Sharon Silverman Discusses Tunisian Crochet, Books and More

Have y’all “met” Sharon Silverman yet, either online or in person? I’m sure many of you have; she’s well-known among crochet enthusiasts for the numerous books and patterns she’s written, some of which focus on various aspects of the popular and trendy Tunisian crochet technique.

Sharon Silverman, Author, Crochet Pattern Designer and Tunisian Crochet Enthusiast
Sharon Silverman, Author, Crochet Pattern Designer and Tunisian Crochet Enthusiast

If you have already met Sharon, I’m sure you’ll be interested in catching up with her and seeing pics of some of her latest Tunisian crochet designs. If you haven’t, this is a great chance to discover her work, learn a bit about her books, and even pick up a few tips that she has shared — which will hopefully make it easier for you if you are interested in either learning Tunisian crochet, or advancing your Tunisian crochet skills.

What follows is an email interview with Sharon; I emailed her the questions you see written in boldface type below. Sharon’s answers follow each question; I’ve formatted them in italics in hopes that you’ll be able to distinguish where the questions end and the answers begin.

Sharon, congrats on your crochet pattern book, Tunisian Shawls. Please tell us a little bit about it; we’d love to know more about the projects that are included.

Thank you! Tunisian Shawls, published by Leisure Arts, has patterns for eight shawls in a variety of yarn weights, colors, and styles. Each one uses a different Tunisian crochet technique or stitch pattern.

Tunisian Shawls, a Crochet Pattern Book by Sharon Silverman. This Book Is Published by Leisure Arts.
Tunisian Shawls, a Crochet Pattern Book by Sharon Silverman. This Book Is Published by Leisure Arts.

“Expanding Vees” has Tunisian simple stitch and Tunisian knit stitch stripes.

“Cables and Heart” incorporates Tunisian cables and a textured heart shape.

“Autumn Embrace” is chunky and warm, with variegated yarn and integral fringe.

The Autumn Embrace Shawl by Sharon Silverman
The Autumn Embrace Shawl by Sharon Silverman

In “Hot Pink Lace” I used cotton bamboo yarn and an openwork pattern perfect for summer.

The Hot Pink Lace Shawl, Designed by Sharon Silverman
The Hot Pink Lace Shawl, Designed by Sharon Silverman

“Silver Shimmer” is an elegant piece in a scalloped wing shape.

Silver Shimmer, a Tunisian Crochet Shawl Worked in a Chevron Stitch Pattern. Sharon Silverman Designed This Pattern.
Silver Shimmer, a Tunisian Crochet Shawl Worked in a Chevron Stitch Pattern. Sharon Silverman Designed This Pattern.

I used short rows in a poncho style for “Popover Wedges.”

The casual “Red Hot Wrap” alternates Tunisian honeycomb with openwork and is finished off with big tassels.

Stranded colorwork puts geometric design front and center in the “Fair Isle Winter Capelet.”

The Fair Isle Winter Capelet, a Tunisian Crochet Shawl Pattern Designed by Sharon Silverman
The Fair Isle Winter Capelet, a Tunisian Crochet Shawl Pattern Designed by Sharon Silverman

Who should buy this book? Is it suitable for beginning crocheters? Experts?

Someone who has never done Tunisian crochet would probably benefit from some practice on basic stitches before working on a shawl, but anyone who is comfortable with those stitches should be successful with the patterns in Tunisian Shawls. (Along with the written instructions, Leisure Arts provides supplemental videos.) People with experience who are looking for something new in Tunisian crochet will find that the cables, Fair Isle, chevrons, and short row techniques hold their interest.

I’m sure you’ve learned a significant amount from researching, designing, crocheting and writing the patterns for your latest book. What’s one main takeaway that stands out in your mind now that the book is finished?

I’m struck by how much of a team effort it is to get a book to publication. Editors, stylists, models, photographers, administrative staff, marketing folks…the designer/pattern-writer is just one part of it.

Tunisian Crochet for Baby Book by Sharon Hernes Silverman
Tunisian Crochet for Baby Book by Sharon Hernes Silverman

Let’s talk about your previous book, Tunisian Crochet for Baby. If you could sum up everything about this book in a single sentence, what would you tell us about it?

“You’ll say `Aww!’ and reach for your hook immediately when you see these twenty-three adorable Tunisian crochet patterns for babies!”

Sharon, you’ve written at least two different books featuring Tunisian crochet baby patterns. What differentiates these books from each other? Why would crafters want to own both of them?

Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets, published by Leisure Arts, is a blankets-only publication. It’s ideal for someone who wants to make a one-size-fits-all gift, or prefers to make something for the nursery rather than a garment. The designs include bobbles, stranded colorwork, and cables. All of the yarn specified in those 8 patterns can be found in big-box craft stores. Leisure Arts provides technique videos to go with the patterns.

Tunisian Crochet for Baby, published by Stackpole Books, has 23 patterns. These include three blankets, and also hats, sweaters, a skirt, pants, a headband, washcloths, a christening set, and more–a lot of variety and a wide range of skill levels. Some of the yarn is available in craft stores, and some is more easily found in specialty yarn shops. There are symbol charts and technique photos with each pattern, and “refresher” information about crochet and Tunisian crochet in the back of the book.

What do you find most appealing about Tunisian crochet?

I love the variety of fabrics you can create in Tunisian! I’m not a big fan of rows and rows of double crochet—I find that look too loopy and not very appealing—and Tunisian crochet has none of that loopy look since the stitches are connected horizontally as well as row-to-row. I’m a mediocre knitter, so being able to make things that look knitted or woven but use the same hand motions as crocheting (and no pointy sticks!) really expands my design possibilities. Plus, it’s fast and fun!

Do you have favorite Tunisian crochet hooks that you would recommend to others who are just getting started with Tunisian crochet?

ChiaoGoo bamboo hooks have exactly the right pointiness for me. The plastic extensions are attached quite sturdily; I’ve been using my set for years and haven’t had anything break off. I also like the Denise Interchangeables.

Let’s talk a little about dealing with one of the challenges that someone might face if they’re just getting started with Tunisian crochet. One challenge I experienced when I was new to this technique: keeping an even tension. Did you find that aspect challenging as well? If so, have you overcome the challenge? Do you have any tips that could help others with this?

I didn’t have any problem with tension, but I’m sure you’re not the only one who has. Like in regular crochet, most of the action takes place in the yarn hand, not the hook hand. Controlling the flow of yarn over your fingers onto the hook is what’s responsible for the tension. Anyone just starting out should begin with a K hook or larger, and smooth worsted weight yarn. Practice with that until you get the yarn flowing smoothly.

Most people complain about the first few rows curling up. This is especially pronounced with Tunisian simple stitch. Starting a project with a row of Tunisian purl stitches helps solve that issue, but Tunisian purl stitch is a little more advanced. If the project allows, you can start with a row or two of single crochet or half-double crochet; just make sure you have the right side of the piece where you want it, and add additional chains to provide the right number of stitches when you start the Tunisian part. Crocheting a border around the piece and steam blocking it will also help relax the curl.

You’re a prolific author, aren’t you Sharon? How many books have you written so far? Can you please tell us a little about your other crochet books?

As of now I have had 17 books published, with two more already in production. I’m also the author of several hundred newspaper and magazine articles, mostly travel features. My crochet titles started with Basic Crocheting from Stackpole Books. Since then we’ve added a Beyond Basic volume, and I have also done books on Tunisian crochet, pillows, scarves, and the recent baby book for Stackpole. I enjoy writing those longer books, and interspersing them with the shorter leaflets for Leisure Arts.

What’s your greatest crochet accomplishment so far?

Finding a way to do what I love as my job. My sons are now 21 and 19; being freelance rather than having a “regular” job as they were growing up freed me to spend my work and family time in the way that worked best for us.

What are your top 3 favorite crochet or needlework reference books? Why are they your favorites?

The Crochet Stitch Bible; The Ultimate Sourcebook of Knitting and Crochet Stitches; and a Japanese stitch dictionary. It’s inspiring to browse through those with a list of design ideas and see what combinations would be good to try.

What’s on your hook right now? And in general, what do you have planned next?

I’m using up some stash yarn in variegated blue tones to make a “Lilytopia” shawl, one of the designs from my private line of patterns.

As for what’s coming up for me this year, I did my first crochet art installation in 2014, at the Delaware Museum of Natural History. Hoping to do more of those. Two books, one each from Leisure Arts and Stackpole Books, are scheduled to be published this year, and I’m waiting to hear about several other book proposals. I’ll continue to write the “Antiques” and “Shop!” columns for The Hunt Magazine, a quarterly lifestyle publication based in the Brandywine Valley. I’m also working with a clothing designer who wants to incorporate Tunisian fabric into his garments. And who knows, maybe a new adventure awaits me!

Amy says, “Sounds great, Sharon! Please do keep us posted on your future activities. We’re looking forward to seeing what will come next.

Quick Links to the Resources Mentioned in This Interview:

Want further information about any of the books, hooks and resources mentioned in this interview? Here are some links for your convenience.

We Invite Your Comments!

If y’all have any tips, insights or questions to add to the discussion, the floor is open for comments. However, please be aware that at times I might have comment moderation turned on, and so it could take your comments some time to be read, approved and replied to. Thanks in advance to anyone who participates in the discussion. Please know that we really appreciate your interest, and your presence here.

This page was last updated on 10-5-2018.

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