Parsimony: I grew up with a grandmother, my meemaw, who is an amazing seamstress. Even now at almost 92 years old she’s still sewing strong. It wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s and a new wife that I decided…hmmmm. I want better curtains than I can afford. And the rest is history. I took a class and have never stopped sewing. I love it.
Allison Taylor’s story as a crafter begins in a familiar way: she first learned to crochet at her grandmother’s knee at the tender age of six.
Despite her grandmother’s considerable skill as a fiber artist, not to mention her infinite patience, crocheting didn’t quite stick with Allison that first time around. Six year olds aren’t famous for their attention spans, so it’s not really that surprising!
It wasn’t until much later when Allison was a college student that she picked up crochet hooks and some yarn again. Although she had never gotten into the knitting, crocheting, sewing, and other fiber arts that her grandmother had mastered, Allison had always admired her grandmother’s talent and skill with needles, yarn, and fabric.
When her grandmother became ill and was no longer physically able to craft, due to side effects of a stroke, Allison was inspired once again to take up the craft she had not been able to master as a little girl.
She made her grandmother a blanket, to show her how much she appreciated her, and how impressed she had always been with her fiber skills. Blankets are still Allison’s favorite thing to make, and friends and family can count on one for a gift whenever there’s a wedding or baby on the way.
Allison was “hooked” on crochet from then on, and turned her hobby into a side business with her Etsy shop that opened in 2008. Although she has a day job unrelated to crafting, it in no way diminishes her fierce love for making.
The best part for Allison is having strangers own something she made with her own hands: “It’s a way of sharing something tangible with people across long spaces, which is so rare,” she says. “It’s really exciting and touching, and I never get over it.”
She also feels a connection to her grandmother every time she picks up her crochet hook, another feeling many crafters can relate to. The emotional connection associated with creating and sharing handmade goods is probably one of the big reasons handmade is so popular these days.
The most popular item in Allison’s shop is the best friends beanie, which also happens to be her favorite thing to make for the shop! Customers also respond well to her continuum scarves and continuum collars, with their unusual shape.
Like most of her creations, Allison let the continuum scarf emerge on its own, without too much planning ahead from her. Her general technique is to pick up her crochet hook and yarn, and experiment with different stitches until something she loves emerges.
You can find Allison’s crocheted gems in her online shop. If you see something you like but are fixated on a certain color, don’t worry because Allison loves to do custom work!
For reasons I have yet to uncover, much of my childhood was not retained — at least not by me. I do not remember the games I played, the friends I had. I do not remember my favorite food, my first crush. I remember insignificant moments of notable events, but very few everyday nuances.
I remember exactly what the gas mask looked like as it approached my face when I had my tonsils taken out in, but nothing else about the second grade. I remember the sound my sister’s feet made when she stepped on the steel plate in our driveway at 3:30 in the afternoon on a hot, sunny summer afternoon; the plate that could have, at that moment, probably fried an egg. I do not however, remember a single other day spent playing in that driveway, though I know from the stories she tells they were plentiful.
In fact, the only small, every day occurrence I remember in detail is also the only every day occurrence I remember at all. Peculiarly, it’s the only memory I have that can at even the slightest hint of its components flood my senses with everything it is made of.
It’s that time of year…dark, cold…some of us are even in the middle of suffering through our Lenten sacrifices. But last week, I was lucky enough to visit a little jewelry studio in Woodbridge, Virginia where it is Mardi Gras every day! No amount of snow and ice could dampen the spirit of LaNorma Huggins-Hope, the designer and owner behind Signatures by LaNorma. Her jewelry line is all about one-of-a-kind pieces that are vibrant, exotic, and colorful.
Like so many professional artists and crafters, LaNorma has been creative her entire life, due in no small part to her grandmother, Maxine. Maxine was a professional seamstress, and was dubbed the “queen of all crafts” by family members. LaNorma still has vivid memories of the extravagant gowns and costumes Maxine made for Mardi Gras queens and pageant girls. While helping her grandmother with these over-the-top outfits, LaNorma’s love for bling was born.
Maxine is the inspiration behind LaNorma’s entire business, and the memories of those gorgeous and flashy gowns still influence her today. “The colors and festive atmosphere of Mardi Gras makes me happy,” she says, and LaNorma likes to make things that make her happy! She uses bright colors and bold styles in her jewelry designs to not only evoke the carnival ambiance, but to remind her of family fun. In LaNorma’s family, Mardi Gras isn’t just a party, it’s also a family reunion!
LaNorma’s jewelry is bright and colorful, and emphasizes sparkle and shine. Even if you’re not planning on going to party, you’ll definitely be ready for one wearing one of her creations. Her favorite materials to use are crystals of all colors and shapes, precious metals, and colored semi-precious stones, especially amethyst. LaNorma has found her crochet wire items are the most popular with her customers, which she finds particularly satisfying, since it is a technique that her grandmother favored as well.
In addition to her flagship Mardi Gras collection, LaNorma creates five other jewelry collections, each with their own central theme, including a bridal collection and one for gentlemen. LaNorma likes to create around a theme, like a certain color combination, or a certain material. But she doesn’t really like to follow trends, or plan too much for future collections. New materials and techniques are always catching her eye, and she is always up for experimentation. She has a work-in-progress centered around a shell found during a family beach vacation. She’s also experimenting with incorporating painted silk into her jewelry designs.
In addition to the mystery and magic of Mardi Gras, LaNorma is also inspired by vintage fashion, especially from the 1920s. She loves the fact that women in that era were always dressed up, and were always ready for a party. LaNorma specializes in making statement jewelry for special occasions, and is happy to do custom orders. A customer of hers required something special for the most recent Inaugural Ball, and commissioned a necklace from LaNorma made from a vintage art deco belt buckle.
Although LaNorma has been crafting her whole life and has tried many mediums and techniques, she always comes back to jewelry. The sparkle of crystal and the shine of pretty stones is irresistible to her – she just likes to make things that make her feel good! “It also feels good to give back,” she says. LaNorma makes a point to work with local charities and participate in fundraisers, especially those that aim to help women and girls.
You can find LaNorma’s jewelry on her web site, at local juried craft shows, and at a handful of boutiques in the Washington, DC area.
These felt cuffs and rings (yes rings!) are so detailed and intricate. The attention to detail is heartwarming.
bio: The word Waterrose is special to me and my creativity was influenced and inspired by my grandmother. My mother was an embroidery artisan and with patience and love she taught me many of the stitches that you see in my creations. My paternal grandmother was an extraordinary quilter and she spent time with me cutting pieces, sewing and then making a quilt. I was embraced in traditional arts growing up. I collect textiles, vintage and new, to make many of my creations.
With the loving knowledge given to me by these special women I create items that I hope bring joy to your life.