I am back with another interview with another great amigurumi designer. Missed the other interviews? Make sure you read about the designers Mevlinn, Melissa, and Alyssa. All of them are also taking part in the 2016 Ami-Along, which runs until the end of August.
Me: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Justyna: My name’s Justyna and I live in Poland where I divide my time between my family (husband and two little boys) being a designer and working in my craft store. I love crafts with all my heart and I’m always ready to try something new, although I suspect knitting and crocheting will always stay my favorite pastimes. I’m a chatterbox and talk a lot, but I tried to keep the answers short for easier reading 😉
Me: When did you start designing amigurumi and why?
Justyna: It was in 2011 when I wanted to open an Etsy store selling crocheted toys and didn’t want to use somebody else’s patterns. Designing turned out to be so much fun that I started selling patterns instead of toys and now I can’t stop!
Me: You have such a variety of patterns, including amigurumi, bookmarks, shawls, ornaments, tape measure covers, pouches and cases, even a bath puff. How do you decide what to design next? What inspires you?
Justyna: Various things, really. Sometimes it’s the need, like I was asked to design a schnauzer and Hear, See, Speak no evil monkeys; sometimes it’s the urge to try something new, like it was with the shawls; sometimes it’s the yarn – when I got a skein of Cascade Yarns Pacific Multi in gray, I just knew it said “a knitted cat” and so on…
Me: What is your design process like? Do you sketch out your design first?
Justyna: Oh no, I never sketch! I’m terrible at drawing and the toy never looks on paper like I imagined it in my head, so, in my case, it’s a waste of time. I usually just try to think about what I’d like to make, get the perfect yarn for it, and start. I usually don’t know how big it’ll become when I’m done because there are lots of decisions I make in the process. To me it’s like a great adventure, as I’m never sure what it’ll become.
Me: You are the founder and original organizer of the Ami-Along. How did you come up with the idea and get it started?
Justyna: I run a group on Ravelry where I try to organize some games and CALs often, but I know that in the summer my time is limited and I’m not always available. I thought other designers might have the same issue, so I thought it would be a good idea to team up for the summer and organize something together – this way, you can have stress-free vacation time because you know your fans and followers have a fun activity to take part in. Even when you’re not there, there are other designers who will be there for them. Plus, when you’re back you’ll be the one who’s helping participants work on other designers’ patterns when they’re away. But it turned out to be so much more than just a summer break and I love it! I hope we will continue organizing it for many years in the future.
Me: I noticed a few of your patterns come in both a knit version and a crochet version. Are they originally crochet patterns and you convert them to knitting, or vice versa? Is it challenging to make the conversion?
Justyna: There’s no rule here 🙂 Sometimes I come up with a crochet version and I’m asked to create a knitted one and sometimes the other way around. I mainly crochet, however, so it’s usually the crocheted toy that is the first one. As I mentioned, I sometimes just know that this or that toy says “knitted” or “crocheted” and that’s the original. If it’s popular enough for “the-other-craft-people” to start asking for a different version, I usually do that. It can be challenging, but that’s the type of difficulties I like, so I see it as something fun to do.
Me: What is your favourite pattern that you have designed? Why?
Justyna: That’s probably the most difficult question! Since most of my designs have eyes and can give me a bad look when I don’t mention them here, it’s really hard to decide. I guess I try to treat them all equally, but I’m really happy how Swinging Kitty Ornament turned out and I love how the Sheep Tape Measure combines cuteness with usefulness. I could go on and on about how each of them is special, but I already feel like I’m talking too much!
Me: What is your most popular pattern?
Justyna: That would probably be the schnauzer when it comes to amis, and the owl mug cozy for non-ami patterns. Oh, and while we’re here, I Promise You Pineapples shawl is also popular. These are definitely the ones downloaded most often.
Me: Which of your patterns have surprised you the most in terms of how popular they are?
Justyna: I guess this must be Vlad! I designed it as a quick and easy Halloween CAL one year, but it got so many projects even after the CAL that I was amazed. Oh, that’s the best example of a pattern that got so popular knitters wanted their version, too…
Me: What is most challenging for you as a designer and creative business owner?
Justyna: Time! I guess it’s every freelancer’s nightmare – too little time for everything. Since we usually work at home, there are no clear work/home boundaries and finding balance can be tough.
Me: Any advice for those that are thinking about starting to design themselves?
Justyna: Pay attention to the actual writing of the pattern. Making an item, whether it’s a toy or a sweater, is the easy part. The most difficult task is writing your idea down clearly and easily for your customers to understand. Also, always test your patterns, no matter how many times you read your pattern, a fresh set of eyes (and hooks!) always see more and will help you improve the pattern for sure.
Me: Do you have a tip for those just starting to learn to make amigurumi?
Justyna: Not to be afraid, I guess, they’re usually just single crochet stitches! It’s also important to start with a hook that matches the yarn – you don’t want holes in your amigurumi, so don’t pay much attention to what the yarn label says, but make your own swatch with a hook a bit smaller than recommended and check if there are holes. Also, try different eye placements before fixing the eyes and see which you like best, as the position of the eyes has a tremendous effect on the final look of the amis.
Me: Where can people find out more about you?
Justyna: On my Facebook page and in my Ravelry group. When it comes to more personal life things, I share them on Instagram, although they’re mostly still craft related. I also have a website www.cuteandkaboodle.com, but it needs some more work. There are a few useful tutorials, though! I love getting messages, so if someone has a question, needs help, or just wants to chat, they’re all welcome 🙂
Thank you Justyna for sharing your story with us!
If you decide to make some amis using Justyna’s patterns, make sure you enter them into the Ami-Along for your chance to win prizes! It will be running until the end of August 2016.