The book includes 10 animals, and each animal has an accompanying project for a little one: either a blankie, hat or bib. Most of the projects in the book are suitable for beginner crocheters, and are designed to be unisex (I’ve noticed a lot of my yarn-store customers fretting about what to make for a baby whose gender isn’t yet known. Problem solved!)."
From the moment I saw Stacey's Amigurumi I fell in love with their personalities, this is why I added her line to my website, and I was always curious how she captured each animal's spirit. So I was excited when she agreed to do this interview with me.
1. Your Amigurumi designs are so whimsical and unique, what led you to designing them in the first place?
Aww, thanks! I started designing them because I was having a ‘quarter-life crisis’, as I like to call it. I finished school, and didn’t want to continue with that line of work… so I needed something to do! I’ve always loved crocheting, so I crocheted a koala and a lion as experiments. In retrospect, I have no idea how the idea came to me, but the samples were cute, and I decided to plunge in!
2. Where are you, or what are you doing most often, when you get inspired for a new design?
I love visiting the zoo and the Natural History Museum for animal inspiration… there are just so many animals! But really, I rarely come up with a design when I’m out looking at animals. I mean, I’ll sketch an animal, but how to convert it into a crochet pattern doesn’t hit me right then. Usually the design comes to me while I’m sitting on my sofa crocheting… I’ll be making an animal, and an idea for a new one just comes to me! I think my brain does a lot of processing without me noticing…
3. Your ability to capture an animal's personality and give it character is charming, did you always love animals or have plans to work with them at some point? (I guess what I'm trying to ask is why animals, have you always loved them?)
Of course, I love animals… I had dogs growing up (my favorite was a big, huggable Rottweiler named Mercedes), and I fostered dogs for a rescue group for a while. Even now that I’m pet-less, I ‘borrow’ my friend’s dog every Thursday, just to have some doggie-time.
What I love about crocheting animals is how creative it is. A cartoon/stuffed animal doesn’t always look like a perfect representation of the actual animal, but we all know what it is supposed to be, anyway. So, you can make a dog with a big nose, or extra-floppy ears, and someone will still look at it and say, ‘oh, it’s a dog!’. I appreciate taking my liberties with how the animals look!
4. What is your creative process when working on a new Amigurumi design, do you doodle, sketch, pick up your hook right away etc?
I go through phases. Designing amigurumi is only part of what I do as a designer (I also design other crocheted items as well as knit patterns), so I’ll have a couple weeks where I just crank out the amigurumi, and then a few weeks where I do other things.
I keep a running list of animals that I want to make. When it’s ‘amigurumi time’, I take a look at the list and pick out some that I feel like making. For example, recently, I went through a phase of making animals whose heads were constructed as part of the same piece as the body (instead of separate). I made a walrus, a snail, a lobster and a crab. That works well for me, because it allows me to really play with certain kinds of shapes and experiment.
Once I’ve selected the animals that I want to make, I look a lot of pictures of the animal- both real pictures and clip-art sketches. Then, I make a mental note of what features are prominent on the animal. Like I said, there is always creativity when making an animal, but there are also ‘musts’. For example, when making my crab, I knew that he needed pinchy claws. After I determine the features that I want, I sketch, then start crocheting. I take notes on the pattern as I crochet, and type the pattern up when I’m done.
5. Who taught you to crochet and how long have you been doing it?
My mom taught me to crochet when I was little… and I guess I’ve been doing it for 21 years! (wow, that’s a long time!). I hit a real ‘crochet fever’ in my early teenage years… I used to spend all summer crocheting things to enter in the county fair. My crocheting tapered off a bit through college… but now it’s back!
6. What is your favorite crochet technique?
For amigurumi, single crocheting through the back loop is my signature. I like the look that it gives to the fabric, and the stuffing isn’t easily seen through once the animal is stuffed. I recently realized why I crochet through the back loop... my mom makes this one afghan where you crochet through the back loop in order to create a certain texture. I learned to crochet from her while she was making the afghans… and I guess I thought that’s how you were supposed to crochet all of the time! So, since I’ve been doing it that way for so long, it’s what’s most comfortable for me.
7. Are there any special techniques used in your new book?
One special technique is what I call the ‘sloppy slip knot’. When you make amigurumi, the standard slip knot leaves a little hole in the center of your work, which allows stuffing to poke out. Using the sloppy slip knot allows you to start without that hole in the center.
I know there are lots of tricks (like magic ring) out there for starting amigurumi without a hole, I think that my technique is fairly easy… and becomes a habit after not too long.
8. Do you have a favorite yarn to work with? What is your favorite brand of crochet hook?
I use Ella Rae Classic and Plymouth Galway for my animals. They are both nice 100% wools, which are easy to work with (not too splitty), hold their shape well, and the yarns come in a wide range of colors. The colors available are really important to me… a lot of yarn lines have a restricted number of colors. There are some lovely materials out there, but sometimes a certain line will only be released in 10 or so colors… and that doesn’t provide a whole lot of animal options!
Hands down, my favorite hook is Susan Bates. I only use ‘in line’ hooks, where the shaft doesn’t narrow too much before the head. That factor alone knocks out a lot of brands. I also like to have a little bit of wiggle room in the hook area, so I don’t like a hook area that is too small (so that the yarn slips out). Since I crochet so much, I want to start trying some hooks that have ergonomic handles… that’s on my to-do list!
9. Any plans for a second book?
Oh, I hope so! I have lots of ideas for more animals, more kiddie items, and I’m pretty passionate about Earth-friendly yarns. So, I’m cooking up a couple of book ideas. Writing a book depends not only on your ideas, but also on how the market is going, and what the publishing company thinks will be popular… so fingers crossed!
To see the full line of Stacey's crochet patterns visit her website Freshstitches.com or my site, Sandrasingh.com. Stacey is an expert in the art of crochet and wants other fiber artists to be successful at it too, if you've been wanting to learn how to crochet or expend you skills she offers a variety of Crochet Video Tutorials. To keep up with Stacey's designing visit her blog, Stacey Trock's Fresh Stitching. And this is the link to purchase a copy of Cuddly Crochet!
To enter the Giveaway for an autographed copy of her new book Cuddly Crochet leave a comment under this blog post with your contact information and to gain an additional entry follow me on Twitter, I'm Sandrasinghcom and Tweet "I entered Freshstitches Cuddly Crochet book giveaway on Knittingwithsandrasingh.blogspot. Your should enter too."
Winner will be announced Friday April 16th.