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Powell's Q&A

Debbie Stoller

Describe your latest project.
Stitch 'n' Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker is an introduction to the ways of the hook. Crocheting has been treated like the red-haired stepchild of knitting for too long, and I wanted to try and help change that. Crochet got a bad rap in the '70s when suddenly everything that could be made out of granny squares was: sweaters, vests, hats, even pants. But crocheting has been fighting an image problem for even longer than that: in the mid-1800s, when the servant class was enjoying whipping up fine-looking lace using the brand-new craft of crochet, the upper classes who had enjoyed the fact that, until crochet came along, lace was something that only the wealthy could afford, started going around saying that crochet was simply déclassé, that the truly noble needlecrafts were knitting, embroidery, and sewing.

But this negative image is completely undeserved, and absolutely unfair. As anyone whose ever engaged in it knows, crocheting is a wonderful craft easy to learn (easier than knitting) and capable of creating everything from solid, sculptural shapes, such as the crocheted cowboy hat I sport on the cover of the book, to intricate lacey items, of which there are quite a few in the book, as well. Crocheting can do things that knitting can't (and vice versa), and I'm hoping that this book will not only inspire folks who are fiber-arts virgins, but also hard-core knitters who have been somewhat suspect of crochet. I spend the first third of the book teaching absolute beginners how to get started hooking, and take them through all the basics and then up through some more advanced techniques. As a self-taught crocheter myself, I know that books can sometimes leave out crucial details that you really need to know when you are learning from a book, and so I try to include as much information as I possibly can — I'd rather over-explain than leave anything out. I've heard that people have managed to learn to crochet from the book in just a few hours, and I'm really excited about that. I'm also a bit irreverent in my writing, because, after all, this ain't brain surgery: crocheting is supposed to be fun. I never want my readers to lose sight of that fact.

The rest of the book is projects I've collected from some of the most talented and creative crocheters out there. A few of these are professional designers, but most are folks who love the craft and have come up with wonderful ways to show it off. These patterns are often aimed at younger crocheters, but I'm using the term young very loosely — they're really for anyone who is looking for fun, inspired projects. People might be tempted to say that this book is not your grandma's crocheting but that's not quite accurate. Yes, I have a lot of contributors in their twenties and thirties and the book contains projects like a sweater with a skull and crossbones on it, animal iPod cozies, fluffy bunny slippers, a hat with an anarchy symbol on it, and a baby blanket featuring sock-monkey heads (that icon of hipster crafting), but some of these great projects were designed by older contributors, as well. The cowboy hat, for instance, was designed by a grandma. Crocheting is fun for all ages and genders, and I hope that with the directions I've provided and the great patterns I've collected, more and more people will proudly begin calling themselves happy hookers.

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman."
—Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

Describe the best breakfast of your life.
In Holland, when I was about eight years old, my grandmother took my mother, my little brother, and me to stay in a very small, homey hotel near the beach. In Holland, it is rarely beach weather so I don't remember much about that, but what I do remember is that when you came down for breakfast at this hotel, they always had a hard-boiled egg already waiting for you at each place setting, each in a little egg cup, and each wearing a little knit egg cozy. It was so exciting to take off that little sweater each morning to reveal a warm little brown egg. It was the most special egg, every day.

What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Warm weather, sunshine, a patch to garden, a few sheep, a couple of dogs, and a place to sit and knit or crochet and watch birds all day long, and no deadlines of any kind. I guess I'm all ready to retire in Florida. Except for the sheep part.

Of course, this is just an idea; not having actually lived a day like this, I don't know if, in reality, it would bring me absolute happiness. In fact, I might get bored or lonely, and I'd probably get hungry. But I do know a few things for certain: any day that is warm and sunny fills me with joy, the beauty of nature gives me faith, knitting and crocheting bring me peace, and when I don't have a deadline looming, I'm happy.

What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?
Napping when I should be working.

Why do you write?
Because I like trying to get people to agree with me.

Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
Unless rock bands like to spend even more time napping than I do, I'd say rock bands.

Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
Madonna, Martha, and Courtney. Each of them have taken certain cultural ideas about women and girls (woman as powerless, acted-upon sex object; woman as desperately unsatisfied housewife whose goal is to please her husband and children; and girls as selfless little bits of sugar 'n' spice) and turned them upside down and inside out. As a result, they've managed to tear a hole right through these tightly woven images and have created new cultural spaces for women to expand into. Sex objects can be powerful sex subjects; domestic work can be as fulfilling and valuable as that of a CEO and can be done for one's own pleasure and satisfaction; girls can be outrageous, demanding, selfish, and hard-core. I can talk about the importance of these three women all night long. As far as I see it, they've offered brand new solutions to cultural issues that have puzzled feminists for decades. And that's a good thing.

Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
Dogs. Because without dogs and coffee, life would not be worth living. spacer

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