Skip to main content

Guest Blogger Dee Stanziano: Magic Wands, Part 1

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dee and I have been crochet friends for quite some time. I've enjoyed teaching for her chapter of CGOA in Connecticut; I've taken classes from her and I've written about her in an article about "Collecting Crochet" for Piecework Magazine where again, she shared her love of hook collecting. Dee is known as the "crochet cheerleader" and she blogs as CrochetWithDee.

Dee Stanziano
Magic Wands by Dee Stanziano:

Magic wands; all crocheters have them.  Cleverly disguised as magic wands, crochet hooks vary in many aspects including color, shape and material.  Some are mass produced, others are hand crafted. Some are heirlooms; others are brand new, waiting to cast their first stitches.  With refined practice, we are able to wave our crochet hooks seemingly effortlessly, turning simple string into an array of loops that becomes a series of stitches, and those stitches magically turn into fabric.  Yes, crochet hooks are just like magic wands that help us express ourselves as crafters and artisans such as those featured in The Fine Art of Crochet: Innovative Works From 20 Contemporary Artists by Gwen Blakley Kinsler.

Although I’ve been crocheting since my early childhood, I have never given much thought to collecting crochet hooks until recently. It wasn’t until I joined the CGOA in 2001, started my own Chapter, and began teaching various crochet techniques that my crochet hook collecting passion began.  I began collecting all sorts of hooks:  vintage, modern, wooden, glass, clay, silver, gold, bone and even jeweled. 

My most treasured antique crochet hook in my collection was gifted to me by my brother-in-law. He knew I had a passion for crochet and when he spotted the beauty  at a flea market, he knew he found something special.  This hook was crafted out of cow shin bone sometime around 1860 – 1880 but the manufacturer is unknown. However, due to the decorative hand-painted navy blue inking and the three jingly-rings that adorn it, it was most likely a wedding gift, or belonged to a wealthy crocheter:

Dee's most treasured crochet hook
I have decorative hooks that I mostly use when I am demonstrating crochet at public venues.  They serve the purpose of both drawing in the public’s interest, and inspiring me with crochet projects.  One of my favorite decorative hooks features Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series.  Another of my favorite decorative hooks (below) features the “Hanging On” Giraffe, inspired by the image created for the Wellington Zoo’s “Celebrate Chimp Week” promotion.  Both were crafted by Heather of the Lemonade Shop by special request 

Hanging On Giraffe
Recently I got to ask Heather about her work, and where she draws her inspiration from:
Q. You designed the Special Commemorative 2013 Crochet Hook for the Crochet Guild of America. Can you tell us what it was like to be chosen as this year’s designer, and what it was like to make so many crochet hooks for the Guild?

A. I have never seen so many sheep in one place, clay or real! I joked that they were my sheep army as they grew from 10 to well over a hundred. It was a great experience and I was immensely honored to be a part of it.

2013 CGOA Commemorative Hook
Q. I am sure {ahem} you received some "“interesting"”requests from your customers. Can you share with us some details of the craziest, zaniest, and whimsical hooks you'’e designed?  Have there been any requests that you'’e said "“o"”to? 

A. Funny you should ask that (nudge nudge, wink wink). Over the past year or so the direction of the shop has really taken a huge turn from original ideas such as gnomes and snails to TV and movie characters. With that said, the first DEXTER hook I did was an “interesting” experience as well as the Heisenberg character from Breaking Bad.  One is a serial killer the other a crystal methamphetamine manufacturer. Both a far cry from my cute unicorns hooks, but still a pleasure to create none the less.

I usually will say no to cartoon characters. In order to do them and do them right I would need to make them exactly as they were created and I think that in a roundabout way is a form of copying someone else’s art, which I am not too keen on. If I can’t put my own spin on it, I usually will say no. I joke that my creations are portly and cute. If a crochet hook can be both of those things I will almost always say yes.

Harry Potter Hook

Q. You make some super cute clay designs on crochet hooks, such as the Harry Potter character hook above. Where do you get your inspiration? 
A. Hands down my customers are my greatest inspiration. I’d like to think we work together on a lot of ideas through Etsy and the shop’s Facebook page. Since I take custom orders, one person might ask if I could make a certain hook and everyone on Facebook gets excited about it so it ends up in the Etsy shop. It really is a fun and interactive experience, so much that even when I am not in the studio working I think how amazing my customers are and how lucky I am to get to do what I do.
Heather's Hands Working
Q. It is amazing with some of the finer details you put into your clay work. When did you start working with clay, and what inspired you to focus on crochet hooks? 

A. Most of the hooks have a mix of clay work and hand painting with a lot of detail and let’s just say when this all started I did not require readers! 

I started working with clay heavily in 2011. It took me a while to find my own personal style and once I did I think that is when the shop really found its way.  It started with knitting stitch markers and then gradually moved over to crochet hooks and then over to crochet stitch markers. At the time no one was doing clay characters on crochet hooks so it was exciting to go from an unknown situation to having a successful Etsy shop. 

Heather's Etsy Shop
Q. On your Facebook page,  , you give your fans a glance into what’s new in your studio, which also includes adorable stitch markers. What other designs/products do you see yourself possibly offering in the future? 

A. I think about that on a daily basis. I’ve had thoughts about doing knitting needles, but my heart is with crochet hooks, so we will see. I’m sure in 2014 I will test out the waters. There are so many ideas I have for hooks and stitch markers still... and for each of my own ideas my customers have 20 more, so I think I am set for a while

Dee's passion for crochet hooks led her to write about two hook designers. Read Part 2 about Jimbo Hooks on Dee's blog: 


Jimbo said…
Great article! And it's a true honor to be interviewed along side such a talented hook maker. Heather's art is amazing! Thanks!
Sheila Glazov said…
I loved this!! Thank you, Gwen. I shared it with the Soul Stitchers. :-)
Gabli said…
Hmm.. adding these to my Christmas wish list.

Popular posts from this blog

CGOA Celebrates 20 Years ~ Part 3: Juried Crochet Art Exhibits

Saturday, March 29, 2014

In August 1994, I hosted 90 avid crocheters for a weekend conference at De Paul University in Chicago that included classes taught by Bill Elmore, Joan Davis, Arlene Mintzer and more;  a Keynote Address by Sylvia Landman (Crafting for Dollars); a lecture by Annie Potter; marketplace, meals together, door prizes a plenty. An optional tour of Lake Michigan on the Spirit of Chicago was offered along with an optional post conference workshop with Pauline Turner. The most ambitious of all during the weekend was the Juried Exhibit of Crochet Art.
At the time, I firmly believed that crochet art was an amazing way to educate people about the vast possibilities of crochet. It is amazing to see what can be achieved with just a hook and flexible lines from many, many materials. Today I still hold the same belief: crochet is as varied as the crocheter who does it. Crochet art, however, moves and amazes even the most seasoned professionals when they see how artists apply t…

Wartime Crochet With Attitude, Part I

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Karen Ballard and I have a mutual love of free form crochet. We met for the first time in a class taught by Prudence Mapstone of Australia at the Chain Link Crochet Conference 2011. I admire Karen's vast knowledge of needle work history and am grateful for her willingness to share with us as my guest blogger this week.
World War 1 Attitudes About Crochet by Karen Ballard
In 2008, I coined that term, "Workbasket Campaigns" to describe the organized efforts during World War I (WWI) and World War II (WWII) coordinated through the American Red Cross {ARC} and the Navy League to create needle crafted items.  These items were mostly knitted but also sewn, quilted, and crocheted for, or in support of, the military, wounded, allies, refugees, and the patriotic home-front. This effort was a significant: contribution of enormous numbers of needed items to those in war-torn areas and of improved morale for those on the home-front.  
As a crocheter, I real…

Craft vs. Fine Art: How is Crochet Blurring the Lines

I was awakening to the world of crochet in 1972,a time of immense artistic expression through fiber arts; and crochet was not the “ugly stepchild” at the time. In fact, Ferne Cone Gellar who I admire as a successful fiber artist said in “Knitting: The Stepchild of the Fiber Arts?” (Fibercraft Newsletter 1978), “Has knitting been slighted among the areas of the fiber arts? The very word ‘knitting’ evokes images of the little old lady in tennis shoes. Over the years, I’ve learned to ignore all those jokes.” Cone Gellar went on to publish Crazy Crocheting in 1981 and encouraged her readers to create more than bedspreads, providing ideas such as “things to play with or to display on a shelf or hang on a wall.” A photo of single crochet from bread wrappers served as inspiration. 

In 1972 in her book, Creating Art from Fibers & Fabrics, Dona Meilach wrote:
“Why are fibers and fabrics becoming increasingly appealing to artists? Most artists agree that because the materials are so varied, t…