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Fashion Mon May 09 2011

Interview: The Double Stitch Twins

Thumbnail image for DSTWINS.jpg

Chicago's Erika and Monika Simmons, aka "Double Stitch Twins," take crochet to another level; with their contemporary take on a classic craft, these models, designers, authors and entrepreneurs prove that crochet fashion can be both funky and fun. Here, the winners of the Crochet Liberation Front's 2011 Flamie Award for "Best Crochet Designer for Accessories" discuss giving back to the community, Chicago fashion and which famous legendary singer they'd love to see wear their designs.

You learned to crochet when you were just 10 yrs old--how did that come about?

Erika: Our teacher taught us in an after school program in the fourth grade.

Typically, when people hear the word "crochet," visions of "grandma" appear--did you hear that a lot when you were first getting started?

Monika: People always asked us if our mom or grandma taught us how to crochet. Actually, no one in our family that we know of can crochet.

You started out by making holiday gifts for family and friends--when did you know you could take the craft to a different level?

Erika: Immediately. Because we had no real background, the stuff we were making just wasn't conventional and had nothing to do with the preconceived idea people had about crocheting--people [usually] thought of Afghans, baby booties and doilies, which we did none of. Our stuff was kind of funky--we knew were different than the typical crocheter.

What is your creative process like? Does one or both of you do the actual crocheting and/or designing?

Monika: We both are extremely strong in crochet and design. One of our favorite stores is Anthropologie, which always has these beautiful items that have a special touch which is very inspirational to us, because we think we also have a special touch in our designs. But we don't sketch or anything--we may think of something we like or see a shape or something and try to duplicate it.

When you are designing, do you ever clash on ideas?

Erika: Actually it's more of a positive thing than anything; there have been times where I've made something or Monika has made something and we'll say to each other, "Well, you can do this with it," and then we'll come up with more innovative ideas for each other's pieces. Sometimes we might clash, but it doesn't happen very often.

DSCIRCLEMOTIFHALTERHAT.jpg

Chicago's own Jennifer Hudson and Common, along with singer Patti LaBelle, are fans of your work. Tell us about your experience with them.

Erika: We started with Common by doing work for his Common Ground Foundation but before that, we were models in his "I Used to Love H.E.R." music video. Because of our connection with him, he was cool with us making hats for him. We never met Patti LaBelle, but we had an opportunity to work with her twice when she requested something from us that she saw someone else wearing. As far as Jennifer, she came to our apartment to look for something to wear for a photo shoot. We don't always get the opportunity to meet the people we do things for, so that was really cool.

Do you have a "dream celebrity" in mind you'd love to see in one of your designs?

Monika: Diana Ross! That would be unbelievable! One of my favorite movies is Mahogany because of all the fabulous things she wore. I think of her when I dress myself in certain items and I wonder, "How would Diana Ross wear it?" If I could make something for her, I really could just die after that!

In terms of fashion and trendsetting, where do you think Chicago ranks? I've always heard we're somewhere in the middle; i.e., slower than New York but faster than Los Angeles.

Erika: If we're considered "conservative" or "commercial" and New York is considered "artsy," then we typically wouldn't step out and do things like use lots of color. I think we are different, but I don't like to use the term "fast" or "slow" because it sounds like we're behind.

Monika: But we did get "Are you from New York?" a lot when we first started out and we didn't really know what that meant; at that time, we had only visited New York once and we weren't even designers [yet].

So it's as though they don't think Chicago has any "flavor."

Monika: Exactly. It gets insulting sometimes.
DSMONIKA.jpg

Tell us about your relationship with the yarn company, Red Heart.

Erika: Red Heart had a vision that was exactly the one we had for ourselves: We've always been models and have always envisioned ourselves as spokesmodels. The relationship is very important to us because it provides us with a larger outlet to do what we love and share it with others and to also inspire present and future crocheters. It's really been a great marriage for us.

You're very involved with youth in the community, having worked with After School Matters and other organizations--what kinds of responses do you get from the kids? Do they express an interest in crochet or fashion in general?

Monika: We speak to a lot of kids interested in fashion design but we also speak to them about entrepreneurship. We always tell them to think about their future and do something they really love to do. We don't expect them all to want to be crochet designers, so we push entrepreneurship.

You have also written books about crocheting--tell us about those.

Erika: Our book Fashion Forward with Red Heart Yarn was just released--it's a booklet that will be in over 1,000 Michael's stores and is also Red Heart Yarn's introduction of us to the craft world. Unlike our first book, Double Stitch: Designs for the Crochet Fashionista, this one is different because we're the models this time. There are 10 designs altogether and some are very simple, which is actually perfect for crochet groups or beginners.

Are there plans for more books?

Erika: We are working on a third book that will incorporate a DVD that will have our take on color, tips for design, and things like that.

You create everything from jackets to hats to wedding dresses--is there anything left on your design "to-do" list?

Monika: Yes. We want to get into home d├ęcor--making a beautiful space and making things look contemporary.

What's next for Double Stitch?

Erika: We're looking at doing a reality series, so we'll keep you posted on that!

Photos courtesy of Chelcie S. Porter.

 
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CrochetBlogger / May 9, 2011 8:11 PM

Cool interview with a pair of really cool, multi-talented inspirational women!

Crystal / May 12, 2011 3:43 PM

Loved this interview. I crochet on occassion, and would love to learn how to crochet like the "Double Stitch Twins." Will look for their booklet at Michael's.

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Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
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Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

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