|Cover of Custom Crocheted Sweaters, |
Ohrenstein's 2012 book
The Artfully Voie de Vie Questionnaire
with crochet designer Dora Ohrenstein
you tell us a little bit about your background before you started to
design crochet garments and accessories?
I was a professional singer for thirty years. My biggest “claim to fame” is that I was the solo vocalist of the Philip Glass Ensemble for 10 years – great gig! I also had my own touring production called Urban Diva which was presented in about a dozen
US venues and in Europe,
and became a solo recording. In addition, I’ve been teaching singing at the
college level for the last 15 years
When was the moment you knew you wanted to become a crochet designer?
When Jean Leinhauser approached me at a CGOA conference and said she wanted to buy the top I was wearing!
Please describe your personal crochet design philosophy?
Several ideas are always present in my mind when designing: make something beautiful, using the best yarn and stitch for the project. The latter may sound simple, but often it’s not – I swatch A LOT with different yarns and stitches. If it’s a garment: something versatile and really wearable. Too many crochet garments don’t really fit with today’s fashions, so I strive to make wearables that I can imagine being worn with jeans, or to work. I hope I achieved this in my recent book Custom Crocheted Sweaters! In my designs, I want to suggest new ways of seeing certain stitches, or design elements, to introduce something special and different to crochet. I’m also always challenging myself to learn something new.
|Eleganza Raglan from |
Custom Crocheted Sweaters
It’s hard for me to pinpoint one, but I would say that some of my most pleasurable moments have been talking about crochet with my dear friend Vashti Braha. I’ve had the privilege of visiting her in
If you could have dinner with any three designers, dead or alive, who would they be, and why?
Well, I have been incredibly lucky: I’ve had dinner with many of the designers I admire most! Doris Chan, Kristen Omdahl, Lisa Gentry, Teva Durham, Lily Chin. Mostly because we all attend TNNA. I’ve also spent time with non-US designers, including the amazing Ukrainian designer Antonina Kuznetsova. I visited her in
|Lacy Tunic from the recent|
Vogue Knitting Special Crochet issue.
Knife. But I think this topic is overrated. What I wish would be more frequently discussed is tension, especially how to loosen it. It’s a pity that many crocheters feel stuck with whatever tension they used when first starting to crochet.Tight tension is very limiting and can cause pain eventually. What I advocate is flexible tension, and I don’t think it’s difficult to learn. For some reason it’s taboo to discuss the crochet hold as a technique -- rather, people want to be reassured that however they do it is fine. But there are some ways of maneuvering that are a lot more efficient than others, and if we had clearer guidelines in our crochet world, perhaps more people would strive for it.
It’s your last object to design (or make). What is it, and what fiber do you use?
I’m currently working on two designs for publication, one with Malabrigo lace, one with Euroflax Kidlin, both yarns I love.
What trait do you most admire in designers?
|My version of Ohrenstein's Juliette Shawl,|
a design from one of her previous
books, Creating Crochet Fabric.
What trait do you most detest in designers?
I don’t think there’s anything where I would use such a strong word as detest, but I do wonder at the number of designs which seem to be just another version of the latest trendy idea in crochet. I guess people are just trying to sell patterns, and who can blame them, but for me, crochet is a pathway of discovery, not rehashing. I guess this stems from my background in the arts – I have a permanent craving for creative challenges!
You are recommending a design gift in response to a friend’s inquiry. Other than your own designs (which, as everyone knows, are quite beautiful!), what would you recommend?
Thanks so much for the compliment Denise! I think crochet hats and scarves make great gifts, because they are so practical, easy to make, and not necessarily costly. My recommendation is to ask the giftee what color they like, and to think about the styles they wear and how your gift will fit in with it. Maybe even show the person some pictures so they can show you what they like.
My sincere thank you to Dora for taking the time to answer my questionnaire. Both Custom Crocheted Sweaters and Creating Crochet Fabric are invaluable additions to any home library.