Karen Whooley Discusses Crochet Lace Techniques, Crochet Books and More

Karen Whooley, author of Pineapple Passion and 21+ other crochet books
Karen Whooley, author of Pineapple Passion and 21+ other crochet books

Karen Whooley is a crochet pattern designer who is best known for designing crocheted wraps, shawls, socks, sweaters, baby projects, blankets and other stylish clothing, accessories and home decor projects. She is also a crochet teacher and the author of numerous crochet books. Her classes and books have helped bunches of crafters advance their crochet skills and create gorgeous projects for wearing, gifting and decorating their homes.

I discovered Karen’s work in 2010, when I reviewed one of her many books — Fair Isle to Crochet, which was published by Leisure Arts. I found the book to be positively delightful. I still have my copy, and it remains one of my favorite blanket pattern books, even all these years later. I’ve been a fan of Karen’s work ever since.

Find Fair Isle Blanket Patterns to Crochet Including Baby Blankets and More. Fair Isle to Crochet Book by Karen Rhatto-Whooley, Published by Leisure Arts
Fair Isle to Crochet Book by Karen Rhatto-Whooley, Published by Leisure Arts

Lately, Karen has been directing her creative energies towards releasing crochet pattern collections focusing around a single interesting theme. Her previous release is known as “Pineapple Passion”; it includes patterns for crocheting sweaters, shawls / wraps and a skirt, all of which feature lovely, lacy crochet pineapple motifs as prominent design elements. Her next, upcoming crochet pattern release explores the glorious theme of Italian lace.

I’m pleased to announce that Karen has agreed to do an interview. Personally, I, adore crocheted lace — and I’m looking forward to understanding more about Karen’s approach to crocheting and designing lace patterns. I am positive that our community will benefit from the insights she has to share about the crochet lace techniques she has been exploring in her latest work.

The following is an email interview with Karen; I emailed her the questions you see written in boldface type below. Karen’s answers follow each question.

Amy: “Karen, congrats on the recent publication of Pineapple Passion with Occhi Blu Press. I really love the book, and I’m excited to discuss a few of the details with you.”

Pineapple Passion, a crochet pattern book by Karen Whooley, published by Occhi Blue Press
Pineapple Passion, a crochet pattern book by Karen Whooley, published by Occhi Blue Press

Amy: “How did you get started with crocheting pineapples?”

Karen: “I discovered pineapples when I first learned to crochet. Actually what started it off was a beautiful basket that my mom received as a birthday gift from a cousin. It was made in size 10 thread, and it was starched with sugar water. I remember my mom telling my sister and me that after we touched it and had sugar rub off on our hands.

My dad’s mom had a sister who crocheted and decorated the house with pineapple doilies, from tabletops to the headrests on chairs.

Once I started crocheting, I bought a now out-of-print doily book by Patricia Kristofferson and learned to crochet pineapples from that.

Amy: “What do you find most appealing about pineapple lace patterns?”

Karen: “How complex they look but how truly easy they are to make! Literally a pineapple is made with a combination of chains and single crochets sitting on a (usually) double crochet base.”

Amy: “What differentiates Pineapple Passion from all the other available crochet books?”

Karen: “First off, I think what differentiates it is that it uses pineapples for garments and accessories instead of home decor. Along with that, every piece is made with pineapples. A lot of the time there is a combination of stitches.

“Along with that the book is self-published. That means that I can put out all the stops and create patterns that are detailed in both text and charts. I work hard to make the patterns clear and easy to make for everyone.”

Amy: “Do you have a favorite crochet project from the Pineapple Passion book?”

Karen: “I love the Pineapple Cardi. It is such a timeless piece. Anyone can wear it, and it is so much easier to make than it looks. And it’s perfect for layering at work, running errands or for a night on the town. Just change the color or maybe use a yarn with little stellina in it to add some bling.

The Pineapple Cardi from Karen Whooley's latest crochet pattern book called Pineapple Passion.
The Pineapple Cardi from Karen Whooley’s latest crochet pattern book called Pineapple Passion.

Amy: “By now, I’m sure you’ve received significant amounts of feedback on Pineapple Passion. Which project in the book has been generating the greatest amount of buzz with your readers so far? And what are readers saying about it?”

Karen: “The biggest thing I am hearing is how they love the concept of making garments with lace weight yarn. They love that the stitch is so beautiful, used in different ways in each of the patterns, but the lace makes it shine. And in person, the Pineapple Chemise is probably the most popular piece. I cannot tell you how many books have sold because of that top-down construction garment with zero seams. It looks good on anybody too.”

The Pineapple Chemise crochet pattern from Pineapple Passion by Karen Whooley
The Pineapple Chemise crochet pattern from Pineapple Passion by Karen Whooley

Amy: “I imagine you must have learned a significant amount from researching, designing, and creating the patterns for the book. What’s one main takeaway that stands out in your mind now that the book is finished?”

Karen: “Make sure that your timeline is flexible. With this book, I had some considerable personal things crop up in my life. From aging parents to a surprise surgery, I had things take the time away from my schedule that caused the book to be released 6 months later than I was hoping for.

“I built in some extra time, but in this case not enough. But I learned that I can roll with it and still come out with a top-notch product!”

Amy: “I am so sorry to know you went through such a rough time, but glad you came through it OK. I suppose it’s times like those that teach us how resilient we really are — and what we’re truly capable of. I’m definitely glad you were able to finish your book, and glad to have it in hand now.

“So, Karen, I understand you have another big project in the works right now. Shall we give readers just a little hint of what they can expect from your next major release?

Karen: “I do! It’s slated for early summer 2020. You can subscribe to my newsletter to get news about the release, and to be the first to learn about the patterns going into the book! This book is dedicated to my Nonna (Italian for grandmother) who taught me to crochet. In it, I am going to be showcasing some of the tips, techniques and Italian laces that I learned from her – as well as what I have uncovered in my own study of the laces of Italy. Don’t miss it!”

This is a photo of Karen's Nonna, who taught her how to crochet and provided the inspiration for Karen's upcoming book featuring Italian crochet lace patterns.
This is a photo of Karen’s Nonna, who taught her how to crochet and provided the inspiration for Karen’s upcoming book featuring Italian crochet lace patterns.

Amy: “I’m so intrigued that you are using Italian crochet stitch dictionaries to create your latest projects. Tell us more about that. Do you read Italian? Or are you simply looking at the pictures and designing your own creative interpretation of the stitch patterns?”

Karen: “Well, would you believe that English is actually my second language? I spoke only Italian until I was 2. When my sister was born 2 years and 9 days after me and I was getting ready to start preschool in a year, my mom decided that I needed to learn English. We still spoke Italian in the house, and especially with my grandparents (I’m 100% Italian). As I got older, speaking at home didn’t happen as much except when my Nonni (plural for grandparents) were around. In high school, I took 3 years of Italian and in college for 2 years. But once my Nonna died in 1992, my family as a whole stopped speaking Italian. I lost quite a bit of the speaking. Conjugating in my head is hard. But I can still read it and if someone speaks to me in common Italian, I can figure out what they are trying to tell me. And weirdly enough sometimes I still think in Italian.”

“The books and magazines from my grandmother are text only. Some of them date to the 1910s and 1920s. I have to sometimes use google translate to figure it out but I can read photos too. I do have a few more current (the 1970s) books that are written in Italian and have a very rudimentary form of charts. But being as experienced as I am (and because I learned to crochet patterns from English books through reading the photos with my Nonna) I can pretty much decipher everything.”

Amy: “Would you count those Italian stitch dictionaries as your favorite crochet or needlework references? Or do you have other favorites?”

Karen: “I love the books and patterns from my Nonna because they are part of her legacy to me. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

The Art of Crochet by Pauline Chatterson, published by Columbia Minerva in 1974. This is Karen Whooley's favorite crochet book.
The Art of Crochet by Pauline Chatterson, published by Columbia Minerva in 1974. This is Karen Whooley’s favorite crochet book.

“However, my most favorite stitch dictionary is actually one that was published in the 1970s, and my nonna bought it for me when she was teaching me to crochet. It is now out of print but it is called The Art of Crochet by Pauline Chatterton. It was published by Columbia-Minerva in 1974. this was the first book that Nonna and I used a magnifying glass to figure out how to create the stitches. It is those memories that make this book my most favorite.”

Here you can see another photo of Karen with her Nonna, this time at her wedding.
Here you can see another photo of Karen with her Nonna, this time at her wedding.

Amy: “Karen, you’re a prolific author, aren’t you? How many books have you finished all together?

Karen: “I have written 22 books over the last 17 years. Some are still in print, and others are not. But you can see them all here: https://karenwhooley.com/books/

Amy: “Besides the crochet pattern books you write, you’re also designing patterns for other sources, too – correct? Do you have any other recently published or upcoming patterns we should be on the lookout for?”

Karen: “I sold my first design in 1998 when my daughter was 6 months old. However, because of the way I learned to crochet, I consider myself a designer from the start. But when I began, I would sell to mostly Annie’s Attic (When it was still under Annie Potter) for the magazines. When I didn’t sell a design, I would sell them on my website – in printed form as there wasn’t a market for PDFs as we know it now. I built up quite a collection.

“It wasn’t until 2016 that I went fully independent. That being said, I will design for a yarn company or shop from time to time. I do have a pattern coming up for a yarn company in September 2019. And another one for someone else in October of 2019 but currently, I am under contract not to say who or what it is publicly.”

Amy: “Well, please feel free to keep us updated when you’re able to give us more specifics, Karen. I know I’ll be excited to see the results of your hard work when these patterns finally become available later this year and early next year.

“Because I post so many crochet tutorials for beginners, many of my readers are beginners to the craft. Out of all the books you’ve written so far, do you have any that are suitable for total beginners? If so, which one(s) would you recommend to the beginners among us?”

Karen: “Honestly, any of my books from Leisure Arts would be my first recommendation to beginners. Especially the Book on Socks. But I find that most beginning crocheters are more adventurous than they think. A Garden of Shawls and Coastal Crochet were both developed with the beginner in mind. All of the patterns there are complex looking, but even a beginner who knows the basic stitches and how to increase and decrease can make any pattern in those books!”

Amy: “Do you have any tips that could help beginning crocheters master the art of crocheting lace?”

Karen: “When I teach my beginning lace classes, I start everyone out with DK or worsted weight yarn and a large hook. this helps them to see what they are trying to accomplish.

“Then I highly recommend that instead of using lace with a smaller hook, try it with an F or G hook. this will get you comfortable with using a smaller yarn. Then gradually, you can size that hook down to a C (2.75 mm) or D ( 3.25mm) hook.

Amy: “What is your go-to crochet hook for working lace projects – and why?”

Karen: “I love lace weight yarn and a 3.00 mm hook. For me as a looser crocheter, these just make the lacework and the end result is the filmy, drapey lace we all love.”

Amy: “What has been your most impressive crochet accomplishment so far?

Karen: “For me, every pattern is an exciting accomplishment. It’s hard to chose just one project. But I do think to take a book idea from start to finish as a self-publisher was the most impressive. I had a lot to learn, but A Garden of Shawls is more than 2 years old and I still look at it and say, boy, I cannot believe I did it!”

Amy: “What are your professional goals for the rest of 2019 and heading into 2020?

Karen: “For 2019, I am excited to say that I have all of the individual patterns I plan to release DONE and ready to go. I release a new pattern every other month with the last one for 2019 coming in November.

“All of the samples should be done for the new book by the middle of September and the complete book will go to layout by December 31, 2019. So that is the biggest project coming up.

“But once all the samples for the book are done, I am having a “Think Week” in September. I have had a goal for probably the last 10 years to start my own online education site. I have so many followers that cannot come see me teach live for one reason or another and all of them have asked if I will teach specific classes online. So the plan for that Week is to flesh out my ideas for that, do some research and see if I can start the process in 2020.

“I have also wanted to hold retreats for crocheters and that is another subject I will be pondering.

“I am also working on teaching at more events around the US (and even overseas if someone would like me to come!). I will be teaching at the Red Alder Fiber Arts Retreat in Tacoma WA in February. I have a few feelers out to teach elsewhere too but nothing in stone yet. But be watching my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/KarenwhooleyDesigns) for more how-tos and hopefully a few live events too!

“Karen Whooley Designs has so many facets to it. So every year I do a lot of thinking and try to make things easier and ad a whole lot of fun for my tribe!

Amy: “Those are fantastic goals, Karen — and, now that you mention it, every designer should have a think week. Come to think of it, probably everyone, everywhere should have a think week. Thanks for the great idea.

“Do you send out an email newsletter?

Karen: “I do! I send out my newsletter twice a month. The first one is a news-y email with what is going on in the studio, new events I will be at and links to my most recent blog posts. But I always include links to new stuff not by me that I think my readers will love.

“The second is more educational. Sometimes it is me teaching about something and other times I am sharing someone else’s site who has content that I think is stellar.

“Of course, there are the extras that revolve around a new pattern or book release. My subscribers get the first look and a discount on all new patterns and books.

“I hope your readers will join me! Just visit This link to join me. You will get a free pattern right off the bat!”

Amy: “Karen, and everyone, thanks so much for joining us today at KnittingandCrochet.net for this interview. Karen, I really appreciate it that you’ve shared so many interesting insights about your work, and also those practical tips for beginners — which are fantastic. I hope all of you who are reading along found this information helpful and interesting.

Quick Links to Resources Mentioned in This Interview

Karen has shared information about a whole bunch of useful resources in this interview. If you’d like to check ’em out, here are some links to help you find them:

Check Out More Crochet and Knitting Designer Interviews

You can learn an amazing amount of helpful information, just by asking. That’s one thing I really enjoy doing — asking crochet and knitting designers questions about their work. In many cases, I’ve found that they are willing to share their best tips, insights — and occasionally even trade secrets — with the public. I almost always learn something new from these interviews, and I always come away from them inspired to try new things, experience new yarns, or read interesting books I never knew existed.

Want to check out a few more designer interviews? You’ll find many more of them here on our website:

About Your Interviewer: Amy Solovay is a freelance writer with a background in textile design. She has been crocheting and crafting since childhood, and knitting since she was a teenager. Her work also appears at AmySolovay.com, ArtsWithCrafts.com and Crochet-Books.com. Amy sends out a free knitting and crochet newsletter so interested crafters can easily keep up with her new patterns and tutorials. If you’re already an Instagram user, Amy also invites you to follow her on Instagram.

This page was last updated on 9-5-2019.

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