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A Conversation with Vashti Braha

Vashti Braha
 I’ve known Vashti's passion for crochet since the day I first met her at the Crochet Guild (CGOA) booth at Stitches Midwest back in Summer 2004.  It is no surprise that her presence in the world of crochet has evolved from active crocheter, to designer, CGOA board member to her current role as entrepreneur and owner of Designing Vashti Lotus, a yarn company. Her innate curiosity, love of the technique of crochet and drive to improve has led her along this path.

2015 brings in plans for a “coming-out” party of sorts; the “debutante” is named “Lotus!” Help me celebrate by learning more about what makes Vashti tick and how she is managing to meet the challenges of such an endeavor. We'll look at her past and let you in on where she is headed!

Designing Vashti Lotus
Crochetqueen: In the competitive yarn arts industry, in which companies and designers seem to be “revolving doors,” what motivated you to jump in with the competition as a small yarn manufacturer?
Vashti: I hear you on the revolving doors and competitiveness of the industry. My business strategy is to stick with it, expand in meaningful ways, and strive to do what isn’t already being done.

Crochetqueen: Were you frustrated by materials/yarn available to you?
Vashti: Only a little. Yarns and threads are playgrounds for me, so the more, the merrier. After a while, I wanted yarns that offered more z-twist and were easier for crocheters to find. I also tired of the way patterns are positioned in our industry to promote yarn, instead of the other way around. I kept thinking, “I have to use someone’s yarn for my next design. It might as well be mine.”

Crochetqueen: Growing up in a needlework-filled home in rural Wisconsin, Vashti learned crochet from her mother at age of nine.   Her first business, selling macramé necklaces, was launched at age twelve. You’ve said that when you “learned crochet, you felt that you had super powers.” Elaborate on this, especially about the meaning of crochet for you today?
Vashti: I still feel like crochet gives me super powers, isn’t that funny? When I’m holding that crochet hook, I have a nimble, 360-degree force field of ninja movement. I could whip up a stretchy bungee, or a sturdy brace for something, or a weightless net. It’s a survival skill! I could imitate classic lace or invent futuristic cyborg stuff, as the mood or need arises.

Love Pod Boa
Crochetqueen: You say that your website is your “altar to the beauty of crochet.” You have contributed much to that “beauty” with your exquisite designs. I imagine that designing was natural for you even in childhood. Was there a defining moment that inspired you to “go-pro” and get your designs out for public consumption?
Vashti: Thank you for the compliment. Making stuff up with a crochet hook seemed so natural early on. I didn’t even know it was something people did professionally. I wish I’d known long before 2004. The defining moment was when, at Stitches, you and Nancy Brown said, “Do you have any ideas about what you’d like to see in a book called “Dorm Crochet”? I said, “Yeah!!” You both replied, “Well, like what? Could you show us? Just a quick little sketch. Here, on the back of this scrap of paper. It doesn’t have to be fancy.” From the looks on your and Nancy’s faces, that was the moment I realized I was designing. Specifically, I was doing design proposals.

Crochetqueen: What inspires your fashionable and fun designs? I’ve been present when you and Doris Chan would spend a lunch hour dissecting crochet stitches and forgetting to eat! Speak to us about the intrinsic worth of the actual stitches and how they contribute to your designs?
(Vashti offers exclusive designs by Doris Chan on her website)
Vashti: Crochet stitches are like people with different temperaments. Or like characters in a novel that have their own personality traits and inclinations. Each stitch type responds differently to a change in gauge, fiber, or the weight of other stitches around it. I love getting to know each stitch this intimate way, and finding out if they have “hidden selves.”

Crochetqueen: Your women’s designs are very fashionable and creative. Do you attend fashion shows? Do you get your inspiration from the runways?
Vashti: Thanks! I do get a lot of inspiration from runways, but even more from contrasting environments. It is one thing to see crochet on the runway; it’s another to see it used in specific situations: on the street, the red carpet, on campus, on a TV sitcom, on a cashier in a shop, etc.

Fish Lips Lace
Crochetqueen: As a crochet personality, there is some allure surrounding your name, “Vashti,” which is a very old biblical name that appears in the book of Esther. Were you born with this name or was it created?
Vashti: I found and claimed the name, Vashti, by itself in my teens when I read tons of historical fiction and romantically imagined I would need to use a pen name for my own poetry and novels. I grew up with the Sonny and Cher Show and loved that she always just went by Cher, like Cleopatra.

Crochetqueen: Living in a tropical paradise, with peacocks and other wildlife wandering by, must be in itself inspirational. What have you discovered about crochet that is unique to you or your life?
Vashti: Breezes and warm light through the palm trees inspire me. I think Florida does bring out a subtropical aspect in my crochet. I feel a kinship with the crochet of similar climates now. It surprised me at first because like a lot of American crocheters, I started out learning a thick, thermal, very “northern” wool-based crochet. It’s exciting how expressive crochet is. The same crochet stitches can seem very different in response to the environment. Subtropical love knots are distinctively languid, for example.

Harmony Bamboo Tank
Crochetqueen: Is your work created out of your inspired explorations of the medium of crochet itself, rather than that which started out as a concept which happened to get created in crochet?
Vashti: What incisive questions, Gwen! Hmm. Certainly many of my favorite designs happened as a result of exploring the medium of crochet itself, most recently Starwirbel.   With this design, I asked myself, “What happens if I emphasize the eyes of star stitches in a spiral construction, and make them translucent so that I can see their innards?”

“Pure, concept-led” designs happen too, but they rarely progress all the way to a published pattern “Bondage is an Illusion” Barbed Wire Belt and Bam Bam Bangle are examples of this.

It makes sense, I guess. It’s easier for me to imagine others being interested in a pattern that offers “news” about the medium itself. The more I’ve thought about this question, though, the more I think it’s mixed. There are concepts that I specifically challenge crochet to convey, and I’d be less interested in the concept if I used a different medium.

Crochetqueen: You are a great ambassador for CGOA, having attended many conferences as a crochet-cheerleader, offering inspiring techniques as a conference teacher and having served on the board of directors for 4 years. Has CGOA furthered your career in designing and entrepreneurialism? In what ways?
Vashti: Thank you, Gwen! Yes, CGOA absolutely has, in many important ways. Some designers use TNNA (The National Needlearts Association) for networking, but I design with crochet exclusively. The most valuable and lasting connections I’ve made in this industry have been at CGOA events. It’s also thanks to CGOA that I’ve had life changing experiences, which pay off professionally.

CGOA is a talent incubator - its events offer self development opportunities in a fun and supportive atmosphere. I’ve grown in valuable ways over the years that I didn’t expect (while I was having fun). Originally a quiet, shy type, I‘m comfortable now with public speaking, professional presentations, fashion trend research and reporting, professional sketching and photography, and modeling on a runway!

Vashti Modeling The Chaps at the CGOA Fashion Show
Crochetqueen: You’ve compared your first year in business to nurturing a newborn and have written a heartfelt personal yarn journal throughout the year about “Becoming a Yarn Company” on your blog. It has been a year of adventure, learning and discovery. Tell us more about Lotus.
Vashti: Lotus yarn is exclusive to the mill from which it comes. I designed it with qualities, in addition to the z-twist, such as drape, sheen and weight; as well as the proportion of cotton and rayon in each ply. These are all things that are appreciated by crocheters.

Truthfully, yarn is kind of inert; by default it just lays there on the shelf. It is the designs that give it life. In combination, both must be promoted for the yarn to have life.

Crochetqueen: What are you focused on today?
Vashti: I’ve been writing a geeky crochet book since January! I’m also: gearing up to create mini-videos of crochet stitches and related things; adding more items to the DesigningVashti shop, and on the hook is a new pattern I’ll be publishing: a Tunisian filet version of my Minuet Bolero in cherry red. I’m also getting ready to have my first booth in the market of the Summer Chain Link Crochet Conference.

Crochetqueen:  Crocheters will find a real person offering a real yarn in Vashti's booth at the Knit & Crochet Show Marketplace. Be sure to experience Lotus at its coming out party in the booth and find out how you can help bring it to life. Congratulations, Vashti, on your year of success with Designing Vashti Lotus; and we all look forward to many more years of your creative spirit bringing us the joyful crochet that you awaken in many forms!

Continue to follow Vashti on her many social media sites: her blogPattern Companion blog, Vashti's Crochet Lounge, Ravelry shop, her Designing Blog since 2006, FacebookTwitterPinterestFlickr, Newsletter archives

2013: Vashti, Doris & Gwen at the Chain Link Crochet Conference, Manchester, NH


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