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National Crochet Month:
Brenda Stratton, Brenda Stratton Designs
Crochetville is very proud to have designer Brenda Stratton of Brenda Stratton Designs with us today, March 27, as one of the featured designers on our 2015 Designer Blog Tour in honor of National Crochet Month (NatCroMo). Brenda has been a professional member of the Crochet Guild of America for over 11 years.
Three Truths and a Lie:
Take a guess as to which of the following statements isn’t true. We’ll try to let you know which statement is “The Lie” somewhere in this post. If we just can’t work it in, we’ll post the truth at the bottom of the post!
- Brenda taught herself to crochet from a book. She later found out she was crocheting backwards, and she had to learn to crochet all over again.
- She does all of her crocheting and designing in her recliner in front of the TV.
- Brenda used to dislike half double crochet so much that she avoided using it in her designs for years. Now it’s one of her favorite stitches.
- She once admired an afghan on the cover of a magazine so much that she decided to buy the magazine just for that pattern. It wasn’t until she was checking out that she realized the afghan was one that she had designed!
If you’re not familiar with her work already, we’d like to share two of Brenda’s designs with you.
Brenda says, “I originally intended to self-publish this and some other yet-to-be-revealed designs. But, when I met up with my friend, Carol Alexander (executive editor of Crochet World magazine, former co-worker, and long-time business partner), at the 2013 CGOA summer show in Indianapolis, IN, I couldn’t resist showing them to her. She was interested in purchasing all of the aforementioned designs, and the rest is history. Sweetheart Rose Baby Afghan is the first to appear in print.”
This gorgeous set features patterns for a 12″ wide x 10″ long x 3″ deep purse, an eyeglasses case, and an accessory bag. The optional roses can be added to any of the items.
Getting Off to a Good Start
Brenda says she’s been crocheting for the past 55 years, continuously for the past 45! When she was a little girl, Brenda loved watching her mother crochet doilies and rugs. She learned a few basics from her mother before a friend taught her how to knit. She temporarily put her hooks away in favor of knitting needles, but rediscovered crochet in her teens and soon left knitting behind. Brenda used a Coats and Clark book, Learn to Crochet, to teach herself more about crochet building upon what her mother had already taught her.
After making what seems like miles and miles of endless chains when she first learned to crochet, Brenda remembers her first actual project as a very odd-looking jacket that she made for one of her dolls when she was only eight years old.
A Design Career Is Begun
Brenda says, “I have always loved color and texture. I also have a very strong drive to create, and learning to design fulfilled all of these things. After a half dozen or so rejection slips, I made myself look at them objectively. Then, if I thought they could benefit from it, I reworked them and submitted them elsewhere. After a few publishing successes, the editors and publishers began calling me requesting designs.”
Brenda started her career designing dolls and doll clothing. Much to her surprise, she and her publishers found there was a market for it. Publishers that had never published dolls before, or at least not for a very long time, suddenly began publishing her patterns. She later moved on to other things, and is probably most well-known today for her floral afghans. She says, “Roses are my favorites to design, but I have done many other flowers (and other types of afghans) as well. As an extension of the floral theme, I love to create floral doilies.”
It’s important to Brenda to create designs that are interesting, well-crafted, and as error-free as she can possibly make them. She may not always succeed, but she certainly tries very hard!
Sources of Inspiration
Brenda finds inspiration everywhere but especially from nature. She says, “Sometimes it is just a color, or a flower. I’ve even created afghan designs based on interesting tile work.”
The Wider World of Fiber Arts
Brenda can also knit, sew, embroider, cross-stitch, and needlepoint, although she doesn’t do any of them very often. Crochet will always be her first love!
Her Greatest Crochet Accomplishment:
One of the things that excited me most is getting a cover with my very first published design. There have been numerous covers since, but that one meant the most.
My time spent as a crochet book and magazine editor for Annie’s was probably my greatest accomplishment, though. It allowed me to see the design process from the other side of the desk. I learned a lot from it.
About Her Design Process:
My design process varies depending on what I’m working on. If it’s a design a publisher requested, they usually tell me what they want, then it’s up to me to create it to their specifications and timeline. This type of designing is more structured.
Sometimes when I’m inspired to design something, I have a picture in my mind of what I want it to look like. It’s similar to the process of creating something for a publisher, but without the deadlines and from my own vision.
Then there are the times where I just start working and let the yarn or thread tell me what it wants to be, which is my favorite kind of designing. My free pattern for the blog tour this year is the result of the latter. It started out to be a mini doily, but it grew!
Advice for New Designers:
1. Always be professional. (Always be nice, and do what you say you are going to do exactly when you say you will do it. )
2. Ask for (and follow!) submission guidelines and editorial calendars.
3. Be sure your instructions are clear and concise. Also, make sure your crochet work is neat and pristine.
4. Look at your designs objectively. Try to see them through an editor’s eyes. Do they meet the standards of the publication you are trying to get published in? Is there something about your design that sets it apart from others like it?
5. Don’t get too attached to your designs. There are more where they came from! If you get too invested in them, you won’t be able to bear to sell them.
6. Surround yourself with people who inspire and encourage you.
7. Never give up! After all, someone has to fill the demand for new crochet designs. Why not you?
Advice for New Crocheters:
1. Read your pattern all the way through and be sure you understand the terminology before beginning to crochet.
2. If a pattern seems too hard, lay it aside and come back to it later when you have a little more experience.
3. Don’t try to learn everything at once. I’ve been crocheting for more than 50 years, and I’m still learning! While working for Annie’s, I wrote a short article for beginning crocheters.
Some of Brenda’s Favorites:
- Favorite Crochet Books: Brenda uses The Harmony Guide to Crocheting a lot, but she also uses almost every book in her crochet library. Her favorites are her vintage thread books.
- Designers: Brenda says, “The list is too long to name them all, but those who come to mind at the moment are Kathryn White, Josie Rabier, Carol Alexander, Tammy Hildebrand, Michele Wilcox, Carolyn Christmas, Drew Emborsky, Priscilla Hewitt, Kim Guzman, Kathleen Sams, and many, many others.”
- Favorite Hook: Tulip Etimo hooks for yarn and vintage steel Susan Bates for thread.
- Favorite Yarn: #3 sportweight for baby items; #4 worsted for afghans, size 10 crochet thread for doilies and other thread items.
- Favorite Thing to Crochet: Doilies, followed by almost anything made with motifs, especially adult and baby afghans.
Visit Brenda’s Blog: NatCroMo FREEBIE Sneak Peek
You will definitely want to visit Brenda’s blog post today! Brenda will be offering her brand-new floral doily, My Wild Irish Rose, FREE for a limited-time only. This design was intended to be a mini-doily. But remember how Brenda said earlier that sometimes this yarn tells her what it wants to be? Well, in this case, the thread decided it needed to be a full-size doily!
Find Brenda Online:
Crochetville: BrendaSt (must be logged in to see profile)
Ravelry: BrendaSt (must be logged in to see profile)
Brenda Stratton Designs Blog: http://www.brendastratton.com
Ravelry Designer Page: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/brenda-stratton
The truth is, Brenda doesn’t always sit in front of her TV to crochet and design. She may do some designing there, as well as in the car, on her screened porch, at doctor’s offices, and other places, but most of her design work is done in her home office in front of her computer, so she can write the pattern as she stitches. When the weather’s really nice, though, she’ll take her iPad out onto the porch and design out there.
Remember that magazine Brenda was about to buy because she didn’t recognize the afghan pattern on the cover was her own design? Publishers sometimes adjust the color levels in photos. In this case, the photo had been lightened so much, the afghan really no longer resembled the colors Brenda had used in her design. She did end up buying the magazine, and laughed the whole way home!
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