Designer Interview: Justyna of Cute and Kaboodle

Interview amigurumi designer JustynaI 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.

Today, meet Justyna of Cute and Kaboodle. You can find her designs on her websiteRavelry and Etsy. Hope you enjoy learning all about her and her design process.

Justyna amigurumi designerMe: 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!Justyna_bunny

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…

Justyna_Monkeys

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.

Justyna_elephant

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.

Justyna_Ornament

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!

Justyna_SheepTapeMeasureCollage

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.

Justyna_Schnauzer

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…

Justyna_Vlad

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.

Justyna_teddy

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.

For cuteness sent straight to your inbox, sign up for my amigurumi newsletter to receive emails filled with ami fun. You can also follow me on facebooktwitterinstagram, and pinterest to keep up to date on all things hookabee.
Until next time,
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Designer Interview: Alyssa of Monster’s Toy Box

Interview with amigurumi designer Alyssa of Monster's Toy BoxDuring the summer long Ami-Along I am interviewing some of the other amigurumi designers involved in the C/KAL.  Last week we met Melissa of Melissa’s Crochet Designs, and before that we learned about Mevlinn of MevvSan. 

Today, I am happy to introduce to you Alyssa of Monster’s Toy Box! You can find her designs on her website and Ravelry. Hope you enjoy learning all about her and her design process.

Me: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Alyssa: I am a college student who is currently studying computer science— I am very interesting in the programming aspect of it, though currently I am much better at crocheting than coding! My first experience with needle arts was learning how to loom knit when I was 15 or so. Every year after that I’ve fallen a little bit deeper down the crafting rabbit hole. I both knit and crochet and I have even dabbled with spinning and dyeing my own yarn (Still, I always end up going back to crochet and amigurumi—I’m obsessed).

Me: When did you start designing amigurumi and why?

Alyssa: I started designing in 2010 or so, shortly after learning how to crochet. I didn’t want to make scarves or blankets and amigurumi looked like a lot of fun. This was before I had discovered Ravelry and couldn’t find a lot of amigurumi patterns that I liked, so I came up with my own!

My first ever design was Giddy-Up the Horse, but it wasn’t until 2013 that I actually started publishing my patterns to Ravelry; appropriately, I picked Giddy-Up (who had received a number of make-overs over the years) to be my first published pattern.

Monster's Toy Box amigurumi designer interview

During those early days of learning how to crochet and design, I actually thought it would be really cool to be able to publish my own patterns, but wrote it off as “That’s silly. That will never happen!” Thanks to a lot of support from my Ravelry friends, it did happen… I am so grateful for them, because it has been an absolute blast!

Me: How do you decide what to design next? What inspires you?

Alyssa: Picking out what I want to design is a combination of deciding from a list of ideas I keep written down (I often ask members of my Ravelry Group what sort of things they would like to see me design) and just going with whatever crazy thing pops into my head.

I love the exaggerated proportions seen in the Japanese kawaii aesthetic (like Hello Kitty) and in some children’s toys. I’ve taken that and tried to put my own spin on it. My animals tend to have a very cartoonish, pudgy look to them.

For specific designs, the inspiration can come from anywhere. My Ravelry group, friends, and family all give fantastic ideas. Wikipedia articles, documentaries and even videos games can be great sources as well; if I am interested in something, it gives me that extra push to try to create a design for it. For finding interesting shapes to use, I like to look at nature and even architecture. To give one weird example: the shape for my Munchie Monster was inspired by a building I drove past in downtown Nashville!

Alyssa_MunchieMonster

Me: What is your design process like? Do you sketch out your design first? 

Alyssa: There is quite a bit of pre-planning in my design process. I usually have several different ideas about how to make something and so I sketch it out to help me piece together all the different parts. Although my critters are far from realistic, referencing photos of their real life counterparts is really helpful at this stage.

From the sketch, I make notes about what sort of shaping to do: where to increase or decrease, how many stitches around it needs to be at a certain point, whether there are any “problem” spots where I need to experiment with different techniques to get the right shape, and so on.

Alyssa_Sketch

My favorite part of designing amigurumi is coming up with new shapes and improving upon things I’ve done in the past, so I do a lot of experimenting. Sometimes I nail the design on the first try, sometime I have to rip things out and start again (I’m currently working on a locomotive design… I think the only parts I haven’t frogged and redone ten times are the wheels!).

Me: Your patterns are crocheted in the blo (like mine!). Why did you choose to design your patterns this way?

Alyssa: Because I have a hard time with crocheting through both loops. I suffered from some sort of Repetitive Stress Injury in my wrist sometime after I started crocheting. Because most amigurumi are made with tight stitches and small hooks, it can put a lot of stress on your hands, which really aggravated the problem. I could only work on a few rounds of amigurumi before it started to hurt. I had read that BLO was supposed to be less stressful on your joints, so I tried out some patterns done in BLO… and it worked! No wrist pain!

On a less practical level, I think that amigurumi done in BLO have a very distinctive look that I absolutely love (The easy sewing is a plus, too)!

Me: What is your favourite pattern that you have designed? Why?

Alyssa: That’s a really hard question… can I pick more than one? I really love the Snack-Sized Softies series; I love crocheted food, things done in miniature, and anthropomorphic inanimate objects. The Snacks combine all of those in a tasty, palm-sized package. Plus I love the challenge of trying to capture the details of the different foods in a few stitches as possible (Most of the Snacks are only 30 stitches around).

Alyssa_SnackSized

Me: What is your most popular pattern?

Alyssa: Giddy-Up the Horse, my first published pattern, is also my most popular pattern by far. Even though he was released over three years ago now, I still get plenty of new people downloading his pattern every month.

Me: Which of your patterns have surprised you the most in terms of how popular they are?

Alyssa: The Munchie Monster! He started out as this really silly idea I had, “Hey, why not make a monster with a tummy you can stick stuff inside?” I wasn’t expecting really expecting the idea to take off like it did— both the full-sized Munchie and his Mini counterpart are some of my best-selling patterns.Alyssa_MiniMunchieMe: What is most challenging for you as a designer and creative business owner?

Alyssa: For me, it is trying to strike a balance between all of the different aspects of running a business and real life. Monster’s Toy Box versus school and homework is a big one, especially during that “crunch time” leading up to final exams. Let’s face it—I’d rather be crocheting than studying!

Another big thing is “designer’s block”. I go through periods where I have so many new ideas that my hook can’t keep up, but then there are times where my inspiration gets completely sucked dry—I can’t come up with anything new and if I try to crochet a prototype, it never turns out the way I want it to. The best thing to do is to ride it out and not force it… it’s good to take a break and work on some other things for a while. The designing itch usually comes back within a few weeks.

Me: Any advice for those that are thinking about starting to design themselves?

Alyssa: You don’t know until you try! That first step into the world of pattern-designing can be really intimidating, but don’t let that stop you.

Perhaps the most important thing is to make sure your pattern is well laid-out, well-explained and error-free; enlist a couple of people to help you with pattern testing and proof-reading and be open to their suggestions on ways that you can improve the formatting of your pattern.

Me: Do you have a tip for those just starting to learn to make amigurumi?

Alyssa: Get to know all of your basic stitches and techniques (single crochet, double crochet, half-double crochet, increasing, decreasing, etc), because if you know how to do these, you can make almost any amigurumi you want. Even the “fancy” stitches you might run into are usually based on these simple stitches.

Me: Where can people find out more about you?

Alyssa: I am very active on Ravelry; you can usually find me hanging out at the Monster’s Toy Box Ravelry group. That is probably the best place to go to keep up with what’s going on in the Toy Box and what crazy things I’m cooking up next.

I am also on Twitter (@MonstersToyBox) and I have a website, www.monsterstoybox.com, which is currently on hiatus due to some real life stuff. I plan on getting back to blogging soon, though.

Thank you Alyssa for sharing your story with us!

If you decide to make some amis using Alyssa’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.

For cuteness sent straight to your inbox, sign up for my amigurumi newsletter to receive emails filled with ami fun. You can also follow me on facebooktwitterinstagram, and pinterest to keep up to date on all things hookabee.
Until next time,
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Designer Interview: Melissa of Melissa’s Crochet Patterns

amigurumi designer Interview MelissaNow that the 2016 Ami-Along has begun, I thought it would be a good idea to bring back the designer interview series and talk to some of the designers involved in the CAL/KAL. If you missed the last interview, make sure you check it out, because it is with Mevlinn, another designer taking part in the Ami-Along!

Today, meet Melissa of Melissa’s Crochet Patterns. You can find her designs on her websiteRavelry, Craftsy, and Etsy. Hope you enjoy learning all about her and her design process.

MelissaTrenadoMe: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Melissa: I am a 29 year old Mom and Wife. I recently started working at a school as a yard teacher, although I am going to pursue going back to school to become a teacher.

Me: When did you start designing amigurumi and why?

Melissa: My first pattern was published November 2011. My daughter really loved My Little Pony and at the time there were no crochet patterns for one so I decided to make one myself. Being a crochet pattern designer has been a lifelong dream though.

Me: You have so many patterns (>150)! With so many now, do you find it difficult to come up with new designs? What inspires you?

Melissa: Absolutely not! I get inspiration from things that I see everywhere, movies and shows I watch with my kids, stuffed animals I see in stores, or sometimes things that just pop into my head.

Melissa_babypanda

Me: What is your design process like? Do you sketch out your design first? 

Melissa: Very rarely do I sketch something out. Most of the time I go from what is inside my head.

Me: What is your favourite pattern that you have designed? Why?

Melissa: My current favorite has not been published yet, an ocelot from Minecraft. My son is in love with these cats and has 3 of these stuffed animals. For over a year he carries them wherever he goes. I have been wanting to create a crocheted one, but it took me so long to decide how to do it. Once I finished her I wanted to cry of joy.

Me: What is your most popular pattern?

Melissa: Right now my most popular pattern is BB-8 from Star Wars.

Melissa_BB8

Me: Which of your patterns have surprised you the most in terms of how popular they are?

Melissa: I am surprised how popular my new pattern Baby Bears got so quickly. I made them for some of the kids at the school I work at. I just wanted to make it quick and simple so I had time to make as many as I could.

Melissa_babybears

Me: What is most challenging for you as a designer and creative business owner?

Melissa: Sometimes trying to explain the right way to make a specific crochet pattern can be challenging. Putting things into words can be a little difficult at times.

Me: Any advice for those that are thinking about starting to design themselves?

Melissa: Go for it and never give up! Your first crochet pattern may not be so wonderful, but you have to keep trying. With every crochet pattern you make you will get better and better.

Me: Do you have a tip for those just starting to learn to make amigurumi?

Melissa: I recommend watching some youtube videos, they are extremely helpful. This is actually the way I learned to make amigurumis.

Melissa_brontosaurus

Me: Where can people find out more about you?

Melissa: I am very active in my Ravelry Group, I have Show and Tell Sunday on my Facebook page, or you can send me a message anytime!

Thank you Melissa for sharing your story with us!

If you decide to make some amis using Melissa’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.

For cuteness sent straight to your inbox, sign up for my amigurumi newsletter to receive emails filled with ami fun. You can also follow me on facebooktwitterinstagram, and pinterest to keep up to date on all things hookabee.
Until next time,
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