Crochet designer Donna Myles is a native of Greenbrier County West Virginia, where Appalachian Baby Design is headquartered. She laughingly recalls that both of her grandmothers attempted to teach her to crochet, but it was not until she was in her 20s that she really got the hang of it.
Today she enjoys all kinds of needlework. In addition to developing and testing patterns for ABD, she also is a gifted weaver. She owns 10 looms and sells her fun rag rugs, book marks, coasters and placemats at Tamarack, the juried showcase for West Virginia artisans in Beckley. She also knits, although she professes that she is not very good at it. She says she loves needlework because it’s relaxing and you have something to show for what you’ve done.
Ironically, it was not their shared interest in fiber art that brought Donna and ABD founder Diane Browning together, but rather their membership in Master Gardeners. At that time, Diane was running Appalachian By Design, a social enterprise that linked skilled hand-loomed knitters in rural areas and their quality clothing products to major markets. Donna trained as a knitter and became part of Diane’s network of home-based knitters.
Fiber art was not her day job, however. For many years Donna managed the Windy Knoll Nursery in Lewisburg and she continues to work there part-time. For someone who is supposedly “semi-retired,” she is one busy lady. In addition to developing and testing crochet patterns for ABD, she also comes into the studio a couple of days a week to assist in fulfilling orders.
In her “spare time,” Donna and her husband operate a mini-farm with high tunnels and a greenhouse where they grow fruits and vegetables to sell at the Farmer’s Market in Lewisburg on Saturdays. Fridays are spent picking for Saturday. The small scale of their operation suits her at this stage of her life. “I love to farm, but I’m too old for critters,” she says.
Donna brings a great eye to her role at ABD, where gets to indulge in her love of fiber and “play in the yarn.” She says of all her designs, the Wrapped in Grace Mother’s Wrap is her favorite, although she notes that little sweaters and hats are always fun. She also enjoys the collaborative process of testing and refining other designer’s patterns. “We always have ideas. Let’s try these colors together, maybe use a different stitch. How can we finish this?”
In addition to aesthetic appeal, there are other factors that she keeps in mind when evaluating patterns. “The patterns need to be easy enough not to be intimidating, but challenging enough to charge the batteries—there’s a fine line between the two,” she says. They also need to be functional and able to work up without too many problems.
As demanding as her multi-faceted life seems, Donna wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The worst thing you can do is make me sit!”