a chat with Karen Whooley

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed an email exchange with Karen Whooley. I’ve known Karen for about a year now and have knit and crocheted samples for her. Without further ado, let’s get to our chat.

little acorn:
You have been at this for a long time, with 19 books and according to Ravelry, over 330 designs! Simple patterns often get a bad rap, why did you choose to focus on them?
karen:
I am so glad you asked that! When I learned to crochet, my grandmother only spoke Italian. I learned to crochet in Italian, and when we bought books from Leisure arts, or back in those days, from a newspaper clipping, she and I would take a magnifying glass to the photos to figure them out. So I never learned how to read a pattern until I taught myself in my teen years.

Fast forward to 1998 when I submitted my first designs. I still wasn’t confident in writing patterns so I started with simple. For many years I stayed with simple and easy to crochet. As an instructor, I have always created my own designs for my classes, so simple is another ingredient for learning. However as the years progressed, I went back to my Italian Lace roots and you will notice as now I hit year 19, I am doing much more lace. But as you will see, I still make my patterns simple to understand.

little acorn:
I consider this my wishes question. What do you wish students in your class would/wouldn’t do? What do you wish everyone would do when they first look through one of your patterns?
karen:
Let’s break this into two parts: Classes and patterns.

As a teacher I am a hands on, learn at your own pace kind of instructor – even in live classes! I also hand out my contact information to each and every student I have. My job isn’t done when the class is over. If you forget something, or didn’t understand something, I am glad to get an email asking for help! Honestly. I have students from more than 12 years ago still sending me a note from time to time! I love that!

As a designer, I pride myself on clean patterns, easy to read and understand. Every pattern is professionally tech edited and anything designed after about 2010 will usually have a stitch chart along with the written text. This got more consistent after 2014 and now every new pattern I release will have charts of some sort.. And if you have a question about a pattern published elsewhere – like a magazine or yarn company – I am glad to get a question from you about those pattern from you as well.

little acorn:
As I’ve knit and crocheted your patterns, I can attest that you do indeed write clean, easy to read and understand patterns! What do you do when not designing?
karen:
I am an avid reader and can read up to 12 novels of all sizes in a month. (that is just in the evenings before bed!) I love to visit my two children at their colleges (Montana State University in Bozeman, MT and Washington State University in Pullman, WA). My husband and I love to spend time in the garden and although we don’t do much of it right now (2 kids in college!!) we love to travel!
little acorn:
Books (and yarn) warm the soul. I’m a voracious reader as well. What drives your creative process?
karen:
When I first started as a designer in 1998, my goal was to eventually end up with my own company producing books. Little did I know the internet would be what it is now! 🙂

I got a little sidetracked in the early 2000s and started designing primarily for books and magazine companies, but what I discovered over the years is that I like to do what I want to do. I don’t like to be given a theme, or colors of the season but design what is coming out of me at the time. I guess you could say I like having control over the entire process! 🙂 In the last 2 years, I determined that this was the time to refocus and go back to my dream. In September 2016, I launched to the world Occhi Blue Press – my new book imprint. The first book, A Garden of Shawls, will go in presales starting March 1st, just in time for National Crochet Month! And you will notice I an releasing far more indie patterns starting this year!

little acorn:
The sample I crocheted was lovely, I can’t wait to see the rest of the book! The fifth question I ask everyone: Kitten or Puppy snuggles?
karen:
Kitties are by far my favorite! I have 2 Amber (a tortie) and Callie (a calico)! Plus a blue doe Jersey Wooly Rabbit named Sapphire. (She’s actually my son’s, but he’s away at college and my husband brushes her out her coat for spinning so she’s mine for now!)

Thank you Karen for taking the time to chat with me.

Learn more:


You can find Karen at karenwhooley.com.

Her new book, A Garden of Shawls, will go in presales starting March 1st.


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