In 2009 I began seeking to publish some of my crochet designs with national crochet magazines. In the process I had the pleasure of interracting, via e-mail with Michele Maks who was then the editor of Crochet World Magazine. I knew Michele was different right away. She responded to me quickly and cheerfully, and the fact that she was interested in some of my designs was a super big blessing to this rookie designer! Her encouragement was a significant factor in helping me not to give up on pursuing publication. Last fall I had the pleasure to meet with Michele face to face at the CGOA conference in Charlotte, NC and learn about her newest venture called "Mainly Crochet". There is a lot more to Michele than her crochet hook and excellent business skills. I hope you are inspired by meeting her though this interview!
Bonnie Bay Crochet (BBC): What exactly is “Mainly Crochet”?
Michele Maks (MM): mainly crochet is a crochet pattern subscription service, sort of like an online magazine , but with noticeable differences from other magazines. There are no ads, there are no space constraints, and our designers have been encouraged to do what they do best, with fewer than usual editorial directions. I believe the best designs come when a designer can listen to his or her own guidance. There is generally a discussion, not an editorial edict, and this has produced a stunning array of crochet goodness.
BBC: So there are no space constraints? What does this mean for the crocheter when it comes to reading your patterns?
MM: This means that from page to page, we won’t refer you to a repeat on a previous page, we’ll write it out for you again. We won’t send you to a “continued on page XX”, it’s all there consecutively for you. It also means that we can use as many photos and as many words as we think are necessary to adequately get the pattern across to you. Our only criteria for the amount of space we use is that the pattern is done the way we think it should be done.
BBC: What made you decide to start your own on-line crochet magazine?
MM: When I was still editor at Crochet World, I was diagnosed with MS. Staying on at that job become impossible. I spent a few years recovering after I left, but I knew that I wasn’t “done”. A long history of freelance work, and then editing, had given me ideas about how I would do things if I were in charge. Moving back to Maine and rather extreme lifestyle changes took me from needing a walker to get around to being quite mobile on my own steam again. Being my own boss and setting my own schedule gives me the ability to do what needs to get done in a way that is conducive to my own well being, as well as serving our designers and subscribers in the way that I think they should be. So far, so good! After 25+ years in this business, I have to say this is the most satisfying thing I have ever done.
BBC: That is a very serious life challenge. Is this something that is recurring, goes into remission, or is it progressive? In other words, what is your prognosis?
MM: I was diagnosed with primary progressive MS, the kind that is supposed to permanently end up with me in bed. My neurologist joked- “Don’t plan on taking a walking tour of Europe next summer”. I did, in fact, go downhill at first very quickly, at a much older age than most MS patients. There’s nothing quite like having my doctor say- “You’re too old for this!” Indeed! Fortunately, I’m rather stubborn (who me?!) and refused to accept this eventuality. I have made rather extreme dietary changes(compared to American norms) and attitude changes that have given me more and more good days, and most days I don’t even need my cane. I’ve even made it to the top of Morse Mountain! The blessing that my MS has given me is that I now know the consequences of not paying strict attention to my diet and stress levels. Some behaviors just aren’t worth the consequences to me!
BBC: Why crochet and not some other fiber craft?
MM: I am totally addicted to crochet! Though it is my “second language” (I started as a knitter), it is the language I speak most fluently now. My years in the business have allowed me to become friendly with incredible design talents and I am fortunate to get to work with many of them at mainly crochet.
BBC: I’m sure many of my readers can relate to your addiction. I know I certainly can! Who taught you (or how did you learn) to crochet?
MM: Necessity is the mother of invention- it was also the mother of Michele’s learning how to crochet! In 1985, I submitted a knit hat to a magazine and was asked if I could do it in crochet. A quick trip to the library and lots of stitches later and I was very glad that I had answered “Sure!”
BBC: What are your personal favorite projects to make? (Yes, you must pick at least one or two!)
MM: I absolutely LOVED doing the baby blankets for the It’s Christmas, Baby! Pattern. So much so, that I couldn’t make just one! I have a great appreciation for “easy” and “simple”, because then it’s about the flow of yarn past the hook, a completely relaxing and satisfying experience.
BBC: These look like wonder beginner projects that would be a great encouragement to a new crocheter. If you could talk to seasoned crocheters everywhere, what is the first thing you would like to talk to them about? What would you like to tell new crocheters?
MM: I would tell seasoned crocheters that what they do is important. The act of creation is holy. I would tell new crocheters the same thing, but also stress that practice is what gets perfection. That said, perfection is not necessary to enjoy the craft, and being too rigid about it should be avoided. Play! Play with your crochet! Play is good!
BBC: Very well said. I couldn’t agree with you more! How can we get a subscription to Mainly Crochet?
MM: A year’s subscription is $24/year and is easily available at www.mainlycrochet.com. A subscription gets you the entire collection of patterns so far (188 as I’m writing this) and the next year’s patterns as well. We don’t put out “issues”, we stream the patterns as they are produced. For less than a monthly trip to Starbucks, you’ll have pretty much all the crochet you could dream of!
BBC: Just to clarify, this means that all these patterns are available on any of my devices and I don’t have to worry about misplacing my one copy of a print magazine???
MM: As long as you have internet access, yes. Downloading the patterns to your computer or device will allow you to access even without internet. More and more people are finding that since they are carrying their devices around anyway, it’s a very convenient way to tote a pattern. And just think of all the space that can be devoted to YARN instead of books or magazines! Hug a tree and crochet!