It’s been so neat to meet such wonderful people online who have the same love for the craft of crochet as I do. And no matter what level each person is at, or how many years we’ve been at our craft, we can all learn from each other! One of the lovely people that I met recently is Jaime Maraia who writes the blog, Crochet Dynamite!
Crochet Dynamite! is a fun crochet and craft related blog. Jaime has an entertaining and sincere writing style. Anyone who can write a pattern and make me smile at the same time, yet still have me understand it, has some serious writing skills. Visiting her site is like visiting a friend in person. Her patterns are interesting, adorable, unique, and practical too. You may remember that I entered a contest at her site recently. I won this pencil-covered pen! It’s practical, cute, and it’s kind of ironic, all of which are endearing qualities to me. It is now my favorite pen and I’ve been using it to write my pattern notes with it. And even though they are dying to get their paws on it, it is off-limits to the felines in this house!
Jaime and I chatted a bit through blogs and through email and and found we had several things in common. Then she asked if she could interview me for her blog. I thought that would be a great way to get to know each other a little better. We could each interview the other on our respective blogs! So Jaime sent me some great interview questions (seriously, I think she may have coached Barabara Walters, because she made me feel like a celebrity) and then I revised a few of her questions and sent them back to her so she could answer them too. Without further ado, here’s the interview.
MCS: You really are Crochet Dynamite!! You design some really creative patterns (really, you have to see this) as well as some really practical ones (bonus hilarious brownie recipe included). You dare to dye your own yarn with teas and Kool-Aid as well as provide tips and helpful links at Crochet Sunday School (which I agree with your hubby should definitely be a regular feature, by the way) . Also, you gave your daughter super powers – awesome! So seriously, how do you do it all? Are you really Wonder Woman?
J: Ahahaha! What an awesome introduction! I wish I was Wonder Woman. Sadly, I do not have an invisible jet or super powers. What I do have is a burning desire to make fun stuff! As a stay-at-home mom as well as a full-time caregiver for my grandmother, I’m lucky that I get to work at home. I have more freedom with how I spend my time than if I would if had a regular day job.
MCS: Why do you crochet? There are lots of other crafts that you could do, so what is it about crochet that inspires you to create?
J: I think of crochet as my first craft love. I grew up in a really arty household. My dad is an artist and my mom is really crafty. I used to watch my mom knit, tat, sew, embroider, and crochet. She was always working on something. I begged and begged her to let me help on her projects until finally she taught me to crochet. I loved it! My best friend at school was learning how to knit, so we would bring our yarn and tools and spend recess making stuff. Uh, yeah, I was THAT girl…
I learned to knit when I was 18 or 19, right before that huge surge of popularity that knitting had about 15 (?) years ago. I wanted it to be fun and relaxing, like crochet had been. While I enjoyed making sweaters and hats and socks, it was never a relaxing experience. I think I’ve mentioned before that I am a purposeful knitter. I knit like mad, and then I relax when I’m done. It’s the same with sewing. I enjoy being finished with the project, but it’s stressful while I’m in the middle of it.
I came back to crochet right after my last birthday. My sister-in-law was pregnant, and I thought it would be fun to make something for the new baby, but I wanted something different, something I hadn’t seen a hundred times before. When I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I came back to my bff crochet and began what would become the first pattern on my site, The Bacon Baby Blanket. I thought, and still think, that it’s hysterical (I’m pretty sure that my SIL does not… LOL!!!). More importantly, though, the project was fun and relaxing, and challenging in a way that made me want to experiment and try harder. It was like settling into a favorite chair, crochet just fit me perfectly.
MCS: I read on your blog that you are left-handed. When I was young, I remember seeing a right-handed someone teach a left-handed someone how to knit by using a mirror. Has being left-handed made learning to crochet harder for you and how has it affected your design work?
J: I’m lucky. My mom is left-handed, so it wasn’t hard to learn. I thought everyone crocheted the way that we did. The only problem I’ve had being a lefty has come as a teacher! Left-handed crochet works from right to left, which means that I can’t help my students with their work since I crochet the wrong direction. I’ve had to learn to crochet right handed!
MCS: You are a great teacher, by the way. And I was an honor roll student. But that’s not all we have in common. You and I are both cancer survivors. That experience is different for everyone, since we’re all unique snowflakes, but I think that everyone who has gone through it will agree that it’s a life-changer. If you don’t mind telling us, what type of cancer did you have? How has that experience changed your work?
J: I had stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was in the lymph nodes in my neck, collar bone area, and in my armpit on the left side. I discovered the first giant lump (behind my ear) on my 29th birthday. My doctors ran a bunch of tests, and six weeks later I was diagnosed with cancer. I did 6 months of chemo and 4 weeks of radiation.
It changed everything. Not just my work. It changed my life. I thought I knew what ‘battling cancer’ would be like before I started treatments. It was nothing like what I had expected. The battle is to be brave, even though you just want to lay in bed and cry. The battle is to make yourself go to get another scan, and another series of blood draws at the lab. The battle is to love yourself so much that you’ll do anything to survive.
I am tougher than I used to be. I am braver than I used to be. It’s a scary thing to put patterns out into the world and share them. I hope that people will like them, and that I won’t get too many mean comments. I would have never been able to do this before I got sick. I would have made myself sick, worrying about what other people thought of me. I’m stronger now. And I’ve been cancer-free for 7 years!
MCS: I used to worry so much about those things too! After cancer, I also find those things less scary. I still have to work at it but it definitely lessens the stress level. Speaking of stress levels, pattern writing can also be stressful. What is your approach to pattern writing? Tell us a few things you have found that work and things that didn’t based on your experience, whether in your own or the patterns of others.
J: Oh, pattern writing. I have a love/hate relationship with pattern writing. First off, I will say that I am still fine-tuning my pattern writing process. I have been appalled at the lack of information that there is on how to write a crochet pattern. If I ever find someone to tell me the definitive format, I will shout it from the rooftops… And probably write a book… But here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Write down the stitch count at the end of each row. Everyone appreciates that.
2. If you know the yardage in a project, add that into the supplies list. I don’t need to know exactly how many yards of wool I need, but I would love a head’s up on how many skeins I’ll need. I don’t do this for small projects that just use whatever you’ve got in the stash pile, but I do on the big ones that require a trip to the yarn store.
3. Don’t abbreviate every word. I bought a book of stitch patterns where evry wrd in was abbrev’td. I had no idea how to 4 dc in the 2nd ch sp fr hk, sl st to fpdc in prev rw. It took me forever to decode, which was no fun. I think I gave that book away.
4. As much as you can, write patterns so that beginners can be successful. Even if the pattern is challenging and advanced, I try to write it in a way that explains exactly how I did it. Sometimes I’m more successful at it than other times, but I always begin with the intention that I am writing for everyone.
MCS: Those are great tips. I also dislike when anything other than the most common terms are abbreviated. I like your philosophy that everyone should be able to read it from beginner to advanced. Writing patterns for others is pretty new to me too. I will be mindful of your tips. As a matter of fact, sometimes I forget to write the stitch count at the end of a row or round but you reminded me and I’m making a point to be sure I do that. I know it always makes me feel better and it is a good way to check if you are following a pattern correctly.
You had 2 blogs before you started Crochet Dynamite and you have quite a nice following of Dynamos there! How did you end up with such nice visitors to your blog and what did you learn from your previous blogs that has helped you this time around?
J: My first experiences blogging were horrible! I was all over the place. My first blog was a general catch-all of mom-crafts and baking experiments, and the second one was an embroidery design blog. I was still working through some cancer-related emotional issues, and I wrote some very emotional posts. It turned people off. It was a mess. I vowed I was never going to blog again!
When I started Crochet Dynamite, I had really rigid rules for myself about what I would and would not discuss. I wanted it to be funny and fun and inclusive. I thought that even if someone didn’t like my patterns, they might keep coming back because my stories were entertaining. I vowed that every post would have something to do with crochet.
I had a cousin-in-law who was an amazing blogger for a mentor. She was funny and articulate and charming. I saw what she created on her blog, and I thought, ‘That’s what I want, but with my own voice.’ Her love and positivity just radiated from her blog. That was what I wanted in my life.
MCS: I am so glad that you didn’t give up on blogging completely and that you had such a positive person in your life! I think that kind of support system is absolutely essential. And I love how you write and come across on your blog. You are very welcoming and reading your blog is like reading a letter from a dear friend!
I also love that some of your paid patterns are only $1 so that anybody can afford them. A lot of effort goes into working out and then writing out patterns so I think it is very generous of you.
J: Actually, all of my paid patterns are $1. I was tired of seeing digital patterns that cost the same price as a printed pattern in a shop. I got it in my head that patterns should be like music singles on iTunes. If everyone paid a buck for the pattern, it would pay for the design costs, and we’d all be happy. So far it hasn’t worked exactly like that, but I still hope that the model will work…
MCS: Well, that certainly sounds more than fair. I’m hoping to do something similar in the future at my blog so I am hoping for the best for you and for me! But what’s the inside scoop about Crochet Dynamite? What new and exciting things have you got planned for the near future? You always seem to have a great project up your sleeve for the next post so give us the exclusive!
J: I’m really excited about what I’ve got coming up! I love fall! I’ve got some fun Halloween projects planned for the first part of the month, including a pen inspired by your witch finger lipbalm holders! And then later in the month I’m planning my first Crochet Dyanmite Crochet-A-Long. As you might know, my grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Since October is breast cancer awareness month, I’m working on a project to support women with cancer, and hopefully we can raise some money to donate to breast cancer research. I’m planning the CAL to take place during the week of October 22nd.
MCS: Of course, now I am super curious about your new pen idea! Isn’t it funny how ideas can inspire ideas, which in turn inspire even more ideas? I mean after all, your lip balm holder was part of the inspiration for my witch finger and now you are bouncing a new pen idea off of that! LOL. I did read about your grandmother’s diagnosis and let me please just say that I’m sorry that each of you has had a cancer diagnosis of any kind. You are both in my thoughts and prayers. I will be watching your blog closely for your new crochet-a-long project (CAL). I’ve never actually done a CAL before and may join in if I can fit it between Yarndango projects!
So there you have it, ladies and gents! The lovely and talented Jaime Maraia! Go to her blog and give her some love!
Jaime, thank you so much for suggesting this awesome interview exchange. I’m so glad to have met you through our mutual craft and look forward to many future years of friendship. You are a love! <3 I would love the chance to get to know more of my new crochet friends so if you are at all interested in being interviewed here at the Mad Crochet Lab, or at Crochet Dynamite, just let us know in the comments!