I learned to Crochet at a very young age – 7 to be exact. My Italian Nonna (Grandmother) taught me to Crochet one summer day in 1974 because, as a woman ahead of her time, she always felt that my sister and I watched too much television. In 2 hours I had learned most of the basic stitches and I was HOOKED! Nonna could not speak any English so she taught me how to “read the pictures” to work out any patterns I wanted to make. Because of this, I had to figure out on my own how the projects would come together, and if I didn’t like something that was a part of the pattern, such as the stitches used on a blanket edging or how a sleeve was made, I would create my own changes. So I guess you could say that I was a designer from the start.
My grandmother's on both sides of the family were fiber enthusiasts. My Nonna (mom's mom - who taught me to crochet) crocheted mostly but also was a knitter, did all sorts of embroidery and other needlework in that vein and was a marvelous seamstress. My Grandma Bessie (dad's mom) was a knitter and a wonderful tatter. I guess I come by it honestly!
After my graduation from Carondelet High School in 1985, I majored in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management Information Systems (MIS) at CSU Chico, I kept crocheting as my hobby. I moved on from modifying patterns to creating my own from scratch and after I left my job in 1996 to become a full-time mom, I created a modest website sharing my finished work in photos. In 1998 I met another designer on a Yahoo! Crochet Forum who saw my work and encouraged me to submit some of my ideas to publishers. The first 3 patterns I sent in were bought in late 1998, and I was a published designer.
I never really thought about crochet as a business but I remember some of my teachers at Carondelet telling us to “think outside of the box”. In school, in my job as a System Support Engineer at a Bay Area company writing software and even working out personal problems, this was always how I rolled. So even with my hobby of Crochet, I started to think outside the box in my designs and in how I put things together. I combined my creativity in working with yarn, my business degree and my math and computer brain to create Crochet Legacy in 1998. In 2010 I rebranded as KRW Knitwear Studio and then again in 2016 to just Karen Whooley.
Now 20 years later, the creative process never stops. I am inspired by nature, fashion, color palettes, my teenage children, even history. My desk is covered in swatches of stitches I have put together using these inspirational ideas. I am published in magazines in the US and the UK with patterns and articles. I have 21 published books with 1 more due out in 2018. I have an indie line of patterns that are sold in yarn shops and online as PDFs. And since 2004, I have been a Nationally Recognized Instructor, sought out as a teacher who can take some of the most basic techniques out of the box and make then new and exciting. I have taught at large events such as Stitches West, Sock Summit, Chain Link Conference, and Dallas/Fort Worth Fiber Fest as well as in small shops in my area and all over the country. Oddly enough, I also keep my hand in computers by creating and updating my website on my own.
Never underestimate your creative mind! I am proud to say that I have a career I love and excel at because I wasn’t afraid to take a creative approach and think outside the box in ways to make everything I love come together.
Tell me, what is it about you that makes you a create mind? Leave me a comment! I'd love to hear your story!