OK, I’ll admit it…I love buying crochet hooks. Recently I purchased an absolutely goregous hook made by Katherine Kowalski that is a dream to use! I asked if she would be willing to share a little information about herself and her amazing hooks and she was happy to. I hope you enjoy learning about her!
ALVB: When did you start to make fiber arts tools?
KK: I started making fiber arts tools in 2007 after I bought my first lathe. (I’ve been doing fiber arts for 25+ years, so I have a unique perspective on creating crochet hooks, knitting needles, etc.). In fact, when I was doing fiber arts more prolifically, I used to buy wooden crochet hooks, and some of the makers out there *clearly* had no concept of the functionality of a crochet hook: how it should be held, how the yarn runs through, comfortability, etc. So when I started making hooks, I wanted them to be made from a fiber artist’s perspective…. and beautiful as well!
ALVB: What drew you to woodworking in the first place?
KK: I was drawn to woodworking with a box… a puzzle box. I’d bought it in Charleston, SC on vacation when I was about 13. I wanted to make more sooooo very badly, but my father wouldn’t buy us a scroll saw. So, when I was 27, the idea resurfaced, but now as an adult I had my own money… and was able to spend it as I saw fit! (I bought the scroll saw). Anyway, on a jaunt to a specialty wood store I saw this marvelous looking machine. I was instantly drawn to it… it whispered sweet nothings in my ear and said “I must come home with you!”
Well, that mysterious machine was a lathe, and it must have been some special power in the universe that brought me to it, because I find that woodturning is a craft that gives me ultimate satisfaction. I now have *three* lathes, plus a host of other woodworking equipment, where, two and a half years ago I thought that “woodworking” was putting a nail in the wall to hang a picture. Now, as a professional craftsman, I *definitely* appreciate the skill and practice and design that goes into creating refined pieces from a seemingly rough and rigid material.
ALVB: What are your favorite materials to use?
KK: I love working with exotic woods: my very favorites are the True Rosewoods, (Dalbergia genus), Olivewood, Pink Ivory, Holly, and Ivorywood. The Rosewoods and Olivewood have a rather “oily” texture, and are super fine-grained. These make for excellent tiny hooks, (down to a size D 3.25mm), because they are incredibly strong yet are able to flex ever so slightly to handle the stresses of being made into an itty-bitty crochet hook… and they feel soooooooo wonderful in the hand! Holly and Ivorywood are fantastic for making finials for fine art boxes, which I love to create as well. Each of the woods is an absolute *pleasure* to work with! The shavings/chips fly off with angelic grace!
I also like working with the dyed and laminated hardwoods because they’re so very colorful. (In fact, I special-ordered several of my own color combinations that appealed to me more than the standards. (The factory has no less than FIVE different “camo” colorways! What are we color-lovers to do?!) Anyway, I created a rainbow colorway, and others that incorporate more purples, pinks, greens, and blues.
I also have definite proclivities for working with Turquoise, Malachite, Chrysocolla, Mother of Pearl and other stones/materials with which I create inlays. They add something very special to a “plain wood” hook! Of course the ultimate material is a diamond… I’ve inset diamonds (set in 14k gold) into several of my pieces from my Ornate Hooks collection. (I also like to use any number of other “sparklies” — Mexican Fire Opal, Chrome Diopside, Garnet, Amethyst, Peridot, etc.)
ALVB: What would you recommend to someone looking to purchase a hook from you for the first time? What should they look at?
KK: When someone buys a hook they should look at their own comfort first. That’s the way I would buy a hook Thus I try to make them as comfortable as possible. When I crochet, I use the “knife” hold, so I like my crochet hooks longer. (The metal ones from the store bite into my palm and are quite painful to use). My hooks, which are around 8″ long, are perfect for knife-holders. I also make a Pacifica series of hooks which are shorter, geared toward people who prefer short hooks, or like to use the “pencil” hold.
I also carve “yarn grooves” into the head of the hook to make crocheting faster and easier. My hooks are smooth as glass, so the yarn slips through almost effortlessly.
After essentials like comfortability are taken care of, choose a hook that “speaks” to you. Many of my clients like brilliant colors, or love the natural grain of the wood. I also use acrylic materials which have sparkly swirls of color rippling through! Jingly rings attract a lot attention — they’re marvelous free-spinning captive rings that are turned in place. This is the perfect hook to “twiddle” if you’re bored!
Above all, choose a hook that’s well made. Mine are made to be heirloom quality — they will last generations. For my multi-wood hooks, I use proper joinery techniques, such as are used in the furniture making industry. My crochet hooks with inlays or gemstones are fastened with epoxies that are the highest-quality on the market today and are designed to last into the future. I do take a great deal of care making my fiber arts tools, and even though these steps take much more time, it’s worth it to me to know that one day, a client’s great-granddaughter might be using my crochet hook.
ALVB: What new design ideas do you have on the horizon?
KK: Ahhh! Now time for me to spill the secrets! LOL! I’m just kidding. In woodturning, we have no secrets — it’s a very sharing community. In fact, that’s where my new ideas come from. My most recent series of Ornate Crochet Hooks came from attending the Utah Woodturning Symposium this year and seeing various artists’ work. My mentor, world-renowned woodturning artist Cindy Drozda, also gave me the idea of inlaying precious gemstones. After I came back from that whirlwind trip, my mind was buzzing with ideas, and I decided to 1. turn a crochet hook, 2. carve a design into the top of the hook, 3. paint it with metallic paints, adding layer upon layer, then 4. inset a semi- or precious gemstone in sterling silver or 14k gold. The result was a stunning new creation… I’d taken the crochet hook to a new level approaching artwork, and these pieces have been well-received in the community.
Of course, there are definite design limitations when you require the hook to be absolutely functional: the carving cannot go below a certain point, or it would interfere with comfortability, etc. To go beyond those restrictions, I’ve made a series of Art Hooks — only a couple so far, and one for a dear friend of mine… who doesn’t even crochet! I’ve recently attended the AAW National Symposium as well as the Rocky Mountain Woodturning Symposium, and have even more new design thoughts in mind. I guess the answer to the question is… I have new ideas all the time and put them into creation as soon as I can! Long-time clients will have noticed changes in my designs over the years, more as an evolutionary process, rather than a *bang* one. For a definitive answer — I’m planning on making more Art Hooks, as well as new designs within the Ornate Hook series. I absolutely LOVE trying new things!