Crochet catching on

The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement and environmental consciousness are resurrecting interest in “home arts” that were revered by our grandmas and great-grandmas.

Author provides plenty of easy projects in new book

The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement and environmental consciousness are resurrecting interest in “home arts” that were revered by our grandmas and great-grandmas.

According to the Craft Yarn Council, nearly 38 million women, or more than one in three in the United States, knows how to knit or crochet.

Men and boys are discovering reasons to practice such skills, too, said Julie Armstrong Holetz, whose second book, “Uncommon Crochet: Twenty-five Projects Made from Natural Yarn and Alternative Fibers,” was published last month by Ten Speed Press (www.tenspeedpress.com).

Holetz, who lives in Redmond and teaches after-school crochet classes at Horace Mann Elementary, said she grew up in the years when women “wanted to be independent, go to work, not just be identified as moms and didn’t have time to pass on those skills to their daughters.”

Three and a half years ago, this former planner at Eddie Bauer decided she wanted to stay home with her kids and thought it was time to explore her creativity.

“I wanted to make more than just afghans and started experimenting with three-dimensional structures,” she said, such as the handbags, baskets and vases shown in “Uncommon Crochet.”

She started sending patterns to craft magazines, published a children’s book called “Crochet Away” which includes the basic supplies for getting started, and now freelances as a technical editor for Interweave Crochet magazine.

Although “the grandma stigma is hard to shake,” she said with a laugh, “Julia Roberts is a big knitter and there’s a little girl actress — maybe Dakota Fanning — who is setting the example for young girls that it’s cool to make your own clothes, make your own bread, get back to those basic life skills.”

Males who are taking up these crafts do it for relaxation, “skateboarders and skiers like that they can make their own hats, and I’ve seen really smart kids use it for a diversion, even while doing other things like homework,” she said.

For those who are all thumbs, what’s the best way to get started?

Well, besides her kids’ book (for ages 8 and up), Holetz said “Uncommon Crochet” features lots of step-by-step easy projects and also suggestions for designing your own patterns and recycling other materials.

She showed us a favorite project, the red “Hong Kong Bag” that is featured on page 59 of “Uncommon Crochet.”

She incorporated a coin that her mom brought her from Hong Kong, as well as straps and grommets that she took off a bag she purchased at Value Village for $1.50.

Yarn’s not the only medium for these projects, she noted. She’s made sturdy carry-alls out of crocheted leather and embellishments crocheted from wire or jute.

She’ll teach a class at the Kirkland Arts Center this summer and sees her next step as setting up a studio to teach kids practical skills, perhaps at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center or Adair House, the log cabin at Anderson Park. She’s also seeking crochet-happy adults to join the Needle Arts Mentoring organization, possibly creating programs at the Redmond Regional Library.

To learn more, visit her Web site, www.skamama.com or e-mail jholetz@comcast.net.

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