Hooking With: High Desert Yarn
Hooking With: High Desert Yarn
This week, we interviewed Joanna Robinson of High Desert Yarn. I have seen a lot of pretty Instagram pictures of hers and actually started following her before Sunflower Cottage Crochet was a “thing”. Read on!
My name is Joanna Robinson, the owner and designer at High Desert Yarn. My mom taught me to crochet as a teenager, but my love for crochet didn’t grow until 2013 when I made my first baby blanket for my first nephew. At the time, my husband and I were living in Everglades National Park, Florida with zero internet and extremely poor cell service. I drove 45 minutes to the nearest coffee shop to research patterns and yarn. Back at our travel trailer, if I had a problem with a stitch, I had to drive all the way back to civilization to research the internet.
After making this blanket, the idea of wrapping a new baby in a handmade item grabbed my heart, and I started to dream of building a business. My husband and I moved back to Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona and I started a little blog about my finished products, and sharing stories of living in a National Park. Within a few years I gathered enough courage to open an Etsy Shop.
High Desert Yarn officially launched in Fall 2017 with handmade blankets and home décor pieces. After two years of crocheting everyone else’s patterns, I decided to try my hand at designing. The Cliffrose Headband Crochet Pattern, my first published pattern, released early in 2019. Since its release, I’ve added more modern and fun crochet patterns for adventurous mamas and their wild babies.
Currently, my family and I live in Sulphur, OK. My husband still works for the National Park Service in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Our two kids, Owen (5) and Emma (1), keep us forever entertained. We spend our days gardening, woodworking, hiking, camping, reading, and running. As with crochet, I am always looking for the next beautiful pattern, or the next great adventure.
When did you start designing?
Do you have a blog? If so, when did you start that up?
Yes! I started it in Fall 2017, but made it an official website in January 2019 when I started designing crochet patterns.
What was your initial plan with your blog and designs?
I started my blog in 2017 as a space to share my crocheting process (how I physically made an item, and why I made a specific item), and showcase my handmade items through story telling. In 2019, I switched the focus of my blog to share free crochet patterns for women and children accessories.
How have your designs and designing process evolved?
When I first started designing, I’d think of an idea and stick with it. Now, I’m continually thinking of ideas, and I carefully consider what idea deserves my time. Also, I keep the user in mind with my more recent designs than trying to solve my own problems.
What designs do you specialize in?
Modern and fun accessories for women and children.
Do you have a favorite few stitches you like to use or do you always try to do new ones?
The more texture the better! I love trying new stitches, and using a handful of stitches in my designs. The Dandelion Beanie is the perfect blend of stitches for me. However, I keep coming back to the Berry Stitch.
When you come up with an idea, does it come first from yarn you have or do you find yarn to fit the idea?
It depends. I *try* to use up my stash with most designs, but sometimes you need a specific yarn for an idea. With the Crochet Blossom Wall Hanging pattern, I had a braid of Caron X Pantone sitting in my stash for a while. That’s when I wanted to design a pattern that would use EXACTLY one braid of Caron X Pantone. Voila! The Crochet Blossom Wall Hanging was born!
When did you start crocheting?
When I was 17 years old.
What made you decide to become a designer?
Honestly, I got pretty frustrated trying to find a super bulky winter hat that I could quickly work up for craft fairs. Every pattern I tried didn’t include a gauge, or modeled pictures, so every pattern turned out too big, or too slouchy. I started designing because I wanted free patterns to provide ALL the information, not just the bare minimum. I try to convey in my patterns everything you need to know, plus some helpful tips.
Are there any patterns not your own that you just love?
The Anna Lucia Shawl by Wilmade is my favorite pattern.
Who/what inspired you? Does this still inspire you? Why?
My Grandma has always been an inspiration for me. She’s delightful, spunky, and glamorous; and she’s the perfect mix of unique artist, and composed woman; she’s a painter and LOVES bright colors. I love how she puts all the colors of the rainbow together in her art. I want to create that same cohesive feeling in my designs, but with stitches. Her love of colors is also why I’m so drawn to nature as an inspiration, too. All those textures and colors out there! My hope is to bring those aspects to life in my designs.
Of your patterns, which is your favorite and why?
My favorite pattern is the Dandelion Beanie. I love that every row is unique and different. It’s designed with my daughter as the inspiration—always fun, joyful, and different. I wanted to create a hat that was just as bouncy and fun.
Are there any crochet techniques/stitches you wish to learn this year?
Colorwork—I’ve always been intrigued by the beautiful designs of intarsia crochet. I’d love to get better at this type of crochet.
What are your biggest crochet challenges and how do you plan on overcoming that?
It all comes back to time, like most of us. It’s hard to balance being a stay at home mom to two young kids, and working this business in the margins of my life. I often talk myself out of crocheting or working because my business is small, or I only have 15 minutes to stitch. This summer I’ve made a point to let nap time be flexible between sitting & resting, doing a chore, or crocheting. So far it’s helped me with the balance of it all, and I feel like I’m making healthy strides in all areas.
Have you ever lost your crojo and how did you overcome that?
Yes, several times! It usually happens when there’s a lot more added stress in my life from unforeseen events (here’s to you COVID), or hustling during craft fair season, or after a big deadline. The last time I lost my crojo was this spring due to social distancing.
The whole world seemed to change overnight and I couldn’t stick to the same schedule as per-COVID. I unintentionally took a whole month off from crocheting, and social media. At some point, I felt ready to pick up my hook again, but this time it was for a “Me” project—a very simple cardigan made with hand dyed yarn.
The biggest lesson I learned was to let my body and mind rest, to adjust to my family’s new normal, and let everything else be. Moving forward, I’m considering taking a sabbatical every year.
What three tips can you offer to anyone that crochets?
1 Gauge!!! ALWAYS create a gauge. Even if it’s not a garment pattern, or if the designer specifically states that “gauge isn’t important”. The worst, besides miscounting stitches, is finishing a project and realizing it’s the wrong size.
2 If you usually crochet while watching TV or listening to something, I want to challenge you to try to crochet in silence. Some of my best creative ideas emerge while I’m crocheting in quiet, or I’ll figure out a solution to a gnawing problem.
3 Keep crocheting fun. We’ve all had that project that feels more draining, and less enjoyable. Learn from those projects and figure out how to keep your craft a joy! Don’t be afraid to take a crochet break if it stops being fun.
Here’s the link to the free crochet pattern: Dandelion Beanie
We hope you enjoyed this segment of Hooking With! In case you missed it, last time we interviewed CristaCo. Read all about her, here.