Wednesday, 21 December 2011

An Interview With The Gingerbread Lady

OK, I have an interview for you, this time with The Gingerbread Lady.
Killer bunny egg cosies. Let us all pause to appreciate the mind that conceived this idea
Now. I try not to be prescriptive, but I am going to have to insist that you read The Gingerbread Lady’s blog because she is very funny, and not only is she a fine crocheter and knitter who actually gives you helpful things like patterns (you see, not like me, although if anyone ever needs a map of Cambridge with all the liveliest cats marked out I’m your woman), but she alerts we crafters to little-known dangers. Who knew about the Yarnpire before the Gingerbread Lady did her exposé? And I am exactly the kind of person who would be targeted by a Yarnpire {looks at Partner suspiciously}, so I feel this is vital for me to know. Who knew about the horrors of the exploitation of the mermaid and her fluffy buttocks? I see the Gingerbread Lady as a brave investigative journalist, braving the frontline of the crafting world to bring us the stories, not shying from controversy, and also updating her blog often enough to stop her mother complaining, which as many of us know can be a challenge. (And for those of you/ us in the throes of Christmas knitting, let us just revisit this post from Knitting and Crochet Blog Week and weep quietly with self-knowledge). Anyway, the Gingerbread Lady agreed to do an interview for me so we could explore some of these issues in more detail, for which I am very grateful. Take it away, Gingerbread Lady.
1/ How do you manage to crochet big things with hundreds of motifs and then sew them together without killing people? Multiple times? Have you achieved a higher level of zen than me, and if so, how can I achieve it too? 

An example of the kind of thing she has made that would finish me off
I tend to like patterns that involve a lot of colour changes (had you noticed?) and I like choosing the way the colours work together. In fact, to be honest, sewing hundreds of motifs together doesn’t particularly bother me. [Note from me, you see: higher level of zen. Off I go to study my book of Hare Krishna mantras, perhaps the ones at the end deal specifically with crochet. Ommmmm…]. Maybe because I tend to crochet larger projects in panels, so I have a sense of satisfaction when I get one panel done - I look at each panel as an individual piece and then try to work out how it’ll look as a whole. Essentially, it’s like a massive jigsaw – but with an element of unpredictability. If I were the kind of organized person who worked out a colour chart beforehand (and I’m not. For the Réalta blanket I had to reverse engineer the colour placement from photos in order to create the chart that comes with the blanket), I would work out a harmonious colour scheme and work faithfully from it. I don’t. I take clashing colours as a personal challenge and try to bend them to my will with a 5mm hook.

The short answer to this question, though, is that I was probably Amish in a previous life. Mr Gingerbread and I recently watched a documentary about the Pennsylvania Dutch and, midway through, he turned to me and said, “You really want to move in with them, don’t you?” Sadly, I do. I would not be scared by the thoughts of hand-sewing a bazillion-piece patchwork quilt. And I would rock canned tomatoes like nobody’s business.

2/ I love your Yarnpire series (although I was a bit worried at the implication in the first one that it wasn’t, in fact, a good idea to seek out smouldering men with an aura of misunderstoodness and then try to fix them, as you would be surprised how many of my relationships this casts into doubt). How can we, as yarncrafters, recognise a Yarnpire before it is too late and we discover them in flagrantis, nibbling ecstatically on our Malabrigo semisolids?

A very good question indeed, Young Susie. Essentially, we female crafters have to be on guard at all times. There are some telltale signs, though: you mentioned the aura of misunderstoodness. This is a crucial element of the Yarnpire and if you break it down, you will notice that the general misunderstoodness is highlighted in physical form by several key elements, e.g.

… floppy hair

Biologically-speaking, floppy hair in men seems to unleash some wild rush of helper hormones in women. They see the floppy hair and they become overcome by desire – and it seems to be a freaky mix of a desire to ravish them and mother them at the same time. Hugh Grant cashed in on this trend in the 1990s and Justin Biber seems to be doing so today – quite frankly, I have to put his success down to the floppiness of his hair because I can’t see any other reason for it. Elvis Presley had a controlled floppiness in the form of a gelled quiff, which went down a treat with the ladies. But please note: Elvis also had two other crucial Yarnpire elements, namely

… the ability to raise an eyebrow quizzically and a tight-lipped sneer

Which are terribly important. They project a kind of stand-offishness which does not repel women but rather makes them want to pelt the Yarnpire with their cashmere-soya mixes. Clearly, as a woman, you presume that the Yarnpire is struggling with his inner desire for your person, when in reality he is mentally inventorying your entire stash and trying to decide what to eat first.

… and a cloak.

Superman. Zorro. The Phantom of the Opera. The blondie elf from The Lord of the Rings. All men that clearly project a need to be fixed by the lurve of a good woman. 
A handy guide for you to print, cut out and keep in your purse because you never know when one will strike
3/ This is the controversial question. Obviously you’re the intrepid blogger who exposed the plight of the mermaid, inhumanely harvested for her bumfluff, and I think that really got the Bumfluff Issue put firmly on the eco radar. But there does seem to be a lot of emphasis in contemporary yarncraft on‘valuing your work by using the best materials’ which sometimes seems to me to exclude anyone who is on a limited budget or who wants to make something enormous. What do you think, and what are your favourite yarns to use?

When I marry my next husband – a floppy-haired, mealy-mouthed, be-cloaked millionaire – I will make sure that my 2-metre by 1.5-metre blankets are made of mermaid bumfluff. In the meantime, I’ll stick with acrylic for my bigger projects. There’s a place for every kind of yarn and I’ve been known to use everything from 55c acrylic from the local supermarket to €20 silky merino. [I wish we had 55c acrylic… I wonder if they have it in Aldi?] What I don’t like is the snobbery involved: I hate the pretentiousness and the speshulness of crafters that try to devalue others’ work and – boomerang compliment ahoy – elevate their own work based on their yarn choices (“I mean, acrylic might be good enough for you, but I personally only work with merino because, well, I tend to knit more high-end stuff.”)

I don’t have a favourite yarn, but use a lot of Bravo Schachenmayr (our standard acrylic yarn) for blankets, and have an extensive collection of beautiful German sock yarns that utterly belies that fact that I cannot knit a sock for love nor money.
An extremely sensible use for sock yarn
4/ Colour. You like it. I like it too. a/ Does your mother like beige like mine does, and, if so, do you think we’re enacting something terrible and Freudian, b/ what inspires you to put your colour combinations together?

No, my mother has no special leanings towards beige. Or, if she has, she has kept them hidden. Like me, she tends to be type of person that attracts fluff and stains (we pose a particular kind of attraction for liquids), so we’ve never been able to wear beige or white without inadvertently creating a camouflage pattern with a cup of coffee and a wayward chocolate éclair.

     What inspires me to put my colour combinations together? Contrariness, mostly. I just pull out a dozen skeins and wonder what on earth they’d look like if I crocheted them all together? Often they are so spectacularly ugly that they veer back up the scale towards ‘interesting’ or ‘compelling in a weird way’. This is very exciting to me and one of the reasons why I can endure sewing together 150 tiny motifs: I have to see if it’ll work. At the moment, though, I am working on a very demure crazy patchwork blanket in subdued autumnal tones with – guess what? – lots of beige. 
Not beige!
5/ Various people keep writing articles, don’t they, about how a/ handmade is naff b/ crafting is unfeminist, and we all grind our teeth and go and knit/ crochet something or bake an ironic cupcake just to be awkward. Is this an attitude you’ve ever encountered in real life, and how do you think the public perception of crafts has developed generally over the last few years?

You know, this is something I’ve been thinking about recently because I’ve found it to have changed dramatically in the space of the last 12 months. It may have to do with the fact that (apparently) I’m getting older and my crocheting/knitting no longer seems at odds with, say, my astonishing youth (= because it’s gone.) Whereas before people used to raise an eyebrow and make some comment about all the free time I seem to have, nowadays more and more people admire my ability to knit and crochet and finger my stuff enviously. It might have to do with the recession and the media-wide brainwashing that we all ought to returning to a simpler and slower time (a simpler and slower time that includes high-speed internet, Twitter and smartphones, of course). Not that I have a problem with that: I think it’s great that programmes like Kirstie’s Handmade Britain have hit such a mainstream nerve. It makes me feel dead cool – decoupage? Yeah, I’ve done it. And papier maché? Puh-lease, I can whip up a bucket of wallpaper paste faster than you can say “Rip up newspaper”. As for the dark needle arts? I a yarn wizard, people. 

[Note from me, Dan and I were saying recently that one of the best things about getting older is suddenly you can do whatever you want without worrying what people think and this is true. When I was in my 20s I was cool and was a Secret Crafter, now I wander round Hobbycraft with pride thinking, hmm, mosaic placemat kit! Excellent idea! And stay in at night reading recipes for Things To Do With Elderflowers].

6/ I imagine everyone and their dog says this to you, but, your blog is just hilarious. What motivated you to start blogging, and what’s your favourite thing about it?

I used to – and still do – contribute to various crafting forums (fora?) and December two years ago, a post I’d written provoke a number of responses from people asking me to start a blog because I was “so funny.” This is not really how I see myself. In fact, I think I must seem like a very serious person, because one of the things I’ve heard a lot over the years is, “You know, you’re actually quite funny!” -delivered in a tone of shock, kind of like, “Galileo, you’re right: the world is round!” However, I am very easily amused and am entranced by the ridiculous. That’s why I like your blog, actually, because I suspect that you are, too. [thank you ;-) ].

My favourite thing is the fact that you build up a relationship with your readers, you recognise names and read their blogs to learn about their lives. It’s very … nice. When I first started blogging, it felt like I was shouting into an empty room. I am still immensely flattered that people other than my parents read my blog and I still feel almost shy when someone leaves a comment.

7/ What other crochet bloggers/ designers do you admire? Show us some crochet porn. (I mean metaphorically - let’s not google that, though).

This is going to make me sound horrible and snotty, but I don’t have a favourite crochet designer. I’m more interested in looking at other stuff, non-crochet elements, for inspiration. For example, Arabian tiles or Celtic knotwork. I also love the crossover from other crafting areas: I think I’m going to buy one of Kaffe Fassett’s quilt books for Christmas (Happy Chrimbo to me!) because I think there must be a way to recreate something as beautiful as his quilts using a hook and some sock yarn. It’s just a hunch; we’ll see how it pans out in the New Year.

Thank you very much, Gingerbread Lady, for being interviewed: I think we all learned something there. I’m forced to reveal now that although Partner does not have floppy hair (because I cut it and I can only do the one style), he does have a sneer, and, in his youth (we have an age gap), he was a punk, and he wore a big black cloak and a dog collar (the leather studded kind, not the vicar kind). So I am extremely worried, and I think I am going to have to monitor the situation. I had better keep reading the Gingerbread Lady’s blog.

OK. Off to deal with the recycling, oh the glamour. Happy Solstice everyone!


Marie/Underground Crafter said...

What an inspired interview! Thanks for sharing.

Gracey is not my name.... said...

Excellent interview!

Lynne said...

I hadn't seen The Gingerbread Lady's blog before, so thank you! I very much enjoyed reading about the Yarnpire and the poor Mermaids on phone in work this morning. You know, when I should have been actually working!! Ahem...

Tink Edwards said...

What a brilliant interview! Two of my favourite bloggers together in one place, making me giggle.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas, I hope you enjoy the holiday. Thanks for your blog, it's different from the rest (in a good way) and a very good read.