April 12th, 2010

Q & A with Norah Gaughan

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Hi Everyone

In my last blog post I was able to share with you my thoughts on the new book Comfort Knitting & Crochet Aghans.   Today I am thrilled to share with you a fun Q & A I had the pleasure of doing with the lovely Norah Gaughan, Design Director for Berroco and co-author of the book.

1.  What inspired you & the Design Team to create this book?

Honestly, the initial impetus was yarn stores telling us that an afghan book would sell for them and that Berroco Comfort was the perfect yarn for it.  Then, Margery and I started thinking about different houses and about how much fun it would be to dream up afghans to go in them.

2.  Berroco offers a vast assortment of beautiful yarns. Comfort is one of the more practical yarns in the line and it’s one of the most affordable, did that have any part in the decision to focus this book on one yarn rather than across other yarns in the line?

I think you’ve answered your own question! I can elaborate though. Some of our yarns are classics and will be sold for years and some have a fashion aspect to them that last only a year or two. We needed to use a yarn that would still be going strong after the two years it took to produce the book.  Ultra Alpaca or Peruvia would have fit that criterion too, but the versatility, machine washability and affordability of Comfort seemed very important.

3.  There are 51 afghan patterns in the book – that is a lot of design inspiration!  Was it hard to come up with all of the designs?  Were there designs that didn’t make the final cut?

To get our thoughts flowing Margery and I got to work looking at home decor magazines, printed fabrics, carpet and rug designs and traditional fabrics. We wanted designs that could be used in many settings, from modernist glass houses to bungalows. We made color 6-8 color palettes to focus our thoughts.  Once we got going it was fairly easy to come up with concepts for way more than 50 afghans. Then we, and the rest of the Berroco Design Team, got busy making the concepts into something real.  In the end I think we had 56 afghans. A few got cut because something went wrong in the knitting or crocheting and a few dropped out because they just didn’t fit in with the others. One ended up looking rather suggestive and while it would have been at home in an art museum, we felt it was best to leave it out of our collection.

4.  Did you know right from the start that you wanted to include crochet designs as well?

Early on in the planning we knew we wanted to have a book that would appeal equally to knitters and crocheters and be a bargain, even if you only knew one of those crafts.  Those who do both are getting a great bonanza with this book and years of entertainment!

5.  Although you and Margery worked together for a long time and you and the existing Berroco Design Team obviously have a great rapport was it at all diffcult working on a book in collaboration or was it similar to the process you go through putting Berroco’s pattern books together?

Margery and I have worked together on and off , in one capacity or another, since the mid eighties.  I consider her my mentor and to say we know each other very well is probably an understatement. Sure, it’s hard to work together. It’s hard to compromise to get a unified vision. With this book though we found it easy to share an over arching vision and then go off and do our own thing.  The book is much richer for it and much richer for the swatching and design decisions made by the rest of the team. Donna Yacino,and Brenda York were integral to making many the original concepts into real and beautiful objects. Every one who spent time in the office contributed.  Cirilia Rose got in on the end of the process but still contributed a beautiful baby blanket.

6.  What can you tell our readers about Comfort?  Some folks will look at the fiber content and never give it a second glance.  What about that yarn made it worthy of an entire book?

Comfort is the artificial yarn for those of us who prefer natural fibers. I admit to being a fiber snob.  My mom, and her mom before her, believed in using good fibers and they passed that on to me… and yet, I like to knit with Comfort. It’s spun like a fine merino yarn would be spun and the final appearance is quite similar. Let’s face it, there are times when practicality trumps philosophy. Even the most stubborn wool lover has a neice who won’t hand wash anything or a friend with a true wool allergy.  Not to mention, afghans are an armful to wash by hand!  Comfort is the perfect solution.

7.  Knit and crocheted afghans have been a staple forever.  I can remember working on Granny Square afghans while my mother knit classic ripple afghans.  What makes the afghan still relevant and interesting today?

We still like to keep warm. Aren’t we all trying to cut down on oil consumption and turning our thermostats down?  Plus, an afghan can change a dull room into a warm and inviting room.  That hasn’t changed over the years either.

8.  If I was to gift you one of the afghans out of this book, which one would you want?  Please do not consider my knitting or crocheting ability in your answer.

Calico Hill or Westchester Winter (trees are a big theme in my house right now – and outside too)

9.  What are you working on these days?

I’ve started several ultra Alpaca sweaters for myself.  One is a very cropped version of Avocet B made in several shades of dark plum used randomly. It will be perfect for winterizing a few of my sleeveless tops. I am also crocheting a bath mat in Weekend. I don’t crochet much (even though I learned it first), but some of the dull stoney colors of weekend are perfect for my bathroom and its fantastic to crochet.  Single crochet, round and round – so soothing.

Thanks Norah!

Kathy

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  • Kenneth Book

    I have a question about the directions on a sweater in the Norah Gaughan Collection Volume 12. The number 14 Plexus pattern does not say how long to make the sleeves before starting on the cap shaping. The diagram of the sleeves says it’s 7 inches from the bottom to the cap shaping, but the diagram of the sweater on the back looks much longer than that. I’m confused as to how to finish the sleeves.