Meet Kathy White a.k.a. Katchkan!
Crochetville member since 2005
Brief Bio: Kathy is 51 years young and was born and raised in Spokane, Washington. She met her husband, Marv, during her senior year in high school and eloped with him that spring. That was 33 years ago! Together they have raised two girls, and are the proud grandparents of 3 grandkids.
This interview is done in two parts. The first covers my visitation with Kathy at her house. The second part is a question and answer interview.
Part One: My Afternoon with Kathy
I had the good fortune of meeting Kathy back in November 2005 as we live relatively close (about a 2½hour drive) for lunch. She enchanted me with her Irish crochet pieces and told me the secrets of how to make my own lace pieces. Any member of C'Ville who has been around long enough has become familiar with Kathy's original designs ranging from Irish crochet lace pieces to her recent birthstone themed doilies.
My interview with Kathy was an amazing six hours of not only seeing her exquisite masterpieces but also included time travel!
My journey to visit with Kathy in her home took me to the community of Gig Harbor on the Key Peninsula, about a 30 minute drive (when traffic is clear) from Tacoma. I could tell that on a clear day there would be stunning views of Mt. Rainier on the eastern horizon and the Olympic Mountain Range to the west.
Kathy's house is decorated as I would have expected: loaded with antique pieces of furniture that fondly recall the days of yore, in which crocheting was a ubiquitious skill using size 30, 40, and 50 threads (and smaller!), and patterns were intricately crafted over a winter's time. The antiques weren't limited to furniture, but also included an impressive collection of crochet hooks and even antique thread, the most impressive being a spool of size 150 thread that Kathy was using to make a very large doily! This was just part of our "time travel". More would come later in the second half of our visit.
Immediate we took to my photographing Kathy's original masterpeices. I created a gallery of her work. I wanted to capture the detail of her doilies. I soon discovered that a photograph cannot capture the majesty of her work.
We found ourselves at four o'clock and I needed to depart, but then somehow a new topic came up and Kathy began to bring out her antique crochet books ranging from publication date as early as 1848 with a heavy concentration around the turn of the century. She told me that around 1920 the style of patterns begin to change. No longer were projects rich with detail and intracacy: they had become "instant" one day or weekend projects. Thus our journey back into time began!
She showed me how much of crocheting has been lost over time to our need for instant gratification and simplicity. Stitches and techniques that are now "lost" to us still exist within a few wilting old books. One book in particular, The Art of Crocheting published in 1891 by Butterick had a stitch guide section that was awesome! Multiple variations of the picot caught my eye, especially the inverse picot! (Note: A copy of this book was recently selling on e-Bay for $399.99! That's how rare it is!)
Kathy showed me a type of crocheting that used coronation cord or braid. Entire booklets of patterns were filled with designs incorporating this trim. Sadly, coronation braid is only available as an antique. I found an example of that was made with it. Other designs called novelty braids were also used in making doilies. As I saw the beauty in this crocheting technique, my mind whirled with wondering if somehow this style of crocheting could be resurrected? Would today's thread crocheter want to work with these materials?
Kathy and I engaged in a serious discussion what crocheting has lost, especially in regard to thread crocheting using size 20 or higher thread. We posed reasons to each other as to how and why the finer threads are no longer being used. It is hard for either of us to imagine why thread crochet is met with trepidation particularly when working with size 20 and higher. For us this is truly crocheting at its finest. I posed that when working with finer thread crocheting becomes more tactile than visual–that you "feel" for the stitch because often it is too small to clearly see it. She agreed, that there is more use of touch than sight when working with delicate threads.
Our time travel into a bygone era in which we felt more in alignment with the art of crochet was suddenly jolted back into reality! Two hours had slipped away from us during our exploration and I needed to dash away home. The visit ended abruptly, but we both knew we'd meet again soon. I've yet to show her my Fair placing doilies and she sent me on my way with a copy of her Josephine Rose Doily pattern to work on. I can hardly wait to make it and show her the results!
Part Two: The Interview
How did you discover C'Ville?
I first discovered Crochetville via my website. Someone must have mentioned it in a post and gave my website address. Crochetville showed up several times in my links section of my status report for my site. I got curious and I wandered in and never left. I felt instantly at home, Though it took a long time to get up the courage to post myself. I enjoyed reading the posts and Loved the support everyone gave one another. Once I got brave enough to post a reply and no one laughed at what I had to say then I got brave enough to post some of my work. I was flabbergasted at the response I got.
How many hours a day do you crochet?
I probably crochet between 5-7 hours a day crocheting 7 days a week. I tend to get up with Marv when he goes to work at 5:00 and my alarm doesn't go off till 7:00 so I feel those 2 hours are mine. I normally use them to crochet or design depending on my mood. I crochet between or while waiting for a lesson. I like the fact that a can put down my crochet work when I need to and it waits very patiently for me to get back to it. So during the day I might log in about 3-4 hours crochet time depending on my schedule. Less in the summer as I get busy outside with good weather. Evenings I enjoy the luxury of being able to crochet all I want. I normally can put in 3-4 hours in the evenings on crochet work, designing or pattern writing. My kids are grown and It's just the 2 of us these days. My time needed for chores has diminished greatly in the last few years. So I do log more time in on my crocheting. I love it.
Who taught you how to crochet?
The wonderful person who taught me to crochet was my great aunt on my fathers side. Actually my mother informs me she was a second cousin but I always knew her as Aunt Haydee so to me she's an aunt, if only honorarily, but whatever relationship she had to me, I bless her every time I pick up my hook for enabling me to do what I so dearly Love.
I am the only left handed person in my family and no one could seem to teach me to crochet. I taught myself to knit but I just couldn't make that tiny hook work right. Of course I was trying to teach myself with a size 13 hook and size 30 thread. See, a threadie before I even got started! She gave me some yarn and a G hook and taught me ch, and sc, I took it from there. Wasn't long and I moved back down to thread, since that is what I really wanted to do.
What do you most like to crochet?
I have probably crocheted a little of everything in my time. From clothes, Baby items, afghans, tableclothes, bedspreads, toys and anything else you can think of. But my most favorite type of crochet is anything with thread. I love making doilies, Irish crochet pieces, my beaded purses, and small novelty items done in thread, such as pincushions, edgings, and doll dresses. Thread fascinates me as the stitches are what carries the piece, and since it is so much smaller you can get a lot more intricate or detailed with your design.
What would you most like to accomplish with crocheting?
I would love to become a respected designer, To be able to have my designs not only published but eagerly sought after is my dearest dream at this time of my life. To share my love of this art form with others of like mind would be wonderful. I guess I would like to leave something of value as a legacy of my life. I hope maybe my designs might qualify. As far as what I would most like to crochet before my fingers cry enough is, I would love to do an Irish crochet blouse or skirt. I haven't chosen which would make me the happiest to do. Either would be real challenge.
What aspect of crochet do you find most difficult or challenging? I think maybe the Irish crochet is the most challenging as it involves so many different techniques to make a whole.I also like that fact that it challenges your skill level. There are some motifs out there that could take a week all in themselves. I find tedious repetitious work the most difficult. I loose interest if it's doing the same thing over and over.
What draws you to Irish crochet?
I love the variety and the freedom of expression you can get with Irish Crochet. It's sort of anything goes as long as it works and looks good. To take so many different elements and pull them all together to create a piece, is true art as far as I am concerned. I love to look at all the different motifs that have been created and the different ways they have been used. Then I challenge myself to come up with something as wonderful myself.
How did you get into designing doilies?
I tried to design a doily years ago and found it to be a very daunting experience. I found out it took more than just increasing shells or what not to make a doily worth having around. I sort of put it on the back burner, but thought about it alot. I think getting into Irish Crochet helped me to see the piece as a whole and my designing changed. So a couple years ago I started playing with doilies again. I made several that I actually liked and use around here. But I never dreamed anyone else would be interested in my efforts. I just did them as a personal challenge.
It wasn't until I joined Crochetville that I began the think I might have something to offer other crocheters. Elizabeth ( Threeolivemartini) threw down the guantlet though this winter and gave me the challenge of the birthstone doilies. Well I love a challenge. I was surprised though at how the ideas kept coming. I think all the time I have thought about what it take to make a decent doily paid off. Now it seem that I can't stop seeing in my mind how something might work to make an interesting doily.
What are your favorite brands of hooks and thread?
My all time favorite hooks are the boye crochet hooks. I don't know if it's because I learned on them or what, but I crochet so much faster and easier with them than anything else. I have used the DMC threads for years now. I love the six cord cordonnet threads though they can be hard to find especially if you desire some color. I do recommend you buy the best thread you can. I watched several tableclothes sort of dissinegrate because the thread wasn't top qualilty. Have to learn everything the hard way I quess.
What words of encouragement could you give to crocheters regarding thread crochet?
Thread is just another aspect of crochet. Not really any harder just different. Most beginners think you have to grip the poor hook with all their might to keep it from getting away. Not so. Just gently hold your hook, If your hands ache from holding a small hook you are probably griping it way too tight.
Don't make the mistake of using a hook to large for the thread you are using. I think that is too common of a mistake people make. Your tension will be all wrong and your work will not lay or look as it should. It also makes it actually more difficult to do. Dont let the size of the thread scare you. If you can crochet with baby or fingering yarn, size 10 thread is just one step down. Use good guality thread and relax you know how to crochet. I keep telling people to think of thread as skinny yarn.
What sections do you always read on C'Ville?
I always check out the Thread crochet show and tell and the Thread crochet forum. Then I head for the new posts. I read a little of this and that all day. Whatever sounds interesting. I wish I could respond to everyones posts and greet all the newbies but I would never get anything done then.
What are some of your other interests besides crocheting?
I have always been into the horses ever since I could point and neigh. I only own 2 at this time, (Java and Bear ) but have owned up to 7 at one time. I got Java when he was 10 months old. He is now 25. We have been a team for a long time. I used to show a lot but have eased out of that. Now I just enjoy my riding.
I am also into antiques. My home reflects this. I probably don't own anything that is going to make me or my decendants rich, But I do have some nice things that to me add to the quality of my life. I love my treasures. I have an extensive Pewter collection that me and my mom worked on together. I also collect 2 cup teapots, sewing items, and my favorites my Crochet Hook collection and my Crochet book collection. Both are rather extensive.
I enjoy gardening though the last few years have not been able to do as much. Body is starting to rebel. Have had few injuries that has limited my time in the yard.
Tell me what some of your favorite things are outside of crochet.
My beadwork—well, I quess that really doesn't count as it's crochet too. I enjoy a good book, historical novels and light science fiction, and most of the the classics. Time spent with my husband—he's been my best friend for many a year.My cats, Bilbo, Elsie,and Addie, and of course, my horses. Going to antique malls, too!
Why do you think many crocheters find thread crochet so daunting or intimidating?
I have never quite figured out why so many find thread daunting. I think it is the small hooks and the fine thread. Well people have been crocheting with it for years and years. Can' t be all that tough if it has been around so long. I keep trying to show what can be done with it. I hope by doing so I can encourage people to no be afraid of it or treat it as if it was really tough.
What historical figure would you most like to have dinner with?
I think I would like to got to dinner with Ann Orr She was a crochet designer in the early 1900's What I admire about her is, in a time when women were treated with little respect in the work place she was an editor and on the publishing staff for Coats and Clarks. She was able to take her talents and go where most women could only dreamed of in those days. I have a lot of respect for the abilities of her I imagine she would have some interesting stories to tell.
Describe a little bit about where you crochet and what rituals you might have surrounding it.
I crochet here in the computer room. We took a long time to find the right computer chair that I was comfortable in doing both the computer and crocheting. I have my corner set up to be both comfortable and effiecient. I have it designed to be soothing to the senses too. It is decidedly well lite so my eyes don't get fatiqued easily. My antique hooks are displayed around me and some of my other treasures make my corner my own. My hooks and tools are all in easy reach. I can see when people arrive through the window so I can crochet till my lessons arrive if I want. My cats have claimed their spaces around me and love to nap close by while I work. Just a pleasant place to work.
What kind of coffee or tea do you like best?
I am definitely a coffeeholic. I pour a cup first thing in the morning and I drink it till I go to bed. Love the stuff. But my favorite is a Latte. Marv makes the very best ones too. It's his speciality A Kahlua Almond Fudge latte and I am in heaven especially if I get to drink it while I crochet….Ah!
What else would you like the readers to know about you?
I learned a very important lesson years ago. There is nothing I can not learn to do if I so desire. Sounds cliché but to me one of the most important things I ever learned was this fact. Knowing you can learn anything opens up the world to you. Never say you can't. I Love the fact that with nothing more than a piece of string and hook we can make the most intricate and beautiful pieces of art. It's literally making something from nothing. I absolutely love watching an idea take shape and substance.
Be sure to check out Kathy's website Crochet N' Beads for free crochet patterns and other items of interest!
Villager Spotlight is a regular feature of 'Round the 'Ville and is dedicated to providing fifteen minutes of fame to a board member. Members can recommend themselves or others for consideration of being put in the spotlight. Please direct e-mail to Lori with your member suggestions.