in Denver where the photo shoot took place. Then I had the idea to give each project a French name or phrase. I even named one of the projects Michelle Ma Belle Shrug after Michelle Bredson, my editor, which is also a song from my favorite group. Can anyone guess? Btw, Michelle was a French major so she loved the idea too!
 
Ellen: Do you have any hints to offer about how you choose the right yarn to match up with a garment shape?
 
Mary Jane replies: Kerry Bogart, book acquisitions editor, talked to me about using warm weather yarns since the book would be released in the summer of 2015, and that was great with me because I prefer working with cotton, linen, silk, bamboo and soft sugar cane yarns. I knew I wanted fibers that would drape well and wanted a variety of weights such as lace, fingering, sport and dk. I was under pressure to get everything done, due to other circumstances in my life not related to designing, so I wanted to do quick projects while at the same time trying to come up with ones I thought would appeal to a wide variety of people. For example, I used lace weight on two of my shawls, but you'll notice I worked long stitches with a  very open pattern for the Parisian Gardens Circular Shawl, making it not only go quickly but also made it light as a feather! On the La Vie en Rose Rectangular Shawl, I decided to double the lace weight yarn to speed up the process and it still cane out very lightweight and drapable. Both shawls are light enough to roll or scrunch up to be worn as a scarf. I'm pleased with that, because it feels like I'm offering more projects to choose from. Using a larger hook (G and H) than what most would choose on a lace weight also made them a quicker than usual project.
To boil it down, I rarely use any other weight than sport or fingering on garments anymore, but occasionally I'll use # 3 dk depending on the project such as the Monique Hooded Jacket and the Tres Chic Neck Warmer. I used a dk on the jacket and a worsted on the neck warmer since I wanted a little more structure. As for the bags, I prefer a sturdier yarn such as 100% cotton and a smaller hook making them more durable. Nylon is not something I used in this book, but many times I'll use that for a bag since it is studier.
 
Ellen asks: I noticed there were not any skill levels listed for the patterns. Can you tell me about the decision not to use them?
 
Mary Jane replies: I am all for stating the skill level in a pattern and was counting on the tech editor to help me with that, assuming it would be added. If I had it to do over I would have made sure skill levels were listed, but you can be well assured that most of my projects in the book are pretty easy with 80% being for the intermediate crocheter. Nowadays with the very clear stitch pattern charts, I don't see why an advanced beginner couldn't tackle most. The Haute Couture Peplum Top shown on the front cover is a beginner level as far as the main body of the top, which uses my signature Graduated Stitch Method of making shaped garments without increases or decreases, but the Peplum pineapple stitch pattern would be more of an intermediate level. I don't think any of the projects have an advanced skill level.  It's easy to tell that the Walk in the Park Capelet and the Ameliae Triangular Shawl are both at the beginner level.
 
Ellen asks: I love how you offered notes on variations for many of the patterns. This is fascinating! Tell me about your decision to include these notes.
 
Mary Jane replies: Some people know that I have an obsession wanting to come up with ways of making different projects with the same pattern. I've been doing this for years. I have a caplet pattern I came up with in 2006 that I included in Crochet That Fits (2008) showing how to make 6 different projects with that one basic pattern. That exact same shape is formed into a capelet, skirt, bag, hat, turtleneck capelet and a poncho. I also designed a "Cabled Cowl" pattern 5 years ago that can be made into 7 different projects. A post on my blog shows the different ways it can be done using the exact same yarn wt, stitches and same hook, unlike the Basic caplet in CTF which has projects of the same shape but may use a different size yarn or hook. See the Cabled Cowl here that is the same pattern for a cowel, capelet, hood, tote bag, pillow, tube top and skirt! http:positivelycrochet.blogspot.com/2012/10/cabled-cowl-7-patterns-in-one-for-sale.html
I've been telling publishers and editors for years "Ideas help sell books!" If I had had the time and space I would have actually made those extra projects from my ideas, such as making the Dominique Dress Overlay into a shorter top, tunic and skirt.
 
Ellen says: The "Notes" section is a short summary, a "road map" even about how the design is constructed. I love that you included this. It sounds like this is critical information you wished you could give readers and so you did!
 
It's very important to me stating whether the beginning chain is at the bottom, the neck or the side. I always wanted to know those things for myself before I started designing and many patterns don't include that. I guess you could say the whole time I am designing and writing down my instructions as I go, I am thinking about how it was when I was a beginner many years ago and I still remember what I thought would be helpful in a pattern. I am very thorough and even write lots of notes to the tech editor making sure she knows what I'm trying to say. I always have it in the back of my mind to help make crochet easier for people, especially my patterns. It is a priority with me! I guess you could say I'm known for that because many of the reviews for my books say my patterns are very easy to understand. I draw energy as I'm designing from comments people have made over the years of what they want to see in a design or things that would make it easier to follow a pattern.
 
Boutique Bolero
 
Ellen asks: I especially love the Boutique Bolero. It looks like such an easy to wear and versatile layering piece. Which of the garments do you think would be a constant piece to add to your wardrobe?
 
Mary Jane replies: I'm glad you like that Ellen. Now that you mention it, the Boutique Bolero is probably the one I would choose to be the piece that one would most likely wear for many occasions. I used that same shape for a bolero in Positively Crochet, but of course made this one longer, with totally different stitches. Something interesting about this bolero is that it looks really good even before you add the sleeves. 
Another project I think is something that can be worn with jeans or dressed up with a skirt for any occasion is the Au Naturael Cropped Top. It seems to appeal to many people no matter what their size and is a favorite on Ravelry.
 
Ellen says: Thank you, Mary Jane for this fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into your book!

9 comments:

Katelyn said...

Thanks for the interview, I learned a lot!!

Mary Jane Hall said...

Thank you for doing the intrview with me on the book, Ellen! You asked unique questions that no one else has asked!

Susan said...

I enjoyed this interview the most-----Ellen asked interesting questions.
I just finished the Juliette scarf---it's lovely and the book has excellent stitch charts which make it so easy.

Mary Jane Hall said...

Thank you Susan! I appreciate your comment and am anxious to see your scarf:).Are you on Ravelry so the you can post a picture there?

Susan said...

You're very welcome. I'm Susan99 on Ravelry. I should have taken a photo but it's already in the mail to my cousin. See you on Raverly.
Susan Parker

Mary Jane Hall said...

Susan is it possible your cousin could take a picture for you?

Jodiebodie said...

I've been following the blog tour but this was the most interesting article so far. I like the in-depth questions about design decisions and pattern variations. Mary Jane's detailed answers about her design priorities and processes give us insights into her personality as well and I feel like I have got to know more about her as a person as well as a designer per se.
Thank you both for a great article which took me a few days to digest as each answer was thought-provoking. Very interesting.

Mary Jane Hall said...

Thank you JodieBodie! I'm really happy you enjoyed the interview!

Mary Jane Hall said...

Thank you JodieBodie! I'm so happy you enjoyed the interview!