Crochet Interview: Michelle of MJ’s Off The Hook Designs￼
Marly Bird blogger Kathryn Vercillo is also a columnist over at Happily Hooked digital magazine. There are four of us designers participating together in the Classic Cable Collection CAL, which launched last week. And guess what, over the years, Kathryn has done a crochet interview with each of us for that magazine. So, we wanted to share those with you.
Classic Cable Collection CAL Crochet Designer Interviews
Each week, the Classic Cable Collection CAL features a design from one of the four of us:
- See my crochet interview with Kathryn from 2020 here
- This week we’re featuring Briana K Designs and her Infinity crochet cable technique. See Kathryn’s interview with Briana about this technique here on Briana’s blog
- Last week the CAL featured MJ’s Off the Hook Designs. Below is Kathryn’s interview with her. This first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Happily Hooked Digital Magazine
- Next week the Classic Cable CAL features HanJan Crochet. And here on this blog we will have Kathryn’s interview with Hannah.
Crochet Interview: Meet Michelle of MJ’s Off The Hook Designs
Michelle Moore was a long-time scarf knitter when in 2012 her daughter joined a knit and crochet club at school, inspiring Michelle to start to learn how to crochet. She used a how-to CD and taught herself the basics. Then she was off and running. She started MJ’s Off The Hook Designs.
And even as a relatively new designer, she quickly began to draw attention for her unique work. She created some very popular whimsical blanket designs – like the crochet mermaid tail blanket and shark crochet blanket that actually landed her a spot on Tyra Banks FabLife TV show.
Since then, she’s continued growing her design work, her blog, and her YouTube channel while also founding a second business and co-founding a third. She’s here to tell us more about it in this crochet interview.
What inspired you to learn to crochet when your daughter joined the yarn club?
I’ve always had a love for making things. My nan taught me to knit at a young age, but I didn’t really pick it up until much later, and even then, I mostly just made scarves. However, I was drawn to yarn and the idea that I could make something with it. I didn’t know if I would be good at crochet, but I was willing to give it a try.
What made crochet stick better for you than knitting had?
My knitting skills are limited, so for me, the only similarities between the two crafts really are that they both use yarn. Crochet just came more naturally to me.
I also think that I could crochet much faster than I could knit, making crochet far more attractive to me. Being a busy mom with young children, I loved how quickly I could make them a hat. It’s definitely what hooked me. Speed and the ease of growing my skill level made crochet stick for me.
Does your daughter still crochet?
Yes, she does. She doesn’t have that much time for it, but when she does, she loves it. She made simple crochet ornaments for our tree last year, and really enjoyed it. She finds it so relaxing.
What is one of your favorite crochet memories?
Like most crocheters, I have many. Crochet has just brought me so much happiness over the years. However, I have to say that what comes to mind is the first hat I ever crocheted with a flower on it. It was actually one of my first projects. I made it for my youngest daughter Meghan. She was 18 months old at the time and received so many compliments on her hat. People were always shocked to learn that it was my first time making a crochet piece. It inspired me to make more things and that ultimately lead me to where I am today.
What a special memory! How would you say that crochet has changed from the time that you started until now?
It seems to have become more popular. Designs are becoming more available and more modern. There is a greater selection of blogs, YouTube videos and a variety of patterns to choose from. There are a lot more options to choose from than back when I first learned from that How-To-Crochet CD.
You’ve crocheted a lot of great designs over the years. What is one of your favorite things that you’ve ever crocheted and why?
My favourite design is my Hooded Owl Blanket. It’s my top-selling pattern and definitely one of my cutest. It went viral in 2017. But that’s not why it’s my favorite.
When my daughter was struggling in school, we made a tough decision to pull her out of high school and enroll her in a private cognitive school. I was worried about the tuition cost, but I knew it was the best decision for my daughter.
Immediately following that decision, the owl pattern went viral. Because of that, I was able to pay for her tuition. It was such an exciting time and a memory I’ll never forget. It ended up receiving 39 million views on my FB post. I still have a hard time believing it.
That is so wonderful. I believe that when we do what we are meant to be doing in life, things do work out the way that they are supposed to and this sounds like such a great example of that. So, you must have already been blogging by 2015. When and why did you decide to start your blog?
I decided to create a website and blog when I began pattern writing in 2015. At that time, my focus was primarily on publishing patterns, so I rarely posted on the blog itself. Over the last couple years, my blog has become a larger part of my business.
Since qualifying with Mediavine for ads on my blog, it has allowed me to publish free content while still earning an income. My blog compliments my YouTube channel well. All of my free patterns now include video tutorials that I post on YouTube with a link to my blog. Then for paid patterns, I have video courses available on my website.
I think that’s a great explanation of why crochet bloggers/ designers often have a similar setup. You want to offer content for free if you can, but you still need to make money, so you have an ad-based blog and YouTube for that. Then you also offer paid patterns, courses, etc. where maybe you can create higher-value content and offer stuff for those people that are willing to buy to support crochet designers.
What hopes or plans do you have for your crochet business in the next year or two?
My focus is to continue to grow my blog and YouTube channel by offering more free content with tutorials. My YouTube channel hit 100K subscribers this year, and I hope to reach 200K next year. Help her out: subscribe right here.
So, you started designing patterns in 2015. Can you tell us about those early days?
I was very reluctant to start selling my patterns. I began creating my own designs very quickly after learning to crochet. I was intimidated to share my work with others because I was self-taught and didn’t feel confident in my writing style. So, at first I would sell my finished items. After selling products for a couple of years, though, I began to get so many requests for my patterns, that I decided to take the leap and publish my work.
And it’s paid off! What’s your crochet design process like?
I generally play with yarn first and see if my idea takes shape. That involves swatching, sketching and just a little trial and error crocheting up my vision. For garments, I look at stitch patterns, swatch and then figure out the math for sizing before jumping in and working out the full design.
How would you describe your patterns?
My crochet patterns are unique and generally quick to make. I’m frequently told that my designs are easy to follow and also very classy.
Classy is a great word! In fact, a few years ago, Michelle really fell in love with luxury fibers. She launched a second business called Sentry Box Designs “with the goal of offering yarn-lovers a crochet pattern haven of fashionable garments best complimented by those luxury fibres; a way for makers to take a moment and splurge on themselves when they’re so used to creating for others.” Make sure to check that site out as well!
If someone is just starting to come to your blog, what do you hope they might take away from it?
I hope that crocheters are inspired to create new and exciting pieces. The video tutorials I provide help beginners tackle projects that they wouldn’t otherwise try.
If you could tell a beginner a few things about crochet, what would you share?
I would say to go for it!
The most important part is learning how to hold the yarn. Once you get that down, the hard part is over. Next is just practice and patience to get consistent tension. I would highly suggest watching YouTube tutorials.
Next, I would explain the importance of a gauge swatch before starting a pattern. If you have more stitches than the gauge states, then you need to go up in hook size. If you have fewer stitches, you need to go down in hook size. Gauge does matter, especially when making garments.
Finally, when substituting yarns, instead of just comparing the yarn weight, it’s critical to check the yarn thickness because different yarns still have variances even if they are the same weight. I use a straightforward equation. I take the yards on a ball and divide it by the grams. That is the number I compare when looking at yarn substitutes.
Those are such great tips! You obviously love crochet. What are some of your favorite qualities about the craft?
I love how many things you can make. I particularly love making Home Decor items, but I also love crochet garments and accessories. There’s always something I’m inspired to create. If I get bored with doing specific projects, I just take a break and spend some time on something different. I often just get inspired out of the blue to make something completely random. Then, those often end up becoming my most popular designs.
What are some of your favorite crochet techniques / stitches/ patterns?
I love the magic ring and seamless join techniques. Some of my favorite stitches are the herringbone double crochet and extended single crochet. I immensely enjoy creating cable crochet design patterns.
And that makes perfect sense since she’s one of the four designers in this crochet cable CAL!
Is there a technique or pattern in crochet that you have trouble with? How about one you don’t know yet that you would like to learn one day?
I would say the bullion stitch is challenging. And I’d love to learn how to try Solomon’s Knot stitch one day.
What other crafts / hobbies do you enjoy besides knitting and crochet?
I love decorating and making any crafts for my home, including wreaths, centrepieces, front porch displays etc.
Besides crafts, I love outdoor activities, including biking, running, skating and swimming. I’ll also hop on the toboggan with the kids anytime.
If you could invite five people to a craft people – living or dead, real or fictional – who would you invite and why?
The only people I would love to have craft with me are my grandmas. I didn’t even know how to crochet when they were alive. They would be so proud, and I would learn so much from them if they could be here. Three out of our four grandmas were proficient knitters and crocheters. One of my grandmas didn’t do either, but I’d still want to show her everything I’ve learned!
I think that would be the most wonderful party! Paying it forward, who are some of your favorite crochet designers / bloggers?
I’ve made a lot of great friends in the industry over the years. I highly admire Marly Bird, Sarah (Repeat Crafter Me), Toni (TL Yarn Crafts), and Brittany (BHooked).
Aw shucks 🙂
I’ve recently gone into business with three talented designers: Briana (Briana K Designs), Pam (Sincerely Pam) and Lorene (Cre8tion Crochet). We started Crochet Foundry magazine, a quarterly digital magazine featuring size-inclusive garments. Through this venture, I’m excited to work with many talented designers.
You have so many amazing things going on. You’re an inspiring woman, crafter, and community member. Before we wrap up, what else would you like us to know about you?
I’m a down to earth country girl. My husband and I own a farm in Douro, Ontario and have four amazing kids: three girls and one boy. All four of my kids love to model and help how they can with the business. My husband also pitches in with shipping orders, social media, blogging and pulling up the slack with house stuff. My father does my bookkeeping and will likely respond to all your download and tech support questions. I don’t know how I’d get it all done without their help and support.
Hopefully you’ve learned a lot about Michelle from this crochet interview. Connect with Michelle on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. And, of course, be sure to join her as part of the cable collection CAL!