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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Designer Interview: Mevlinn of MevvSan

InterviewMevlinnI recently had the pleasure of interviewing amigurumi artist and pattern designer Mevlinn. Her business is MevvSan and you can find her designs on her website, Ravelry, Craftsy, and Etsy.

I met Mevlinn in the pattern testing circle (we have both tested a pattern for each other) and continue to keep in touch. She is a talented designer and a good ami friend. Hope you enjoy learning more about her!

Me: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

ProfilePhotoMevlinn: I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania with my mom and younger brother. I had crocheted as a child but didn’t pick up the hobby again until I was 18 and in college. I’ve always found joy in creating something by hand so I decided to earn a BFA, majoring in painting. After college I moved to Portugal and married my amazing husband, who I had been in a long distance relationship with for at least 6 years prior. It was then that I realized painting might not be so practical where I was living now but all the support I gained from crochet made me take my hobby seriously and it soon took over my life. And this is how MevvSan came to be, a combination of art, education, and some unexpected events.

Me: When did you start designing amigurumi and why?

Mevlinn: I first started designing amigurumi when I was in college majoring in fine arts. It was pretty boring waiting between classes with not much to do. My aunt was the one who suggested taking up crochet as a hobby. Things really took off from there. I initially purchased a few patterns off Etsy but due to my own creativity none were ever exactly what I wanted and this drove me to make my own designs.

Me: What inspires your designs? How do you choose what to design?

Mevlinn: My first designs were created as gifts for family and friends. That’s how I created my nyan cat scarf, teddy bear, whale, and panda pouch, just to name a few. But you’ll also see a lot of bird themed patterns in my shop and that’s because I love birds. I’ve had at least one bird at any given time in my life since I was 5 years old. One of these birds was a little cockatiel I had who lived for 14 years and I hand raised her myself from a tiny chick. This is why birds play a big role in my artwork, not only amigurumi but most of what I paint as well.Geese

Me: I noticed you crochet your amigurumi with the “wrong side” on the outside. What is the story behind this technique?

Mevlinn: I was a bit frustrated in the beginning that when I would make a single crochet decrease a slight bump would form on the surface of the work. I’m sure the average person wouldn’t mind these kinds of things but that’s what happens when you’re an artist, you become your own worst critic. I began experimenting for several days with ways of eliminating these tiny “flaws” and finally I noticed that working with the wrong side facing outwards pretty much eliminated this problem.

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

Mevlinn: Very rarely do I create a sketch ahead of time. No matter how well I draw something it’s never quite what I see in my mind. When I tried to keep my designs authentic to the drawings it felt like my amigurumi were being stifled instead of improved by this process.

Everything I have learned about amigurumi came from my own experiences, none of it was taught to me and I never purchased a book that explained even the basics of crochet. It was the volunteer testing of other crochet patterns that taught me how to write my own patterns and it was also my way of learning new techniques that were later used in my own designs.

I love looking at what others have created and applying the laws of design taught to me in school to improve shape and form. This is very important to me, there is nothing worse in my eyes than seeing a limb poorly attached or a head that might fall over from it’s own weight due to a narrow connection between it and the amigurumi’s body.

This brings up the question of what is an amigurumi’s purpose? Some may see amigurumi as only a comfort object for a small child and created with love. This is completely fine, but because I also see amigurumi as an art form I’m constantly considering the design, shape, and even negative space around an amigurumi while creating one. It is this consideration that has caused many people to congratulate me on my work. That’s because many of my amigurumis can stand up on their own and this is due to all the considerations I made while making the design.

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

Mevlinn: Picking a favorite pattern is really hard to do. There isn’t a single pattern that I’ve made that I didn’t enjoy making or wasn’t satisfied with the outcome. You get so attached to each one as it’s being made. It’s hard to pick just one. If I had to pick one though, it would have to be my Mama Hen pattern.MamaHen

I created this design for the first ever amigurumipatterns.net design contest. I was so excited to be contacted after the contest and asked if the pattern could be published in a book. It was the first time I felt acknowledged for my hard work and by the online crochet community. To this day I think back to that time and it still encourages me to keep on going.

Me: What is your most popular pattern?

Mevlinn: My most popular pattern would have to be my Nyan Cat scarf. I made it as a cute joke for a friend and shared some photos of it on my deviant art page.NyanCatScarf

In a few days I was getting hundreds of requests to make this scarf for other people. I had just started my first semester in college at the time so I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand. That’s when I made the pattern available. Sales from this pattern helped me pay for my school supplies and really motivated me to keep on crocheting.

Since then the nyan cat craze has slowed down a bit and other patterns in my shop have picked up in sales instead like my little flamingo, bats, and sloth pattern.Sloth

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

Mevlinn: My dinosaur patterns were the biggest surprise to me.Dinosaur

I created all the dinosaurs at the same time, not releasing the first pattern until the last was already completed. It was a lot of work but I did it this way to keep them all similar in size and in design. This turned out to be a great idea. I was told afterwards by many people that their children loved the dinosaurs and they would play with more than one of them at a time. That could be difficult to do if you had to purchase different patterns from separate designers. The sizes of the amigurumi might not match up. This showed me how much my buyers loved patterns that relate to one another. It’s also why I’m working on a second series now called Woodland Critters.Deer

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

Mevlinn: Crochet testers are your best friends. Always get your patterns tested by multiple people before publishing them.

Testers can help you create a printer friendly layout, catch spelling or grammatical errors and of course any mistakes in the pattern itself. When I first started making patterns I didn’t know about pattern testing and this forced me to reedit all of my old patterns. This took over six months to do and it all could have been avoided if I had only known how many amazing people were out there online who are willing to help designers in need.

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

Mevlinn: Try not to overdo it. Start simple and work your way up. You might see an amigurumi with 30 different pieces and it blows your mind, you just got to make it! Chances are it won’t end well and then you’ll feel sad about it and maybe even give up. I know because I’ve been there. My first amigurumi was a cat and I messed it up so badly.

My first designs after that weren’t much better. I wasn’t using a small enough hook and I wasn’t filling my amigurumi with enough stuffing. But if I had given up then I wouldn’t be where I am now. Just takes things one step at a time, read all the tips and tricks that you can and you’ll see yourself improving bit by bit.

Me: Why is your logo an octopus and what is the story behind your shop’s name “MevvSan”?OctopusLogo

Mevlinn: MevvSan started off as part of me. Mev was my nickname growing up and I would have to add an extra v to it when I registered to online forums. Four characters was the minimum most online websites allowed for usernames at the time. San comes from my middle name, Suesan. Many people see this name and assume that because amigurumi is a craft that originated in Japan that the San part of MevvSan is suppose to be the japanese honorific put at the end of some people’s names. This isn’t true, it’s just a coincidence.Octopus

One of the very first patterns I made was an octopus. At that time I asked a designer to create a cute image based on one of my designs that could later be used as a logo for my shop. The person picked my octopus pattern and since then the logo has stuck and remains a cute mascot for the shop and a reminder of how things began.

Me: Where can people find out more about you?

Mevlinn: I have my own website at www.MevvSan.com. There you can find all my designs with detailed pattern information, a list of materials needed, and completed sizes listed for each and every one of them. It’s all a work in progress right now so I hope to add more content in the future. MevvSan is also on Etsy, Ravelry, Craftsy, FacebookInstagram and Deviant Art.

Thank you Mevlinn for sharing your story with us!

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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