A sweet and amazing gathering happened and is still effervescing. A group of independent designers on Ravelry gathered together to create the 2013 Gift A Long, offering discounts on patterns, contests and prizes for participation. It has been a wonderful way to “meet” and exchange with other indie designers and I’ve learned a lot from the many wonderful creators involved.
Crocheters were outnumbered by knitters in this endeavor, but the insightful administrators created a Pinterest board of the participating crochet patterns http://www.pinterest.com/allison_janocha/ravelry-gift-a-long-crochet/.
Darleen Hopkins is one of the crochet designers in the Gift A Long. She kindly agreed to an interview. There is humor and pleasure in her whimsical and skewed hat designs and I'm delighted to share her thoughts here.
How did you learn to crochet?
My sister first taught me when I was about 10 years old. I never did much with it then. I retaught myself (about 2005) learning from a booklet. I spent the first 6 months or so making single crochet dishcloths and potholders. I made A LOT of them but in the process, I really perfected my tension. I still have the potholders but the dishcloths have worn out and have been replaced with newer crocheted ones.
How/when did you begin to design?
Almost right away I started tweaking patterns. I'm not sure if have ever made a pattern just as it was written. It wasn't long until I started making up my own designs. I sold my first self-published design in April, 2010 on Etsy-the Waiting for Spring Flapper Hat. My first design published in a magazine was the 'I do' afghan (Crochet Today! May/June 2011). I designed the afghan as a wedding gift for a friend of mine and on a whim decided to submit it to the magazine. I was so excited when it was accepted!
What is your design process? What Influences your style?
Most of my designs are a little bit silly. I guess it's a reflection of my personality-I'm a goofy nerd. Usually an idea just pops in my head and I go with it. I often run the ideas by my two boys, my husband and my mother to get other opinions. I work out the design crocheting and writing the pattern as I go making the necessary adjustments to fit my vision.
What do you make and design repeatedly if anything?
Hats! I love hats, the sillier the better. I started out with hats and was inspired by Halos of Hope, http://halosofhope.org/. This is a great group that collects handmade hats and distributes them to cancer centers across the US.
What is your favorite workhorse yarn (fiber, weight)?
I love the softness of cotton and prefer either 100% cotton (great for the donated hats) or cotton and acrylic blends. I tend to use and design with worsted (medium) weight a lot.
Do you have favorite hooks? What brand style and why?
Clover Soft Touch. I was having trouble with arm fatigue and found the thinner hooks contributing to the problem. I love the shape of the handle of the soft touch hooks. They are much easier to grip and I have fewer problems now.
Which of your patterns make for really great gift crocheting?
Cubed Hat, Super Slouchy is a great pattern for men and women. It's hard finding great patterns for men. This can be made in his favorite sports team's colors. http://crochetbydarleenhopkins.com/patterns/cubed-hat-super-slouchy-or-relaxed-beanie/
Mr. Springy, the Robot Dude (or Dudette) is a great gift for a child. Every child loves to play dress up. Mix the colors up to make it for a boy or a girl.
Bobble Head Blanket Buddy-Hippo is another great gift pattern. This can be made pretty quickly and inexpensively in an easy care worsted acrylic or acrylic blend. Switch up the colors and it’s perfect for boys or girls. http://crochetbydarleenhopkins.com/patterns/baby-blanket-buddy-hippo/
What do you most enjoy about crocheting?
Crocheting relaxes me. I get caught up in the repetition of the stitches and the counting. It soothes my brain. Design lets my creativity shine. I love the challenge of figuring out how to make the yarn look the way I want.