I saw examples of this wonderful designer's work on a Russian website and was thrilled to see her updated version of Irish Crochet. I was able to connect with Antonina through Elina Chernoussova, who conveyed my questions and translated her responses along with Svetlana Matieva.
I was born and still live in Ukraine. In my early childhood I lived in Alexandria (Egypt) with my parents. There I liked to visit yarn shops with my mom. I think my love for crochet began there. My grandmothers taught me to knit and crochet, but I preferred crochet.
I don't have any special education in knitted or crocheted clothes design. I studied chemistry and biology in University and have a pedagogical degree too. I used to work in a laboratory of organic synthesis and dreamed of a science career. At the same time I knitted and crocheted a lot for my family and friends.
When the Soviet Union broke up, I left science and made the decision to pursue knitwear professionally. I tried quilting but I was better at crochet. That was seven years ago and I am still crocheting!
My credo is not to copy the work of other masters but sometimes I
interpret their ideas. I use methods of synthesis and analysis, which I took from my science career.
Currently I am not involved with the fashion industry, though I am planning some projects for the future. I have been working with the Russian needlework magazine "Duplet" for four years, and we are now developing my own special issues of this magazine. I also teach crochet with a unique system I developed. My big project is a book about crocheting which will differ from all other books of this kind I've ever seen. At some point I plan to have a website, but now I communicate with like-minded people on the Russian website, www.knitting-info.ru, and take my inspiration from them.
What are the techniques you use? Do you use traditional motifs or create your own, or both?
I think we can name this techniques "composition," meaning that the work is composed of single motifs. It is not exactly like Irish Crochet, but we use the same principle. Single motifs are connected with the help of crocheted net or with a needle and thin thread. The manner of connecting them depends on design and functionality. If we make a warm wool dress we use more needlework, for a summer top we use more net.
I often use different techniques in one model. I like antique Irish Crochet patterns, but our modern life dictates new requirements for our clothes, that's why most of the motifs have changed. Real people wear my designs in their real lives. That's why I try to use antique techniques, but at the same time try to make things that don't need any special care and don't cause any trouble to their owners. They are just dresses and blouses with a print fabric thatâ€™s made in a different and unusual way.
I don't use burdon (thick thread inside every row) as in traditional Irish Crochet. I use well-known motifs, but often I change them. I try to make light and practical clothes, that's why Iâ€™ve developed my own motifs. I use motifs that don't overload my models. Usually they are very simple, but technically very well made. I have many techniques and ideas, and am always working to improve them. Sometimes I just relax by creating new motifs.
The system of elaborating motifs is based on logics and simple mathematic calculation. It enables the creation of complicated motifs based on simple ones. I teach this to my apprentices. Their designs have already been published in a special teaching magazine on crocheting by the needlework publisher Duplet. I have been working with this magazine for a long time. In the future I plan to publish a book, which will contain all my experience.
How do you get inspiration for your designs? Do you follow trends in fashion magazines?
I enjoy the work I do very much. I just enjoy the process of crocheting. I like to invent something new and more interesting. My main principle is "If nobody did it before - I can do it!" I studied biology at the University, I like plants very much, that's why my designs often look like flower-beds or ecosystems. Nature is the major source of inspiration for me. When the weather does not make me happy, I watch really beautiful and clever movies. Sometimes I even imagine which of my clothes could suit this or that character. My spare time I spend drawing on a computer and listening to light rock music. Besides I get inspired when communicating with my colleagues in the internet. One can find many great ideas there. Due to the wonderful forum for needlewomen www.knitting-info.ru I was able to connect with you too. I do not copy models from the magazines, but surely fashion trends influence my work. For example, jeans are world-famous and beloved, and this brought me the idea of denim stylizing of clothes. This idea is very interesting, I am developing it now. My new collection will be displayed in Duplet, published in Kiev, Ukraine. This special issue will be devoted to the use of Irish technique in modern clothes. By the way, I plan to create my own website shortly.
What yarns do you use? Very skinny? Cotton, wool, silk? Where do you find yarn - is it dyed especially for you? Or can you buy everything in a store?
I use only natural fiber for my works - cotton, linen, wool. The thickness of the yarn depends on the function of the item. Usually I use thinner yarn for nets than for motifs. We do not specially dye yarn. We have an opportunity to purchase yarn in various colors. Sometimes the yarn itself suggests ideas for a new design. Yarn stores in our town know about my passion for multicolored yarn and inform me regularly about new products.
Is it easy to purchase yarn in the Ukraine? Which hooks do you use?
Luckily, it is easy to purchase yarn in the Ukraine. In Russia and in the Ukraine the crocheting traditions are very strong. Many women (and even men) can crochet. That is why yarn from the whole world is available here. I do not have to purchase via Internet. Almost all I need I can buy in the stores of my town. I like to experiment with yarn. I often mix fibers. Say, if we add viscose to linen, the item will be softer. Sometimes I find yarn of needed quality and color, but with lurex (metal silver or gold thread), and in this case I have to separate it. I am a chemist by education, I like to mix and separate. I prefer TULIP and INOX hooks, better thin. I seldom use thick yarn.
What are your techniques for putting motifs together?
Sometimes I connect motifs during crocheting. For example, I can make various blocks, and insert them into the general picture later. In other cases I sew blocks with a thin thread, or connect them with the help of a crocheted net. It is nice to make a net, including simple motifs into it. This net can be a background for larger and more complicated motifs.
How do you lay out the motifs for the garment? Do you use the old paper methods?
I lay out my motifs on a thick base. As a rule, it is a cotton fabric in several plies. This base does not get crushed when making a net between motifs. I make irregular net, inserting picot stitches and other decorative elements.
How did you develop your crochet skills?
I work very hard and try not to copy even a single model. I like to invent something new, and in the meantime I improve my skills. I also teach beginners and this is good stimulus as well.
Did you study Irish crochet by yourself? Did you use special books?
Several years ago I came across several magazines displaying designs using Irish technique. There were some patterns for motifs, but they were not precise, I had to correct them. I created similar motifs, but better suited to modern clothes.
Later I found a lot of interesting information on Irish technique in the magazine Duplet. This magazine devotes a lot of space to antique techniques of crocheting.
There are many books on Irish technique in the Internet. I was interested in ways to use this technique in modern clothes, but I could not find any books devoted to this issue. In general books display antique models, or items stylized as antique ones. The designs are not practical to use and may even frighten by their complexity. I want to make this technique available for everybody and work out a method enabling beginners to create comfortable and casual clothes, like what we wear everyday.
My apprentices have created several nice designs. When they come to study, they all ask about Irish technique. I teach them the technique first of all and then try to stimulate their fantasy. They have to become adept at the skills and get rid of stereotypes. After that they are able to master Irish technique.
Can you tell us just a little about your book?
It is just a project. The most important thing is to find the most crazy publisher who will agree to print it. The book will be half fiction, half diary. I would like my readers to follow all the way from the beginner to the master with pleasure, as we do at our workshops. Even if the reader has no time to master crocheting, this book will be quite readable and interesting.
Is there anything more youâ€™d like to add about techniques, yarns, etc.?
I am happy to get acquainted and to tell people about my favorite occupation. I am grateful to Elina for assistance. I hope we will talk more some day about my projects.