Welcome to Inside the Crochet Designer’s Mind with Nicole of Tunisian Crochet.
I love juicy, saturated colour and I am often complimented on my use of colour in the crochet projects that I design. My relationship with colour is an intense sensory experience. I joke with people that glitter holds the universe together but for me this is true. Glitter in the air around us is literally how I see the world. I have a neurological condition called Chromesthesia; a branch of Synaesthesia. When I was small I used to love to lie in bed with my window open and watch the shimmery swirls and bursts of “stardust” in the air as they moved with the music on the transistor radio in the yard. I didn’t realize until I was a teenager that other people do not see the world this way. Synesthesia gives me an enhanced perception of smell, tactile sensation, and colour – all via sound.
I’m also a training junkie and kettlebell fanatic, coffee shop philosophizer, and all around socially awkward nice lady. I tend to write the way that I speak. I am fairly direct and I make use of some colourful language. You have been warned
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SDC: Tell us a little bit about your crochet experience such as when did you start to crochet and how long you’ve been crocheting?
Nicole: I started when I was about 5 years old. I put it down and picked it up several times in my life because I found it difficult to do left handed – everyone was trying to teach me right handed. 11 years ago I moved to Manitoba and met two continental knitters who showed me how to do things with my left hand and suddenly a whole new world opened up. I haven’t put my hooks or needles down since.
SDC: Who has influenced you either as a crocheter or designer?
Nicole: Kim Guzman, Doris Chan, Lily Chin, and Dora Ohrenstein – all for different reasons. Doris Chan’s work got me into exploiting specific stitch patterns and showed me that I could make fashion forward items with crochet. Lily’s workshop/book on couture and fit was immensely helpful in providing me with the tools to do my own fitting so that I didn’t have to rely on the work of others. She’s also big on speed and efficiency, which makes me love her even more. Kim Guzman is a very approachable designer who has gone out of her way to make Tunisian crochet techniques available to all. Her friendliness comes through in her online resources and I frequently find myself recommending them to beginners who need support. Dora Ohrenstein makes Tunisian crochet fashion forward and so damned cool. She’s such a New Yorker – no nonsense and direct – if ever I got an opportunity to attend a workshop that she was giving, I would be all over that.
SDC: What inspires your crochet designs?
Nicole: My crochet designs are often inspired by movement and colour. I have chromesthesia, which means that I can see noises, like voices and music. This is what informs a lot of my more artistic work, particularly the entrelac mandalas. In my guest posts, I focus more on exploiting shapes because so many of the people that I meet are new to Tunisian. I’m also trying to create more beginner friendly posts on my site as well.
SDC: As a designer, it’s pretty hard to chose what your favorite design is, but, is there one or two that you really enjoyed creating? Tell us little about it and leave links to where they can be found.
Nicole: Fireball Rune Cloth
This was a project that I did for a prompt in the Harry Potter Knit Crochet House Cup. It was an artistic interpretation of a Chinese Fireball dragon. I had also been reading a lot of Norse mythology at the same time, so I was inspired by Mimir’s Well. What came out of that was a firey coloured spiral mandala with entrelac scales.
I love making mandalas. This one, named for the sunrise colours that I used, was the first one that I gave a tutorial for. My mandalas are largely intuitive and not planned. I tend not to publish them as patterns because I do a lot of artistic “fudging” along the way, so there are no exact numbers. For me, mandalas are a great exercise in the use of geometry, colour, and texture.
I started out crochet blogging as a sock designer, although I haven’t produced a sock pattern in about six years. These socks were made for a prompt in the Harry Potter Knit Crochet House Cup, using mosaic crochet techniques. I spend time in the Middle East, where my parents live, and I find great inspiration within the geometric tile designs that are everywhere. These socks were based on tile designs at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. There is no pattern for them because I didn’t write anything down, but it wouldn’t be difficult to look at them and chart the colour work.
SDC: What are your favorite fiber types you like to work with?
Nicole: My favourite fibres are Icelandic wool and lately I’m really drawn to silk and flax.
SDC: Are there any sage advice you can give to a new crocheter, and a new crochet designer?
Nicole: To new crocheters, I would say to just keep plugging away. Always keep learning new techniques and new stitches – don’t shy away from something just because it looks intimidating.
And when you get frustrated with our designs, please don’t go to our pages and call us names. Put your project down, take a deep breath, and find something else to do for a day or two, then come back to it.
To new designers, I would say: Don’t stop!! Keep at it and keep learning.
Grow a thick skin. I stopped putting out designs about six or seven years ago because I was completely unschooled in dealing with people on the Internet. In person, you can’t bully me – good luck trying. Online, I was totally not prepared for the way that people can behave when there is a keyboard between them and me.
And let’s talk about stealing. Holy cow the stealing!! I’ve had people compliment me up and down on certain designs – and then I’ve seen those same designs with their name in magazines and books. On the plus side: if people are ripping you off, you’ve arrived.
Finally, rejection. It stinks when your work is rejected. I’m used to rejection because I’ve been working freelance in the beauty industry for 20 years, but there are still moments when it happens and I just want to throw my toys down and sulk.
Learn from each rejection. Submitting a design is just like turning in a university paper. It has to be polished and preened in certain ways, and the work has to suit the audience and be original. Don’t take it personally. No one is saying you are a bad person. Online and offline those in charge of the approval process can be pretty crisp, but they’re busy and they don’t have time to hold hands.
You can’t stop any of these things from happening. All you can do is move forward and learn from each event.
SDC: This is something most crocheters are curious about, what’s the size of your yarn and hook stash?
Nicole: My stash is actually pretty small compared to others I’ve seen. I have one large plastic bin full of yarn and a couple of shopping bags that hold my “active projects”.
I have about 100 regular and Tunisian hooks. I want to start collecting handmade hooks, the ones that I have right now are almost all mass produced.
Let us know what you think. I hope you’ve enjoyed this session of Inside the Crochet Designer’s Mind with Nicole of Tunisian Crochet.
As always, much love and happy hooking.