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National Crochet Month:
Crochetville is very proud to have designer Karen Ballard, also known online as threadwinder, with us today, March 31, as one of the featured designers on our 2015 Designer Blog Tour in honor of National Crochet Month (NatCroMo). She has been a professional member of the Crochet Guild of America since 2005.
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!
- Karen believes creativity runs in families. She has a Juiliard-trained dancer, a Parsons-trained graphic artist, an illustrator, an opera singer, an actor, and other creative artists in her family.
- She is a long-time collector of textile production/embellishment tools, notions, and publications.
- Karen is very history-oriented. Her designs and crochet work are heavily influencd by her collections, frequent museum visits, and her husband’s career at the US Army Center of Military History.
- Karen enjoys spending long periods of time sunbathing and lying around relaxing.
If you’re not familiar with her work already, we’d like to share two of Karen’s designs with you. Karen is a true fiber artist. Her designs have been published in PieceWork, Crochet Traditions, and Michele Maks’ MainlyCrochet.com. The pieces we are featuring below are art pieces for which there is currently no pattern available. They are so amazing, however, we just had to feature them here.
Karen’s beautiful NC Necklace was inspired by Prudence Mapstone’s freeform
crochet jewelry class that Karen took in 2011 at the Greensboro, NC CGOA Conference. This necklace was the winner of a first prize in CGOA’s 2012 Design Contest, Small Wonders category.
Heritage Heart, a design featuring flowers that are symbolic of Karen’s ancestry, toured Australia and New Zealand with Prudence Mapstone’s “Hearts & Flowers Freeform Art Show” during the latter half of 2013.
Getting Off to a Good Start
Karen’s Great-Aunt Laurene taught her the basics of crochet when she was only seven years old, although her aunt neglected to tell her the names of any of the stitches. The first project she remembers completing was Pierre the Poodle, a kit her sister had received as a gift in 1962. Her sister had no interest in learning to crochet, so Karen offered to crochet it for her, thinking it was a good chance to develop her crochet skills.
A Design Career Is Begun
Karen says, “I have always looked at patterns thinking whether I could improve them or change them to make them unique. After retiring from a computer career, I took a job teaching crochet at a local yarn store (LYS). I designed my own patterns to ensure that I did not infringe on others’ copyrights. I also joined CGOA around this time, and requested and received professional membership standing. Shortly after that, I qualified for CGOA’s Master of Advanced Crochet Stitches and Techniques. My mentor, Randy Cavaliere, helped me to realize that my knowledge of historic tools and techniques would provide me a unique entrée into crochet design.”
She got into the business of crochet design sort of through the back door, so to speak. In addition to teaching and creating her own designs for her classes, Karen began writing about textile handwork history and tools and adapting antique patterns to modern notation and materials. Her articles have been published in CGOA’s Chain Link Newsletter, PieceWork, Crochet Traditions, Gwen Blakley-Kinsler’s Royal Ramblings Blog, and Paper & Advertising Collectibles Marketplace magazine.
Karen loves to combine crochet with beads, rocks, and/or wire. She particularly enjoys doing free-form work and complex designs. Many of her designs also have deeply personal, special meanings, such as the two designs we featured above. She feels she looks at challenges a little differently than most people. When she was asked to participate in Prudence Mapstone’s 50 Years of Flower Power Freeform Collaboration earlier this year, she first made a beaded paisley motif. She next thought what could be more iconic than a Peter Max portrait done in his style, but as her own composition in crochet. This was quite different than of the other contributions she saw. We’re going to show it below so you can come to your own opinion.
Sources of Inspiration
Karen find inspiration everywhere, often from a challenge theme, a color combination, a fabulous thread or yarn, or any design that happens to catch her eye. She takes many photos of museum items and architectural elements to use as future inspiration.
Her Greatest Crochet Accomplishment
Karen is very proud of all her contributions to Prudence Mapstone’s challenges, but she’s probably most proud of taking first place in the Small Wonders category of the 2012 CGOA Design Contest with her NC Necklace. I was lucky enough to see the necklace in person. I can tell you it definitely deserved the win!
The Wider World of Fiber Arts
Karen is a woman of many talents. She also does beading (on and off loom), bead embroidery, weaving, embroidery, sewing, macrame, knitting, needlepoint, wire-wrapping, spinning, and tatting.
About Her Design Process:
Once I am inspired and have a design concept, I start sketching; usually just a part of the total design, but occasionally the entire design. As I progress in my creation, I flesh out the design sketch, so I always have a concept of where I am going with it.
Advice for New Designers:
Determine what you do and like to do best, by learning as many techniques as possible. It is particularly great if you can find a unique niche. Be careful not to infringe others’ designs. Always support your fellow designers and others in the industry.
Advice for New Crocheters:
When one is first learning crochet, it always feels awkward, but if you understand how the stitches are formed and keep at it, it will eventually become easy.Although I am a strong believer in “to your own self be true,” at the risk of being repetitive, for me it has been advantageous to learn as many fiber and other techniques as possible, mostly crochet and beading techniques, but many other techniques, as well.
Story from the Crochet Industry:
My weaving teacher, Maryanne Geldmaier (now deceased), was very Germanic and opinionated. She told me I “must devote my time to weaving only.” I argued that I needed to learn as many techniques as possible so I will be able to combine them in my creations. Later, upon reflection, I realized I also needed to learn as many as possible so I could determine what techniques suited me most. Although I am not a master weaver, I have Maryanne to thank for this realization.
Some of Karen’s Favorites:
- Favorite Crochet Books: Karen has a massive library of old and new crochet books. It’s hard for her to pick favorites, as that changes based on the needs of the moment. If hard-pressed, her favorites are probably her antique books that date back to the early 1840s.
- Designers: Karen says, “Another hard question–there are so many. Randy Caveliere, a classic designer and my CGOA mentor, who helped me identify my niche. Prudence Mapstone influenced my own favorite creations. I have a special friendship with Gwen Blakley-Kinsler, the founder of CGOA and an innovative designer, due to so many common interests. Carol Ventura, master of tapestry crochet, and my “long-lost sister”. Noreen Crone-Findlay’s and Zann Carter’s innovative designs. Diego JV’s complex tapestry crochet designs; Robyn Chuachula’s and Dora Ohrenstein’s clothing; Rita Cavallaro’s exciting hats; Judith Bertoglio-Giffin’s bead crochet jewelry; Aze Ong’s exuberant interactive crochet art; Bonnie Meltzer’s provocative crochet art; Vashti Braha, Nancy Nehring, and Nicole Scalessa particularly for their interest in crochet history; Margaret Hubert’s free form clothing…. This list is no where near complete…”
- Favorite Hook: Karen says, “In general, I am a Bates’ girl, preferring their older metal hooks. But at home (where I am unlikely to lose them), I also like to use my Furls, ChiaoGoo, Brittany, and many of my antique metal hooks. I don’t use my collectible wood, ivory, bone, and glass hooks, because I am afraid of damaging them.
- Favorite Yarn: Karen loves threads of all kinds and weights. She loves combining different types of yarns and threads for texture. She is particularly fond of silks and bamboos and tends to avoid bulky-weight yarns.
- Favorite Thing to Crochet: Jewelry and sculptural, textured freeform crochet.
Visit Karen’s Blog: NatCroMo FREEBIE Sneak Peek
You will definitely want to visit Karen’s blog post today! Karen will be giving away two issues of Stitchery Quarterlies, circa 1913. She will select two random winners from people who send her a Facebook message stating “NatCroMo” by April 15, 2015. If you’re not already Facebook friends with Karen, send her a friend request with the NatCroMo message. She will select winners no later than April 30.
Issue No. 1 contains numerous crochet patterns, including Irish crochet and embroidered Tunisian stitch. It also contains the butterfly pattern Karen adapted for the May/June 2011 issues of PieceWork magazine and 5+ pages about Flora Klickmann’s personal collection of needlework tools.
Issue No. 4 contains more Irish crochet, embroidered single crochet, crochet with fancy braid, and knitting.
NOTE: All patterns are written in antiquated British notation, so you’ll need to do some work if you want to make any of the patterns.
Find Karen Online:
Crochetville: Karen Ballard (must be logged in to see profile)
Ravelry: threadwinder (must be logged in to see profile)
Threadwinder Website: http://www.threadwinder.info
Threadwinder Blog: http://www.threadwinder.blogspot.com
Ravelry Designer Page: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/karen-c-k-ballard
The truth is that Karen does NOT enjoy sunbathing or sitting and doing nothing. That would be “an enormous lie,” she says!
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