[FORT WAYNE] Stephanie Dimitrov is a stealth crochet ninja.
She works by day at Women's Health Advantage in Fort Wayne, in the same office where my mom is a nurse. That's how I learned of the incredible skill that she hones by night--she makes hats for coworkers who want a baby shower gift or children's birthday present...or a turkey hat for the annual Turkey Trot 5k.
Stephanie works without a pattern, developing her own along the way. And when I approached her about making hats for Local Universe, she was totally game for working in a new medium: sustainably grown and harvested wool, in keeping with our product standards. Stephanie's creativity and talent are only rivaled by her humility. She's quiet, sweet and warm...and really funny, as you'll see below:
How did you learn to crochet? How long have you been crocheting?
My mom taught me the very basics of crochet when I was 7 or 8, but I was never really able to do anything with it. I would just make yards and yards of useless crochet chains, but it always fascinated me to watch her make blankets and such. When I was 19, my twin sister taught me how to do more than a basic chain stitch, and I've just gotten better and better since then. She's a lefty and I'm right-handed, so it was a little frustrating to try to follow what she was showing me. We worked out a system where she talked me through the stitch. As long as I didn't actually watch her make the stitch and only listened to her instructions, I was able to catch on. I'm 26 now, so I'd say I've been truly crocheting for about eight years.
What’s your inspiration for the things that you make?
A lot of coworkers and friends ask me if I can make this or make that. I usually tell them I can make just about anything if I have a picture or specific requests; it may not look exactly the same, but it'll be close. And sometimes I end up making something cute just because I can. If it happens to be a useful something cute, even better!
Why do you like to crochet?
I love having the ability to make something from almost nothing. Friends tell me all the time they're amazed that I can make hats and blankets and such--that they would have no idea where to start. That's the fun part to me: I get to watch this thing come together from the very start. And when it's all done, I feel as though I've accomplished something. Also, I find it to be very relaxing and soothing most of the time. Some parts and patterns can be frustrating, and I pretty much refuse to work with certain types of yarn or make certain items unless I have no other choice or someone I love asks me every so nicely. I mostly just like to keep my hands busy.
How long does it take you to make a hat, on average?
It really depends on what kind of hat I'm making. To throw together a basic, no-frills beanie hat, probably about an hour, 1 1/2 hours at the most. If I'm adding a face or embellishments to a hat, or if I have to do some fancy stitches, they can take three to four hours minimum, mostly because I'm horribly slow at sewing things onto hats. I've tried to use sewing pins to hold things in place as I sew, but it always messes me up. So I just do it by eye, and more often than not, I have to take things off and do it again because I put it too far to the left/right/top/bottom/etc. Also, I usually write my own patterns and make things up as I go. If I ever take the time to actually write down the pattern, I have to stop and do this as I crochet. This increases the time it takes to make the item, but if I do a good job, I can make my next one faster because I'll have a ready-to-go pattern.
Proceeds from the sale of Stephanie Dimitrov hats benefit SCAN, Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, in Fort Wayne.
Do you do other creative things? Write? Paint? Sing?
I like to do crafty things in general. I've refinished some furniture and done some decorative things around my house. Or I at least make plans to do things, but I'm pretty good at procrastinating and put it off way longer than I should. I love to be outside and garden...at the beginning of the season. The weeds usually win by the end of summer. And I like almost anything to do with animals. Taking care of my pets takes up quite a bit of my time. I would love to make my own yarn at some point, but my husband won't let me branch out into this right now, and I can't say I blame him. I have an alarming amount of yarn already.
What do you like best about Fort Wayne?
I love a lot of things about Fort Wayne. It's a perfectly sized city, not too big or too small. There's always something to do and places to go. I really love the River Greenway and how much the city has improved it in the last few years. I'm very excited to see some of the planned projects be completed in the coming years. We also have a great little zoo. It's a nice place to go and enjoy being outside while watching some amazing animals do their thing. I think it would be my dream job to work at the zoo, but I'd probably be stuck cleaning out stables all day, and I already clean enough litter boxes at home.