Monday, September 24, 2012

Mad Crochet Lab: An Interview with Aunty Teeni

Happy Monday Dynamos!  I am super excited about today's post! I got to interview Aunty Teeni from Aunty's Tea Room and Mad Crochet!  

A couple of weeks ago Aunty Teeni and I were commenting back and forth on Facebook (are you on Facebook?  Come join the party!!) and we sort-of stumbled upon the idea of doing cross interviews.  It was so much fun!   I am really impressed and inspired by Teeni's work, and I thought you guys might like it too!

Teeni very recently has moved the crochet portion of her blog onto it's own blog, where you'll find a bunch of fun patterns, and the home of the Yarndango!  Yarndango (it's just fun to write!) is a 52 week amigurumi challenge that Teeni set for herself, but has been gathering participants from all over the world!  You don't have to commit to doing an amigurumi project each week for a year to participate, a single month of amigurumi goodness earns you a button and bragging rights - not to mention an awesome shout-out from Aunty herself!

I really hope you enjoy this interview.  Now, go grab a cup of coffee, or a big ol' mason jar of iced tea and come hang out with us while I talk to Aunty Teeni! 

Mad Crochet Lab

Jaime: Why do you crochet?  There are lots of other crafts that you could do, so what is it about crochet that inspires you to create?

Aunty Teeni: Crochet is one thing I feel I do reasonably well.  I can’t draw or paint very well, can’t sing or dance, and I’m too short to be a model.  Haha!  It was one of the first crafts I learned how to do and is something so versatile that I never get bored with it.  Besides granny squares, afghans and ponchos, other garments can be made as well as home décor, and stuffed toys.  And crochet can be done with thread to make lace, filet, doilies, tablecloths, doll clothes, and miniatures.  Or you could use wire or elastic thread to make ornaments or jewelry with beads and fancy stitches.  I keep learning new things and still feel comfortable with my craft because it is something that you can grow with and build upon what you already know.  I can also knit but not as well as I crochet and I find it to take much longer.  I’m not patient enough for it. 

The Count finger puppet

Jaime: Who taught you to crochet?  Did you pick it up naturally or was it a struggle? 

Aunty Teeni: That’s an interesting story.  My grandmother and one of my aunts taught me to crochet at a young age.  At that time the only thing I knew you could make with it was afghans and I quickly got bored.  A few years later, I learned so many other possibilities with crochet that I took it right back up and haven’t stopped since.  However, the early learning was quite a trial for me.  I still remember how difficult it was to work into my first crochet chains – how stiff and sore my fingers became and how frustrated I would get.  On the other hand, crochet was something that allowed me to spend quality time with my grandmother.  She only spoke Portuguese and I only spoke English so most of my learning was by watching, tone of voice, and facial expressions, as well as an occasional swat when I did something wrong.   I went on to teach myself to read patterns and was soon teaching her new things!  She was a better learner than me, though.  J  But it just goes to show you that there ARE universal languages:  Love is just one, crochet is another and the love of crochet is still another!  
Severed Finger Lipbalm Holder!

Jaime: You are the Mad Crochet Scientist!!  You design patterns, you run an amigurumi challenge from your blog, and you create highly detailed fan art pieces.  Do you consider yourself an artist or a skilled craftsperson?  (This is a question that I struggle with personally, and I would love to hear your viewpoint and opinion on this subject.  I would call you an artist, by the way…)

Aunty Teeni: Aw, thanks for considering me an artist.  I used to think that I was more of a skilled craftsperson.  But I now think there is a lot more art involved.  As for the skills part, there will always be someone who is better than me at stitch consistency, gauge, or speed or the math involved in a design.  But so much art is involved in fiber selection, color, texture, shape and finishing details that I think you need to be a little of both in order to have a successful piece or a successful pattern.  In the end, the final result is judged by others, so my favorite piece may not be the one that everyone else wants for themselves.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and since that is true of art, I think it applies equally with crochet and other yarn arts.  I now use that term “yarn arts” quite a bit since I am aware of all that goes into them.
Hummingbird pattern

Jaime: You and I are both cancer survivors.  That experience is different for everyone, but I think that everyone who has gone through it will agree that it’s a life-changer.  If you don’t mind telling us, what type of cancer did you have?  How has that experience changed your work?  

Aunty Teeni: First off, allow me to say how sorry I was to learn that you also had to deal with cancer, but I’m always glad to meet a fellow survivor, a fellow comrade and someone who understands the emotional rollercoaster!  I tend to be a bit private but the truth is that I came to think that opening up a little about that part of my life might be helpful to others so my policy on that is that if anyone has a question they should go ahead and ask.  If I can help someone else going through something similar, I will be happy to do so.  If I don’t know an answer I will simply admit that as well.  I had advanced breast cancer.  I went through chemo, radiation and a mastectomy.  Then I went through several attempts at reconstructing a new breast, which all failed.  It’s been a hell of a ride, but it definitely was a life-changer.  I think only another survivor can understand the fear and ice-through-the-heart-feeling of the initial diagnosis.  But honestly, a lot of good things came about in my life too.  I was also diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and am being treated for that.  Knowing that there was a reason I was always tired and a reason for the many mood swings I used to have was like an “a-ha” moment for me.  Now I feel that I am much more clear-headed, more grateful for simple things, I can laugh at myself, I have different priorities and I think I’ve become a much more positive person and a happier person.  Funny that I have also noticed this in other survivors.  I think all of this allows me to be a lot sillier in my work and has allowed me to get over many fears.  I never dreamed I’d be making some of the little characters that I’ve been making recently.  But it is a lot of fun to try and make something that looks exactly like the original and it forces me to be creative and to keep learning.  It also allows me to use mixed media in my projects and that has been a lot of fun. 

Gubs @ Mad Crochet Lab on Facebook!

Jaime:  Was it always a dream of yours to design patterns?  What uniquely “Aunty Teeni” qualities do you bring to your patterns?  How did you learn to write them?  I have been surprised at the lack of information out there about how to properly write crochet patterns.  I think that learning pattern writing is like learning to write a short-hand version of a foreign language… 

Aunty Teeni:  You know, writing down my patterns for others to use is definitely new to me.  For my personal use, my notes are done in my own crazy type of shorthand, but when writing a pattern to share with others, my approach is to use patterns that I think were really well written and mimic the way those were written.  I totally agree that there is not a wealth of information on how to write a good crochet pattern.  And crochet is its own unique animal so a crochet pattern can’t really be forced into a boilerplate template very easily or without a lot of extra notes.  You know who I think would do a fabulous job of writing some guidelines to creating a well-written pattern?  YOU!!!  (Jaime: Aww.  Thanks Teeni!)

Very Hungry Caterpillar
Jaime: I had 2 (very, very small) blogs before I started Crochet Dynamite.  Those first blogs are embarrassing to look at now (well, okay, just the one that I haven’t deleted) but they were great learning experiences for me.  Aunty’s Tea Room and Mad Crochet Lab aren’t your first blogs either, although your previous blog was far more successful than mine ever were.  What did you learn from your previous blog that has helped you this time around? 

Aunty Teeni: I did have some rules then that I still enforce on my present blogs.  It is simply that you must be kind and respectful when participating.  If not, you are out.  Period.  Nobody will ever be denied service at the tea room or any of my blogs based on their diet, faith, color, ethnicity, sex, orientation or political views, even if they aren’t in alignment with my own views. So long as you are kind and respectful, participation is highly encouraged!  I’ve only ever had to deny service to one blogger in my experience, so it’s been a wonderful ride for me and I’ve been blessed.
Gossamer (Big Red!)

Jaime:  You have created a beautiful and supportive community within your blog and your facebook page.  Do you have any advice for new bloggers (and not so new bloggers) on how to create an environment that makes people feel welcome and comfortable sharing?  Your blog is very funny, do you think that your sense of humor helps you to turn visitors into friends?

Aunty Teeni:  It’s possible.  Everyone’s sense of humor is different but I try to keep mine (at least on my blogs) family safe and harmless towards others.  I want to have fun as long as I am alive but I don’t want it to be at anyone else’s expense.  I try to treat others the way I’d like to be treated.  For this reason, there are certain types of humor you will not see me display at my blog.  I feel blessed to have met so many wonderful people through blogging.  My blog buddies really ARE beautiful and supportive, as you’ve said.  But I didn’t create them.  I just created a place at which they could come together.  So maybe thinking of it that way allowed me to retain friendships with like-minded people.  Because of my rules, a person who is out there simply to cause trouble isn’t really going to get far at one of my blogs so there is no need for them to visit.   That, I believe, is how I’ve really met only great people!

Jaime: What questions am I not asking?  :D  I am sure that there is something that you’d like to share, but I don’t know enough to ask you the right question! LOL!!!  Is there something fun and interesting in your background that helps your artwork? 

Aunty Teeni: LOL.  I think you’ve covered quite a lot of ground with your fabulous questions!  I only hope that people aren’t getting bored reading my long-winded answers!  There is one interesting thing I learned about myself and crocheting though.  I decided long ago that I will not crochet anything I don’t myself like.  If my sister were to beg me to crochet her some hideous looking purse or something, I would find a way out of it.  LOL.  I just feel like life isn’t long enough to waste on things you don’t like and I don’t want to put my time and effort into making something that I wouldn’t be proud to say I made.  I know, I’m horrible!  Fortunately, coming up with my own designs allows me to make what I think I want to make, although sometimes I change my mind if it starts coming out and looking awful.  Then it’s back to the drawing board and some frogging! 
GPS - Dangerous for Video Gamers
Jaime:  How does your love of games and gaming influence your crochet?  Your post about GPS not being a video game had me laughing so hard I was crying!

Aunty Teeni:  Wow, Jaime – you did your homework at my blog!  Thanks so much for liking that post.  I actually find that to be one of my favorite posts.  I love when I get into that kind of frame of mind where I can compare things like that and have fun with it.  Anyway, I think I was cracking up myself when I wrote that post so I only hoped others would find it as funny as I did!  I really do not consider myself a gamer.  I only seem to like video games that are not too violent or bloody and that have cute characters in them (except for the rare occasion when I have a bad day and will come home and tell my husband to load up a particular game because I have a need to shoot the crap out of some zombies or something).  When I do fall in love with a game, I usually feel like I just want to reach into the screen and give the cute characters a squeeze!  So I had to create them physically in order to do that.  But I’m actually more into family board and card games than video games.   A classic example is my GUBs card game character doll.  To be honest, I surprised myself that I could make something like that and I hope to do more for other characters that I love. 
Chocolate Chip
Jaime:  Your cat, Chocolate Chip, is very much a part of the tea room and the Mad Crochet Lab.  How has his influence affected your crochet work?  How is your fundraising going? What can we do to help your efforts?

Aunty Teeni: Yes, Chip is very much a part of the tea room and the Mad Crochet Lab. He has become a big part of my life.  When I found out that our little stray had feline HIV, I was devastated at first.  Then I thought, “He’s actually kind of like me – has a chronic condition but is not showing signs of it right now and seems to be able to live a relatively normal life.”  So, fortunately, since Chip is also the most lovable and affectionate cat I’ve ever known, it was easy to persuade the hubby that we had to keep him.  After all, hubby kept me even though I had health issues!  The fundraising for Chip’s medical bills was given a big boost by the sale of a few of my GUBs dolls.  I guess the best way to help is to keep your eyes open at my sites regarding my patterns and finished objects.  I would much rather sell a pattern or finished object than ask for outright donations.  I don’t want to feel like I’m getting handouts. But I do love the feeling that someone likes my work enough to pay for it so I feel like I am also donating my time to help Chip too and people are getting something for their money!  So keep your eyes peeled for future patterns and finished objects that I will be putting up for sale.  Anything you buy will be helping Chip out.  I’ve also decided that if we raise enough to cover Chip’s medical bills then anything beyond that will be used to help out other animals and shelters.

Aliens!  Can you guess what their spaceships are made of? 

Jaime:  My last question:  As a relatively-new (this time around) blogger, I find that I struggle with finding balance in my life.  I try to maintain an at-least-every-other-day posting schedule, but social media and design work seem to take over my days.  How do you find balance between your life online, and your life at home?   Or have I just asked the unanswerable, like, what is the meaning of life? 

Aunty Teeni:  Oh, the question of the elusive and unattainable life and social media balance, ah yes.  I struggle with that a lot too.  I am super fortunate in that I have a husband who has supported me from day one as he was the one who got me blogging in the first place.  Right now, I find that I spend more time online, but I hope to curb that as I set things up to make things easier for myself in the future.  I think what it boils down to is that you should strive to keep a routine, but you also have to be flexible and forgiving of yourself.  If you don’t meet your schedule then that is okay because life happens regardless of what you’ve planned to accomplish today. You have to be able to jump on and to enjoy the ride when real life opportunities come up!  Those are the things you will never regret later.  I mean, how many people do you hear of who get to their deathbed lamenting all the time they DIDN’T spend in front of the computer, right?!  LOL.   Life is a journey, a constant learning process, and I am so glad to be a part of it, each and every day!  Thank you so much for being interested enough to interview me!  Hugs to you Jaime and hugs to everyone who read through my long-winded drivel. J

Jaime:  Thank you so much Teeni. This was just an absolutely delightful experience.  I am so glad that we did this.  xo

And thank you Dynamos!  I've got a cool project based on something I saw on Pinterest coming up on Wednesday (so cool!  and perfect for Fall!!) so come back soon!

(And seriously, come hang out with Teeni and me on Facebook!  Click the 'Like' button over there on the right!)


P.S.  Want to see my interview?  Go to Mad Crochet Lab and check it out!  I'll give you double Dynamo points for leaving her comments!  xo Jaime


  1. You make me look GOOD, lady! You should do more of these interviews. I am going to do a few more too. I love learning a bit more about my new comrades-in-hooks. :)

    1. This was so much fun! Thank you so much for agreeing to it! I've got another interview planned for October with Nyan from NyanPon's Knits and Crochet. Do you know her work? She's awesome too!
      xo Jaime

  2. No, I don't know her although I have seen a bit of her work, so I'm really excited to get to read your next interview and learn more about her! Woot!

  3. *hehe* I know I am going to sound like a rambling idiot. Your interview was great. I love how sweet and fun both of your blogs are. I need to open up more on mine, maybe I should add some of my yo-yoing or fire juggling photos :)

    1. Yes! Both! :D
      Fun Fact: When I was 21 I dislocated my finger in a yo-yo accident... LOL!!!
      xo Jaime

    2. I've broken rings with my metal edged yo-yos but dislocation takes special talent

    3. You know, it really doesn't when you are messing around with a wooden yo-yo that is filled with metal ball-bearings! Heavy and FAST!!! It was like one minute I'm having fun and the next minute I had to go to the hospital... LOL!!!!!

  4. Nice! Glad to know more about someone who's comments I've already been impressed with. :) Will go check out her blogs too! (love the idea of "mad crochet lab" -- Yes! mad scientist crocheters! I'm in the right place!)

  5. Nyan - yo-yoing and fire juggling? Now I am definitely on the edge of my seat! :D

  6. Very talented lady. I love the count finger puppet and the Aliens!

  7. Just wanted to say thanks to all for the wonderful and positive comments. We crafters love our comments! :) Also about Nyan and yo-yoing and fire juggling? Now I am on the seat of my pants to hear about that! ;)

  8. You wrote: "I think that learning pattern writing is like learning to write a short-hand version of a foreign language" I'm learning Russian now and recently I came across a lesson that reminded me of that.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...