Winner + Designer Spotlight: Pia Thadani

As part of our ongoing Designer Spotlight series, we take a look at what makes designers tick.

This week we have Pia Thadani, crochet designer and Crochet Guild of America Member! Pia calls the beautiful state of Illinois home.

Pia designed the Sargassum Shawl featured in the Crochet Guild of America Crochet Along this month! Be sure to participate for a chance to win a set of our Crochet Hooks that we donated to the CAL.

When did you learn to crochet? Do you do any other crafts?
My mom taught me to crochet when I was very young – maybe around 5. I started with chaining by hand, without a hook, to make bracelets. When I got tired of that, I still remember spending days making mile long chains and then braiding them together to form jump ropes (which only worked marginally well, but was still fun)! Mom taught me lots of other fiber arts too – knitting, tatting, embroidery, needlepoint, rug hooking, macramé, sewing, and probably more that I’ve forgotten. I can’t remember any part of my life that didn’t involve making things, and I’ll try pretty much any new craft. Sometimes they work out, and other times I’m just horrible at them (like sewing). I tend to go in spurts – for a while, I was obsessed with scrapbooking, and more recently it’s been spinning. Crochet has more or less stuck as my main passion through all of them though.
How did you get started designing?
I actually started blogging first, as sort of a crafting diary, and would write about modifications I was making to patterns. I almost never follow a pattern exactly as written, and I’ve always been that way. I usually read through it, get the gist, and then start making bits up as I go. My blogging friends soon started encouraging me to make up whole patterns from scratch, and everything just grew from there. Joining the CGOA was a big step for me in taking crochet from a hobby to a business. The local chapter activities, online projects, and national conferences have all provided invaluable networking and learning opportunities. On top of that, the new friendships and sense of community I’ve found through the CGOA have been amazing.
What is your design process typically like? - or - What are your favorite projects to design?
Growing up, crochet to me was always about gift giving on a budget. I still love to make things for other people, so I often end up designing to fit specific gift giving opportunities. If someone wants a sweater for Christmas, I make a sweater. If someone’s having a baby, it’s going to be all things baby for a while. There always has to be a reason to make something. I have a much harder time just sitting down and coming up with a design without any context. Recently I’ve started designing more for myself, but it still is usually when there’s something I need (or want). If you want a very detailed look at my design process, check out my series on “How a Pattern Happens”.

Tell us about your design for the CGOA CAL. Are there any special techniques that crocheters will need to master to complete the project?
Sargassum is a perfect example of designing to fit a need. I was going on vacation in Florida, and needed something light and pretty for the chillier evenings. I’ve had a gorgeous skein of discontinued cotton yarn in my stash that I had been wanting to use, and the color reminded me of the Sargassum seaweed that you find on the beach. The lace stitch for the bottom border was something I had played with months earlier (coincidentally, in the same yarn). The pattern does incorporate a lot of different techniques, which is one reason why I thought it would be best introduced as a CAL. The techniques appear one at a time, so you can master one before having to deal with another, and the pattern includes links to tutorials for all of them. Some of them are also optional, and easier alternatives are provided. The first is foundation stitches, then chainless starting double crochets, a few rows later there are puff stitches worked so they lie sideways, then color changes, beads, linked double crochet in the top border, and finally a shell and picot edge. Fun fact – that’s my mom in those pictures!

What is your absolute favorite Knitter's Pride product, the one you would HAVE to have if you were stranded on a desert island?
If you had asked me that last year, I would have said my sock blockers. These things are magic for socks, and I think they even help them to dry faster. Also, when you tie them together, they work really well as a weight on hand-spun skeins! But, I recently got a set of Nova Cubics Platina Interchangeables, and those are now my new favorite Knitters Pride product. I swatched with them right away and they are absolute heaven. The unique ergonomically shaped shafts are surprisingly comfortable to hold and help with getting the needle into tighter stitches, and they’re just the right amount of slippery for my taste too. Just my luck though - since I got them I’ve been buried in lighter weight projects that need smaller needles. As soon as I have a chance, I’m dying to work up a nice big project on them.
Do you have any crocheting horror stories or mishaps?
I tried to make a swimsuit cover-up once, with a big fillet crochet butterfly on the back. It came out really nice…until I wore it over a wet swimsuit. I had used a kitchen cotton, and I learned the hard way just how much that type of yarn can stretch when it’s wet. Think saggy butterfly butt. Yeah, not attractive.

Congratulations to BinaBKnits,  this month's giveaway winner! We will contact you to arrange for the delivery of your prize. Thanks to everyone who entered this month's giveaway, we got some awesome ideas for - click here to check out the comments & get inspired to reuse and recycle

Keep it Green by Upcycling for Earth Day + Giveaway

Do you want to help keep as much as you can out of the landfill? Do you hate to see things going to waste? Here are a few tips to help upcycle materials this spring!

Unravel a sweater to reclaim yarn
We all have those sweaters in our closet that are destined to go to the thrift store after the Spring cleaning purge, but what if that sweater could become your next new project?

Start by examining the sweater, if it is still in good condition, you can reclaim the yarn. Start by unseaming the sweater. Once the sweater is in parts, find an end and start unraveling! This can be a fun project to do with kids. Using a swift makes the process go a little faster, and prepares you for the next step. Wash the yarn in a yarn soak to relax the fiber, then hang it up to dry with a weight to get out any of the pesky kinks.

If you don’t like the original color of the yarn, this is the ideal time to dye it.

If you don’t have any old sweaters, head to your local thrift store and there are sure to be plenty of them there to turn into a pretty sizeable stash. For a more detailed explanation of this process, check out this great blog post.

Turn fabric into yarn
Whether it’s a worn out t-shirt, or old sheets, any fabric can become your new rug yarn! Cut up t-shirts and sheets to create long strips of fabric that you can either crochet, knit, or weave long-lasting durable rugs. This gives those old garments a second life, and gives you an excuse to use your Jumbo Birch needles and hooks!

Crochet Rug Tutorial from 1 Dog Woof

Upcycle your worn-out clothes
If you have a t-shirt that is a little worn out or just don't love it anymore, adorn it with yarn!

The Jelly Bean Tee Edging pattern teaches you how to add a knit yoke around a shirt, which can add new life to your favorite sweatshirt! Or, try adding some lace around the worn out cuff of your jeans.

Spruce up your boring outfits by adding appliques, as seen here in the Sweater Makeover pattern from Meredith Crawford.

What is your favorite upcycling tip? How do you celebrate Earth day? Let us know in the comments below for your chance to win 1 of two prizes: a set of our Naturalz DPNs or a pair of our Fixed Circular Needles

We'll announce our winners in our next blog post on Friday, April 28. Good luck!

If you liked this blog, please share it with your friends and knit group! If you try any of these projects, let us know over on Instagram and use the hashtag #knitterspride.