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R
ecently I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Rosemary Hill about her creative life and her new book.  She is currently the proprietor of Designs by Romi, www.designsbyromi.com, where she sells whimsical handmade shawl pins, and other funky bits of jewelry, as the perfect accompaniments to her intricate lace shawl patterns.  Always looking for an outlet for her creativity, Rosemary stitched her way through more traditional fibers and techniques until one day she had the idea to combine her passion for making jewelry with her passion for knit and crochet.  That moment ultimately led her to create Elements of Style: Knit and Crochet Jewelry with Wire, Fiber, Felt and Beads (Interweave Press, 2009), a book of unique knitted, crocheted, and felted jewelry.

Julie Holetz: Hello Rosemary and welcome. This is exciting because I really like your work. I love that you use wire as fiber and I love your new book. So, I was excited to get a chance to intereview you for Tension Magazine.

Rosemary Hill: Thank you. I'm really happy to be here and I'm honored that you're interviewing me.

JH: Well, I was reading your book and I saw that you learned to knit and crochet from your mother and grandmother at a very young age. Was creativity a big part of your family growing up?

Elements of Style Cover RH: It was. My grandmother was always crocheting. And my mother actually taught my entire kindergarten class how to crochet. She took it upon herself to organize a baby blanket for one of the assistant teachers who was having a baby. She took everybody's squares and she crocheted them together into this amazing blanket.

JH: Wow. The whole class actually learned to crochet that well?

RH: Yes, it was incredible. Everybody had a square. Well, I mean a lot of them weren't really square. But it was really cool looking.

JH: That's amazing. Did you continue to crochet throughout life?

RH: Y'know, I've always been active with something, between beading, crocheting and knitting. And I did have a long hiatus and then I picked up knitting and crocheting again when I was pregnant with my second son because I was so sick to my stomach and I just sat on the couch and complained. So, I got like three sweaters done and another couple started. I was very productive. Then I found the internet stitching community. I was excited to find so many people and new techniques. I've never lived around a community of knitters and crocheters before, so it was really cool having that.

JH: So, it became your virtual knitting neighborhood?

RH: Yes! Exactly.

JH: What came first? Knitting or crochet?

RH: My grandmother taught me to crochet before anything else. She was incredible. She crocheted a lot with really fine crochet thread and made lace. So that [crochet] is what is closest to my heart. I actually had to beg my mother to teach me to knit later on in life.

JH: Yeah, that's similar to how it was for me. My mom taught me to crochet. From what I understand she does know how to knit, but I didn't learn that from her. I picked that up on my own at some point later on, but crochet came first and that's probably why I always come back to crochet first.

JH: What made you decide to combine the techniques, like beading, wire, jewelry, and knitting?

RH: I don't know, it just kinda popped into my head. It's not a very exciting story. I think I was probably on a bike ride or something like that and it just kinda popped into my head. I had some of that really fine beading wire and I decided to try it.

JH: Which led to your book, Elements of Style. How did that project get started?

RH: A friend of mine was writing a book and she asked me if I wanted to do a project in it. And I thought "Wow, a book. I want to do that too". So, before I could chicken out, I wrote to Interweave [Press] to see if they'd be interested. They were and, so, the rest is history.

JH: So it wasn't too difficult a concept to get your book started?

RH: I just basically rushed in and went ahead with it without thinking about what I was doing. I tend to overthink things and I really didn't want to overthink this. Then, to come up with the designs, I worked with Interweave and their amazing editors and we came up with the overall concept and the sections, the wire, fiber, and felt. Then I set about imagining the designs.

JH: The fun part. One aspect I really liked about the book was how you learned through the process of writing this book. For instance, how you overcame some of your preconceived opinions of certain techniques, like felting. So, how did you push through and challenge yourself to come up with designs that would appeal to you and your readers in those areas?

RH: In the back of my head, I kept thinking that when I design the stuff it would have to be something that I would wear. I was thinking about going to a business meeting, going to lunch, going shopping. I tried to fit the technique to the vision that I had with regards to "wearability" instead of doing a technique for the technique's sake. The felt [technique] was the most difficult, because felt tends to be large and I couldn't see myself wearing a large felt piece to a business meeting. Then, I thought of felting lace weight.

JH: I can imagine the challenge because felt is the exact opposite of working with fine wire. But felting lace weight fibers could be worked up into a fabric that is more fluid in drape.

RH: Yeah, it works really well on a smaller scale.

JH: That's great. I loved all of the projects [in the book], but one of my favorites is the Red and Silver Necklace. I love the color and the construction. You used an I-cord knitting tool with wire to make an actual net for the beads. I think that is so cool. How did you come up with that idea?

RH: Just experimenting. I had my little Clover Wonder Knitter sitting there and I was thinking, "huh, I bet that would look really cool". I thought it would be fairly simple to use, so, I just threaded some wire on there and there you go. With that particular necklace, I ran beading line through the beads on the inside, so that it would be stronger.

JH: What a great idea. Speaking of construction, another favorite is the Silk and Pearls Bracelet. I love the look. It's free form in a way without being freeform in technique. What really appeals to me is that you give the basic instructions for how to create the bracelet and then you guide the reader on how to form the swirls of the knitted fabric, pushing it and molding it into place.

Images from Elements of Style, courtesy of Interweave Press.

RH: Cool, I'm glad you like it. That's one of my favorite pieces.

JH: What are some of your other favorites?

Elements of Style Cover RH: I really love the Rose Quartz Triangle Earrings. I wear those a lot. And I like the Geometry Necklace and Earrings. I wear that one a lot with the little knitted envelopes over the wire. I actually have worn this to a business meeting and no one ever really looks twice at it as a knitted object. Even among knitters, I've worn it and they kind of do a little double take when they see it.

JH: Because it looks woven instead of knitted.

RH: Yeah, yeah it does.

JH: Many of the projects in the book appear to be more complicated than they really are. They look complex but they are really simple. For instance, the Trio of Earrings, they take you through three quick projects that allow you to naturally progress through skills from simple to complex.

RH: Yes, that was on purpose. When you get to the end and you make those Rose Quartz Triangles, those are definitely the most difficult and by that time you should be comfortable with knitting or crochet with wire.

JH: I also love all the little tips you give throughout the book. There are really great ideas for how you approach working with wire and the projects in the book. What advice would you give to people who are new to working with wire in knit or crochet.

RH: I think the first thing I would say is don't worry about your hands. If you get the right wire it won't hurt your hands. And the other thing is just to swatch. You need to do a lot of swatching and get used to the movement. You'll be using more exaggerated movements to knit or crochet because the wire doesn't have any memory. And, once you've done all your swatching then you can make the Mess Up Necklace from my book. That necklace is all made out of swatches, all of your gauge swatches and all of your practice swatches. I just couldn't part with them because of my thrifty nature. I couldn't throw them away and you can't really rip them out because they're kinked, so I balled them all up then made a necklace out of them.
JH: What kind of hooks do you like to use?

RH: I like steel hooks. The smaller hook sizes.

JH: And wire? What's good for beginning wire.

RH: I love artistic wire. It is like buttah. It's really soft, has a copper core and you can get a silver plated version, which I love to use. It looks terrific and it doesn't tarnish. It's really smooth, you can actually rip out a couple of stitches and reknit it without any problems.

JH: You're making a good career out of your creativity and your craft. Was that on purpose or did that just happen naturally?

RH: At the time, I was advising people on how to brand their businesses and how to get out there and get your name recognitions. I thought that I would do a little brand experiment of my own with something that I love to do. So, I started my shawl pin business and I found that I really love working in the stitching industry and I loved it more than what I was doing before. It blows me away that I get to call it work when I go to fiber festivals and I get to knit and spin and crochet. It's like the dream job.

JH: Have you experienced any challenges while pursuing your interests in this business?

RH: Well, it's always a challenge to come up with something new.

JH: I think you did that with your book, though. I can see that you can overcome your challenges pretty easily.

RH: I hope so.

JH: What's next for you?

RH: Well, some secret stuff.

JH: Then, what do you think you'll be doing in the next 5 to10 years? Will you still be doing this?

RH: Absolutely. I love it. I don't know, 5 to 10 years seems like such a long time, but I know it passes so quickly.

JH: What do you think the next trends in crochet will be? What's missing?

RH: I love the way crochet has been going lately. The way we see lacier, smaller gauge type crochet projects. I really love those. To me, that's what had been missing, but it's there now.

JH: I agree. I've noticed a lot of lace projects, especially in the shawls. Modern lace projects are not only focused on the stitch patterns but also on the color, in hand dyed or kettle dyed yarns. I've been inspired to do more with crochet in lace weight yarns.

RH: I actually have a crocheted lace blouse that my grandmother did. She made it with crochet thread and it's so beautiful. It's just amazing. Crocheted lace has been unsung for a few years. It makes me so happy to see it again.

JH: I agree. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. Good luck with the book and I hope to see more from you.

RH: Thank you. It was my pleasure.

Elements of Style: Knit and Crochet Jewelry with Wire, Fiber, Felt and Beads includes 25 modern wire, bead, and jewelry designs that incorporate knit, crochet, and felt techniques. Beyond the patterns, Rosemary offers tips and techniques to ensure success for beginners along with a few more challenging projects that will keep more experienced stitchers intrigued.




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COMMENTS (11):

Very informative and interesting interview. Thanks. Love the photos from the book, too.
- Karla M, 2010-03-31 11:17:19


I really want to try some wire knitting. Soon.
- Larissa B, 2010-03-22 05:16:44


Thank for this review. I have Elements of Style and think it has some of the most wearable crocheted and knitted jewelry I've ever come across. The instructions are well thought out as well. Highly recommended!
- Marie R, 2010-03-21 03:05:45


This looks like a great book. I've never crocheted with wire, but I want to start!
- Kim T, 2010-03-18 02:30:27


This jewelry is an amazing accomplishment. Thank you for the inspiration!
- Jennifer D809, 2010-03-15 02:24:05


I've tried knitting and crocheting with wire and failed miserably, but gosh I love her work. I might have to buy the book just to look at the pretty!
- Sarah P, 2010-03-02 01:43:21


I keep threatening to try crocheted jewelry. I love crochet and I love beading - this seems a marriage made in heaven! Libby
- Libby N, 2010-03-02 08:57:59


I love crocheting jewelry but have yet to do this work in a small gauge. this provides impetus to try.
- Akua H, 2010-03-01 11:03:17


Crochet lace is my first love, too. It's funny how so frequently you get drawn back to what you first learned, even as you expand your skills.
- Linda T, 2010-03-01 01:12:22


This is an interesting review. I have loved Romi's shawl pins for some time and have wondered about her book. Now I'm going to put it on my book wishlist and move it to the top. The interview has convinced me that I could actually do some of the designs. Thanks!
- Jan C476, 2010-03-01 12:39:55


Reading all these crochet articles makes me think that I should get back to this craft, just as soon as all my knitting projects are done!
- Paula B, 2010-02-27 01:10:07



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