YarnCraft Episode 72 Transcript :: Inside Design: A Behind‑the‑Scenes Look at 3 Designers Processes

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You’re listening to YarnCraft. [music]

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Zontee:  Welcome to YarnCraft. It’s episode 72 on August 3, 2010. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Zontee.

Liz:  And this is Liz, and we are the hosts of YarnCraft.

Zontee:  Stop by our website YarnCraft.LionBrand.com, for more information on the patterns and products we talk about on today’s episode. You can also leave your comments there or give us a call and leave a voicemail at 774‑452‑Yarn. That’s 9276. We always love sharing your stories, questions, and comments on the show.

Liz:  As usual, we are here at the Lion Brand Design Center in New York City. And today we’re joined by three different designers who talk about what inspires them, what the design process is like, and share their advice for inspiring designers.

Zontee:  And on today’s “Stash This: Ideas for Your Crafting Life,” we change gears and talk about a cool phenomenon in the yarn crafting community that’s all about connecting with others. We discuss project swaps, what they are, how you can organize one in your area, and how the online world of yarn crafting has expanded swaps to become global events.

Liz:  Stay tuned for all that and more, next on YarnCraft. [music]

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Zontee:  Starting off our episode, we want to talk a little bit about the projects that we’ve been working on, what’s on our hooks and needles. Liz, have you been working on anything special lately?

Liz:  I’ve been continuing to experiment with socks from the Cat Bordhi book, her newest one, Personal Footprints. It’s the first time I’ve been trying to use the Superwash Merino, from the LB Collection for socks. And I’ve got my halfway done sweater, that I’m hoping to pick back up again soon, that I did the Superwash Merino, and that was on fives, and that was great for a sweater.

So I tried going down to I think a two and a half, for a sock, and I knit to about the middle of the foot, starting at the toe, and it’s way too loose. So I’m going to have to start over with a much longer needle I think. Maybe even, definitely a two, maybe even a one and a half. I should have swatched more.

Zontee:  Well that’s always an important lesson. Yeah, swatching is important.

Liz:  How about you? I know you did a ton of swatching for your machine-knit with hand‑knit trim sweater. How is that going?

Zontee:  That’s going pretty well. All the hand‑knit trim is ready to go. So we’re just getting ready on the machine, doing a little swatching on that. Patty from the Studio is helping me out with that, And I should have it done pretty shortly. I’m pretty excited about this, because really what I did was, I took the schematic from a pattern that I liked. And I’m basing the sweater off of the schematic basically. I don’t want to use a lot of shaping. I want this to be kind of boyfriend‑style sweater. It’s very kind of straight and loose. So I’m keeping it simple. And I’m looking forward to having that done shortly.

But while I’ve got that on hiatus while we get ready on the machine, I’ve been doing a little crocheting, and I thought that, it would be fun to make something small and whimsical.

So I took a pattern from the brain slugs from the show Futurama, and I made one as a gift for a friend, and I made a smaller version for myself. Because I’m thinking that I’m going to be a brain slug controlled zombie for Halloween. And it’s never too early to prepare for Halloween right?

Liz:  No. I might steal your idea because I am also a big fan of the show Futurama, and I am really lazy when it comes to Halloween.

Zontee:  It’s really great. You just make a little one. I found it as a free pattern on Ravelry, and I used Vanna’s Choice for the body, and I think that you can get almost three brain slugs out of them. Probably about three brain slugs out of a ball of Vanna’s Choice. So I made the big one. I took the small version than they made and I made it slightly bigger. So I call him a medium one. And that’s the one I’m going to put on an elastic band, and I’ll just stick it on my head. Pretty easy.

Liz:  Yes. And it’ll be warm for late October.

Zontee:  It would be warm. Yeah. Then I just use some scrap Fishermen’s Wool for the eye, because they recommended a felt eye, but why use a felt eye when you can crochet an eye. Right?

Liz:  Exactly.

Zontee:  So I took some spare Fisherman’s Wool and some spare Line Cashmere Blend, and I made them each an eyeball.

Liz:  Excellent.

Zontee:  So they look pretty good.

Liz:  Pretty cute.

We had some great comments from listeners on our last episode. Cathy wrote in to say, about our eco‑friendly yarn idea, that she likes to make crocheted or knitted rugs from discarded t‑shirts. And she uses a rotary cutter to cut them into strips, one to two inches wide and then knot them together, and then just crotchets them into any size rug that she needs.

Zontee:  Well that’s a really great suggestion because you were talking about maybe making a rug last time, Liz.

Liz:  Yes.

Zontee:  And I think a rotary cutter is so smart. I wish I had thought of that. That’s so much simpler than scissors.

Liz:  Yeah.

Zontee:  Kristen also had a comment about recycling t‑shirts, and she mentions that she took a class with designer Stefanie Japel online, and Stefanie, as you may remember, listeners, the leader of our guest knit along, sometime last year, and she’s a wonderful knit garment designer. Kristen says that in the class she learned how to up‑cycle the old t‑shirts, over‑dye them to create colors and all sorts of ideas for what you can do with that yarn. So that’s a really fun class.

Liz:  Yeah. I may have to look into this whole online class concept. That’s fascinating. And then Suzy wrote into us on Ravelry, and she said she loves to listen while she does housework. So we’d like to do anything we can to make housework less painful. So glad it’s helping. She wanted to ask me if I started out knit or crocheting first, because she seems to remember that I said it was crotchet first, but most of my projects are knit.

Well, I think you might be thinking of Zontee, because Zontee’s mom is a master crocheter and got Zontee started with crochet young in life. I definitely started out as a knitter. And while I loved crochet, probably more often I do make knit projects. But I try and keep a good balance. Suzy goes on to ask how hard is it to go back and forth from one craft to another, because she’s currently a crocheter but is thinking about learning to knit.

Suzy, I wanted to say it’s not hard at all. They are very different motions, so when you actually have the hook in your hand versus the needles in your hand, your hand will know what to do. They’re not going to get confused. And the terminology is pretty different.

So I think you’ll be OK. Since you are a crocheter and probably are used to holding the yarn in your left hand, you may want to look for a book or online for instructions on how to do Continental Knitting, which is where you’re knitting with the yarn, also in your left hand, and I know I find that easier. I both knit and crochet with the yarn in my left hand.

Zontee:  Yeah, I mean, it’s different for every person. I like to knit with my yarn in my right hand and then crochet with my yarn in my left hand, because I find that it helps me differentiate the motions. It’s all different for each person. But I think that it’s an interesting question. I actually find that like Liz said, they are related crafts, so it’ll be relatively easy to learn one if you know the other because you’ll have some sense of how to create tension and all that, but at the same time they are different enough so that you won’t really mistake one for the other.

The tools are different. The way the stitches looks is different. The way the stitches are created is different. And so when you develop a repertoire in one and then develop a repertoire in the other, you’ll find that they’ll come very easily for you when you pick up the right tool.

Liz:  It’s a common question, so thanks for asking so we could clarify, Suzy. Our new art director upstairs, she knits a little bit but isn’t really familiar with it and has never crocheted. She’s going to be taking some classes in the studio and she came over and asked me, she said, “Liz, am I going to get confused if I take a learn to knit and a learn to crochet class like one right after the other, like back to back?” And I was like, “No. You’re not going to get confused. It’s all going to make sense. [music]

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Liz:  In our last episode we talked a little bit about Lion Brand’s trip to the Knit and Crochet Show and the professional development day of the Crochet Guild of America. We were just so inspired by that experience, we wanted to bring you some in‑depth conversations with designers this episode. We talked to three people who work in very different areas of the knitting and crocheting world. Margaret Hubert has been in the industry along time and has seen a lot of changes and has published dozens of books on different topics in knitting and crochet, so she’s a great resource for people who are interested in getting into design and publishing.

Kristin Omdahl started out doing crochet designs for boutiques and went onto launch her own pattern line and now works for Interweave doing the crochet corner of their knitting daily TV program.

And Anna Hrachovec is perhaps the most unique of all. She has made a name for herself, knitting toy patterns. Kind of like knit amigurumi, but even a little crazier than amigurumi. She’s just come out with her first book and we’re going to speak with her about what that experience has been like.

In addition, several of you wrote in with your questions about designing for yarn crafting. So stay tuned to hear how our designers answer those. [music]

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Zontee:  We’re now joined by Margaret Hubert, a great crochetwear and knitwear designer who is joining us from Pauling, New York, a little bit over an hour and a half train ride from New York City. She’s been down to our Studio many times to teach various workshops and we’re happy to have her with us today. Hi, Margaret.

Margaret:  Hi, Zontee. How are you doing?

Zontee:  Great, and it’s so great to have you on the show again.

Margaret:  Oh, thanks so much.

Zontee:  So you have two books that have just come out in the last year or so, The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet, which came out this past December and The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting, which came out just about two weeks ago. Can you tell us a little bit about these two great books?

Margaret:  Yes. I love the books. They were published by Creative Publishing International. They took me about a year to complete. The crochet guide was the first one and it’s been very well received, lovely reviews. I understand that it’s in its third printing already. The knitting guide just came out a very short time ago and I’ve also been getting very nice letters and very nice reviews. So, I’m very happy to have those two books. I have to take this opportunity to thank Lion Brand and many of the yarn companies that donated yarn for the project. So that makes the books extra special.

Zontee:  Well, the books are fantastic. One of my favorite parts of them is that you have so much detail in terms of photos and all of these different crochet charts and that you also introduce a lot of really unique ideas. I loved, when you were here at the studio talking about your books, how you talked about taking all of your freeform scrumbles and attaching them onto a sweatshirt even, and using that as a base for a project. You’ve got a lot of really creative ideas. Do you want to share any particular favorites, out of the books, with us?

Margaret:  Well, the sweatshirt idea was truly an original idea. I used to make quilted jackets using my sweatshirt as my batting for the quilting and very early on in my crochet freeforming I thought, “I wonder if this will work with freeform crochet?” When I did it, it became a very heavy type jacket, almost an outerwear jacket. But I thought, “Well, we live in the Northeast and there are many parts of the country where a nice heavy jacket comes in mighty handy in the fall. So I went with the idea and it was really just such a unique idea and it’s really a very easy way to introduce a person to freeform.

In addition to the sweatshirt idea being very easy, there’s also a way that you could use your sweatshirt for a template and then actually remove the sweatshirt from your finished garment. So then you do have a lighter weight sweater. So that’s just one of the ideas to use with freeform.

But one of the things I feel very blessed to have is I have a wide range of things that I like to do in crocheting and knitting. I can do everything, literally, from dog sweaters to men’s extra, extra large and everything in between. The ideas just come to me. I feel very blessed to have that ability.

Zontee:  That’s fantastic. Let’s get into some of our listener’s questions. You’ve talked a little bit about all the different kinds of projects that you can do. Do you have a favorite part of being a knitwear or crochetwear designer?

Margaret:  Oh. I never get tired of seeing the designs in print. Whether it be a magazine or a yarn company’s flyer or a book, I still get that little thrill of seeing my design in living color on a publication. It’s just–I never tired of it.

Zontee:  That’s great.

Margaret:  Yeah, it’s just the fun part to me. I also love teaching. I think of all the things that I do, I really, really enjoy teaching and getting out to meet people and get students input. I learn so much from students. They’re just great. They come up and they say, “Margaret, why did you do it that way? Did you every think of doing it this way?” and I go, “Wow. That’s a great idea. Do you mind if I use it?” It happens more often than you would think and the students are so great.

I even had one student take my instructions and she came in and she had a totally different stitch. I said, “Wow. That’s great.” She said, “I think I made a mistake.” So I called it “So‑and‑so’s mistake stitch,” and she truly created a whole different stitch by making a mistake. It was such fun.

So I do love teaching and I do love learning from my students. If I had to choose one thing, I think that’s my absolute favorite.

Zontee:  Well, we actually talked a little bit about teaching and the wonders of teaching in our last episode. Do you have any advice for someone who would want to become a knitting or crochet teacher?

Just for our listeners, Margaret is experiencing some rain in her area so you may hear little bit of her cutting in and out.

Margaret:  One of the things a teacher has to understand is something that comes very easily to them and they think is very standard may not be to the student. So you should never assume that a student will know the simplest, simplest thing. You always have to have your mind open to teach them from the beginning and not put your experience in there. I don’t know if that makes sense to you. But many people have terrific ideas, but they can’t get it across to a student because they’re either too fast with it, or they can’t get into someone else’s head. That’s a very important part of being a teacher, you have to be able to get your ideas across. You have to have patience, infinite patience with people and just be open to what they are needing, or that would be.

That would be my best advice and also to get experience, like teaching in local yarn shops, volunteering to teach at libraries or schools, after school programs. That experience is invaluable, then, if you want to submit ideas to teach at conferences and stuff you need to have a little background.

Zontee:  I think you’re completely right about some people don’t have the ability to express what they’re doing. I know the first time I learned to crochet was from my mom, and she’s so good at it that she couldn’t break down her actions for me. So sometimes that makes all the difference, really being able to slow down and explain exactly what you’re doing for the other person.

Just so our listeners know, we’re joined once again by Margaret Huber. Unfortunately there was a little bit of a power outage in her area so we got cut off before. But Margaret, you were just telling us about the idea of translating a pattern from one type of needlework to another and your feelings about that.

Margaret:  Yes. There are many knitters and crocheters who look at a crochet design and say, “Boy. I wish that was in knitting. I don’t know how to crochet, ” and vice‑versa. There is a way to kind of interpret a pattern in either craft, but it does take some math. You just cannot convert one pattern to another very easily. You can get a similar look, but not an identical look. In my book, Knit or Crochet: Have it Your Way, I show how you can get similar looks and create a very similar design using the methods, but there is a lot of math required in figuring out the changes in the stitches because of the height and depth of the crochet stitches versus a knitting stitch.

You can get inspiration from looking at a knitted garment or a crocheted garment and interpret it in the other medium, but as I said it does require–there’s no easy fix is what I’m trying to say. It does require some figuring, some mathematics, but it can be done.So that was one of the reasons I wrote the book, to give people a choice on if they like to try a project in knit or crochet, because, truly, I love both crafts and they’re both so different.

Zontee:  That’s great advice.

Margaret:  The other thing I get inspiration from is looking around me. Many people say to me, will you do a class in color? And I find that, I don’t know how to teach somebody to choose colors. I do say that if you take a beautiful ball of yarn that’s either variegated or a hand paint, and choose colors, solid colors to go with it, that’s one way of choosing colors.

The other thing is look at nature. Look at your garden. Look at things around you. Look at paintings. Look at other fashions, not necessarily nits but other fashions that designers are putting out. See what colors they’re using. Look at some fashion magazines. There’s a lot of ways to inspiration for your work.

Zontee:  Great advice. So tell us a little bit about any upcoming projects that you have and also don’t forget to tell us what your website is so that people can follow more of your activities. I know you have a great blog.

Margaret:  Ah yes, I have a blog. And it’s called margarethubertsblogspot.com. Or something like that. I never remember those big long addresses. My website is margarethubertorginal.com. My newest project–which believe it or not, I just got the go-ahead yesterday–and I can just tell you that’s it’s going to be a new book. I can’t divulge what it’s going to be about yet. I can tell you that I was in touch with Lindsey from your department there, who I met at the Knit & Crochet Show, and she’s sending me some yarn to latch with.

I can tell you Lion Brand will be in it. That’s always exciting for me to get it. This will be my 18th book and my 11th for this present company. I’m really excited about this. It’s a project that’s been in my mind for about 10 years and is just coming to fruition now. So I am excited about it. So, here we go again.

Zontee:  Well that’s fantastic, and we can’t wait to hear more about that project. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show today. And good luck with your power outage. [music]

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Zontee:  So today we’re joined by Kristin Omdahl, a writer and designer and teacher who’s joining us from Bonita Springs in Florida. Hi Kristin.

Kristin Omdahl:  Hi, Zontee, how are you?

Zontee:  Great. So glad that you can join us today.

Kristin:  Thank you for having me.

Zontee:  So before we get started, let’s find out a little bit about you. What do you like to design?

Kristin:  Well, I work with both knitting and crotchet both everyday and I love both crafts. I enjoy exploring different textures with both. I think shawls are probably one of my favorite garments to make. I like to make blankets too. And I like to explore with the textures in two‑dimensional pieces. And then after I’ve explored the texture, then sometimes I’ll take that and try to move that onto a three dimensional piece like a sweater, if it applies.

Zontee:  That’s fantastic. Well I know you have a new book out, and it’s all about crochet and lace. Can you tell us a little bit about that project?

Kristin:  Sure. It’s called Crochet So Fine. And I was actually inspired to write it after I moved to Florida a couple of years ago. I moved down here from Michigan, and just the change in the landscape really inspired me to come up with new textures and new ways to look at crochet and also because I come from a knitting background and really enjoy making knit lace shawls where you take a thin yarn and use a thicker needle to create the drape and texture in blocking.

I try to apply that to crochet where I took thin yarns and used thicker hooks and worked the stitches like you normally would but then really use the blocking technique to really make the lace explode and the texture of the stitches explode.

Zontee:  Well, it’s a fantastic book. I love so many of the different pieces in there. You really do capture that kind of texture that you can explore with crotchet and lace. I especially love what you did with that broomstick lace hat that you made in the Microspun. Can you tell us a little bit about playing with broomstick lace?

Kristin:  Sure. Well first off all I wanted to explore using broomstick lace in the round. Broomstick lace, first of all, is an extremely easy lace technique in crochet and it’s easy to work up. One row, the way I did it with the larger knitting needle, was actually like an inch tall. So it really goes quickly. But to make a hat, I really want to get some structure to the hat so that it stayed on and even could be a little warmer around the ears. So that’s why I thought to make a band in crochet cable, and then picked up from there to make the broomstick up towards the crown.

Zontee:  Wow. That’s really a great construction technique and it looks fantastic.

Kristin:  Thanks. Well, I thought it was fun to do a contrast too, to go from a dense texture to a loose and lacy, I thought it would be a fun combination of contrast textures.

Zontee:  Yeah. I definitely agree. It looks great. So let’s get into some questions from our listeners.

Laura from Illinois asks on the YarnCraft board on Ravelry, have you ever looked into translating a pattern from one type of needlework to another? Even inspired by a knit sweater pattern and look for a way to interpret it into a crochet sweater or visa versa?

Kristin:  Definitely. I mean, I even go one step further. I see brick design that I think would make a great texture in crochet or knitting, I apply it. But definitely in crochet and knitting, one can inspire the other. In fact my next book that comes out in January, called A Knitting Rhapsody, is all knitting patterns that are inspired by crochet. So often times we go from knitting to crocheting but this book I thought was a little different in the fact that I took what I loved about crochet and applied to knitting.

Zontee:  Well that’s fantastic. It’s good that you can get inspired by a lot of different crafts. And like you said, even just textures all around you.

Kristin:  Yeah, definitely. The orchid shawl in Crochet So Fine comes from a variety of inspiration. The center portion of the shawl came from a wrought iron table at a coffee shop. Thee center rings of the shawl, those were inspired by these big fat buds on my orchid plants in my backyard. And then the edging itself I created based on what the flower pedals look like when the orchids blossom. So I mean, honestly, I think you can find inspiration from everywhere.

Zontee:  Well that’s really fantastic. That was one of the topics that Lily Chin talked a lot about when we were at the Professional Development Day where you spoke at the Knit & Crochet show.

Kristin:  Right. I was agreeing and nodding my head through her whole speech.

Zontee:  It’s just so true. You can find inspiration in so many different ways. That kind of brings me to our next question. UntanglingMyMind, a long time listener of ours, asks for you, what comes first in the design process. Is it the yarn, the stitch motif, the vision of the garment, the shape. What inspires you first?

Kristin:  It depends. There are times when I’ll see a cut and sewn dress someone’s wearing in a parking lot. And I will say, oh, they would look great in crochet or knitting. Or sometimes I’ll sit down and sketch out a design first. Or even sometimes I’ll drape cloth on my mannequin to figure out how to make pleats or how to do all kinds of things, so it really varies from project to project.

Zontee:  Can you tell us a little bit about your website, styledbykristin.com and any other upcoming projects that you have in the works?

Kristin:  On my website I have a blog and I talk about what’s going on in my life and what’s going on in my projects. I also have stitch glossaries on there that I update. Every time I think about it, I update with new stitches that I’ve been working with. So those are often updated. And talk about where I’ve been, where I’m going, and different events and that sort of thing. So I have a lot of fun on it.

Zontee:  That’s great. Do you have a favorite part of being a knitwear and crochetwear designer?

Kristin:  Being able to work from home is awesome. I love being able to work, and having my work be so flexible. I can work at the beach. I can work at a coffee shop. I can work at night if I need to do something else during the day. The flexibility and the creativity is really wonderful for me.

Zontee:  That’s great. Finally, we always like to ask designers on our shows, do you have any particular piece of advice that you would share with someone who wants to become a designer themselves.

Kristin:  One piece of advice? Wow. That’s putting the pressure on. Let me think. One piece of advice. “Work hard,” I guess. Honestly, first you have to love what you do. That’s first and foremost, figuring out what your passion is. But the biggest part, I think, would be to know that it’s not a nine-to-five job. It’s going to be long, long hours and working hard. But as long as it’s something that you really love to do, then that’s the fun part is that you get work on it as much as you can.

Zontee:  So thank you again, Kristin, for joining us on today’s episode. Again, Kristin’s website, stylebykristin.com, is a great resource. You can check out so many different patterns that are available as PDFs for you to download from her site. Again, her book is Crochet So Fine and we’ll have a link to that from our episode guide as usual. Thanks again, Kristin.

Kristin:  Thank you, Zontee. [music]

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Zontee:  I’m here with Anna Hrachovec who you may know from Mochimochi Land, a great website. She is now the author of a book, Knitting Mochimochi.

Anna Knitting Mochimochi.

Zontee:  She’s here in the Lion Brand Design Center because she’s going to be doing an event here at our studio this evening. So we’re so happy to have you with us today.

Anna:  Thank you so much. I’m really happy to be talking to you.

Zontee:  Tell us a little bit about your website for those who aren’t familiar with it.

Anna:  I have been designing toys for about‑‑I think it’s about three and a half years now; I kind of lose count. But I basically started designing toys on a whim. I’ve been an knitter for a long time and one day I just thought it would be cool to start making some knitted toys instead of scarves or hats or whatever. It was really fun and I just took a few pictures of some of the first things that I did, which really were just oddly‑shaped creatures, and I put them on Flickr and I got some nice responses from a few knitters on Flickr and it really just kind of snowballed from there.

They were willing to test some patterns for me when I was learning to write some patterns, and then my husband helped me make a little website for myself. It’s mainly a blog, I guess, where I post pictures of things that I’m doing and share pictures of toys that other knitters have made from my patterns.

I’ve been doing that for a long time now and I’m just totally addicted to toys and that’s all I’ve been knitting for about three and a half years.

Zontee:  I think what appeal is of your patterns is that they’re really whimsical. You have bathtubs with little bubbles and really sweet little woodland creatures and things like that and just really charming. Where do you draw your inspiration for all these different designs?

Anna:  Well, thank you. My inspiration really comes from everywhere, as you can see. A bathtub, obviously, I saw a bathtub somewhere and thought, “Oh, it has little feet. That could be a thing. That could be a creature.” I guess I really like to use ideas that start with something pretty ordinary.

It could just be an animal like a pig–everybody likes a pig; they’re cute–then I wanted to do something a little different to it, usually, some little twist on it to make it a little more interesting than just a normal pig. So I also like rhymes, rhyming things, so a lot of the titles of my projects have rhyming names. So I came up with “Pigs with Wigs”, which is completely silly, but I love silliness.

So I, for this book that I just wrote–it’s called Knitting Mochimochi that you mentioned–I put the pigs in there with the wigs. Yeah, people seem to, I guess, respond to that little twist on something normal.

Zontee:  Yeah. I do think it’s that twist that makes them kind of fun, something that you don’t expect, but it makes you laugh. I think people like that. What’s also great about your patterns. You do such interesting shaping. You get a lot of shape out of knitting, which a lot of people don’t traditionally think of for really well‑formed toys. Do you have any tips for people when it comes to that sort of shaping?

Anna:  Well, to be honest, my biggest tip for everybody is just experiment. That’s really how I figure out a lot of the shaping that I do. I think it really leads you to be more creative if you start out with an idea of a shape that you want, a particular kind of toy like an animal or something. Then you have even the vaguest sense of what might work for it.

Because toys are smaller than a huge project like a sweater, and because toys don’t have to fit somebody, you can really be very free with trying things out and if you need to backtrack a little bit, you can rip some of it out and start over. So that’s my biggest piece of advice to people is just if you’re hesitant to start because you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you should just give it a try.

But with shaping, I do have a section in my new book on designing and toys because I knew that I’ve experimented for a long time and I’ve learned a few really basic things that maybe not everybody wants to put the time in to figure out on their own. So I included a few very basic guidelines for knitting in the round.

For example, if you increase eight stitches in one round and then knit around and then increase eight stitches, every other round like that, you’re going to get a more or less flat circle. So it’s just a really basic guideline that I use a lot. Then if you do six stitches every other round, you get more of a rounded shape. The fewer stitches you go down, it’s more elongated. So that’s a really simple guideline that can maybe start some people off.

Zontee:  That is really useful to know. I always tell people if you want to crochet a circle it’s six increases every round and if you have that in your head, then you’ll get a flat circle. That’s good to know as a basis.

Anna:  Yeah.

Zontee:  So you’ve created all these really different and kind of fun whimsical toys. Is there anything that you haven’t created yet that you would if you could?

Anna:  Oh, my. That’s a good question. I have a very long list of things that I want to do and get around to. I’m working on something right now that includes a lot of challenges that I’m not sure exactly how I’ll do them. I’m actually working on a project for an installation for a solo show that I’m going to have this fall. I’m really excited about it. It’s kind of a big undertaking for me, but it’s going to be sort of a landscape. The idea is that I’m going to incorporate a model train because I wanted a moving element.

Zontee:  Oh. That’s so cool. It’s actually going to go down a track?

Anna:  Yeah. It’s going to go around a track. I have the train and I have the track and I’ve actually just been working on creating a knitted cover for the train. So the train itself is going to be sort of a knitted creature even though under it is a working train. It’s a challenge. So I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I can say, “Oh, I did this, ” because I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to shape it so that it’s not going to mess up the engineering of the train or set it off the tracks and crashing into everything else.

Zontee:  Sure. That’s great. A question that we had gotten from one of our listeners was, “What inspires you at the beginning of a pattern? Do you work off of a color palette or an idea or do you try to take a challenge at hand and say, ‘How can I make this into something?’”

Anna:  I have a sketchbook, which is the most embarrassing thing in the world. It’s completely messy and I can’t draw at all, but I do really take some time. Not every day, but I try to regularly take some time to sit down with it and work on some new ideas and I’ll usually come up with a basic idea for a creature that I want to make and I’ll actually sketch it over and over and over again in my sloppy sketching. Once I get to a shape that I like the best that’s really what I start with. Then I do go to colors a lot. I lean toward really bright crazy colors usually. That can help me come with exactly what kind of personality this toy’s going to have.

Zontee:  Do you give them names and personalities? Do you write about them as kind of creatures that exist?

Anna:  I really think of them as creatures that exist. That’s true. I haven’t written full stories for any of them, and that’s something I would love to do. It’s just I’m always usually on to the next thing once I make something. But, yeah, I definitely think of them as having personalities and it’s really true that another great thing about knitting toys–as soon as you pop a pair of eyes in them or sew on/embroider on a pair of eyes, it’s looking back at you and it’s thinking something about you.

And, for some reason, maybe because I don’t put smiles or mouths all over my toys, sometimes I’m not sure if they like me or not. But they’re still really cute, nonetheless.

Zontee:  Oh, that’s great. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Tell us again the name of your book and also your website.

Kristin:  OK, my book is Knitting Mochimochi, and it’s got 20 all new patterns for knitted toys. And my website is mochimochiLand.com and I’ve got just a ton of other patterns for knitted toys there. [music]

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Zontee:  Today on Stash This, we’re tackling the topic of swaps. And, for those of you who don’t know what a swap is, Liz, do you want do you want to fill us in?

Liz:  Depending on the exact form of the swap, it’s kind of like pen pals with presents or Secret Santa if it’s an in‑person one. It’s basically where there are kind of two different kinds. There’s the gift bag kind where everyone puts their name into a hat and gets randomly assigned someone else and you maybe have a list of the colors they like, types of projects they like to make and you put together a little gift package for them under a certain predetermined dollar level. And everyone sends it by a certain date and it’s fun.

Zontee:  And the other kind is where everybody makes some kind of project within certain categories or some kind of guideline and then comes together or mails it to the other people. Again, you get assigned a person or, in some cases, swaps are where everyone’s sharing something with everyone else and that way, at the end of it, you all have gifts from each other. And it’s a really great way to gift with other yarn crafters so that you can actually experiment with other things and it’s also a really great way to connect with people who you may not know that well. Say you have knitting or crochet group, but not everyone in the group is not as close to each other as everyone else. So you do a swap so that you can bond, it’s really fun.

Liz:  And I think these have always been popular. But, certainly now that we have the Internet and tools like Ravelry to help us meet other yarn crafters, they really seem to have exploded in popularity.

Zontee:  Yeah, definitely.

Liz:  I remember the first swap I participated in was back in the days, the early days of Craftster, where it was a supplies swap. You just put in a lot of extra crafting supplies that you weren’t using and passed them along.

Zontee:  That’s a great idea. So let’s talk about some different ways that you can do swaps. I like the idea of tools that you aren’t using or even yarn that you’re not using because that’s a great way to pass along things so that someone else can get the benefit out of them. And it may be that you organize it, again, with your local group of people or it may be a pen pal situation as we often see on Ravelry where people from all over the country or all over the world actually swapping with each other.

Liz:  Absolutely, so on any of the online yarn crafting forums there are usually special threads for people organizing or starting swaps. So that’s a great way to get involved if you don’t have a local community in your area.

Zontee:  Yeah, some examples are the Vanna’s Choice Swap Group on Ravelry and the Lion Brand Swap Group on Ravelry, both are doing kind of thematic things.

Liz:  I think it’s really great how Vanna’s Choice Group ‑‑ they’ve really focused on afghans where they pick different color themes and you sign up for color themes and there’s a group of 12 people and everyone in the group makes 12 afghan squares of a specific pattern and color combination and mails them out to the 11 other people in the group and they get 11 different afghan blocks in return. And then everyone can put them together as their own afghan.

Zontee:  Yeah, I think that’s really incredible, because it’s almost like you get a gift from all these different people and it’s the way a patchwork afghan kind of reminds you of a lot of different things if you’re using scraps of fabric. In this case, all of the blocks represent different people and your relationship and experience with them. So, I think that’s really special and I think it’s wonderful that you can get that back story of this block is from Hannah in Iowa and this block is from Joann in Florida and it’s a really incredible tapestry of all the different people that you’ve been able to connect with.

Liz:  And I think that’s a really great example of, if you’re interested in organizing or starting one, it’s best to start with a theme or an idea. Make it really focused, you can pick anything from hats to socks to scarves to afghans. You can incorporate a charity focus but the more specific you are, the more happy everyone is going to be with the experience.

Zontee:  I agree. That way people kind of feel like what they put out is what they’re going to get back in. Because what you don’t want to do is have a situation‑‑I remember doing a Secret Santa with some friends years ago where the guidelines weren’t all that set and some people got really great gifts and some people got kind of gag gifts and people weren’t so happy. So I think it’s the same sort of guidelines need to apply when it comes to swapping. You want everyone to get sort of the same level of thing back.

Liz:  Absolutely. And it’s good to have a very specific timeline for when people are going to get the names of their swap partner or partners, when packages are expected to be mailed out, what people should do if there’s some sort of catastrophe and they’re not going to be able to hold up their end of the bargain, who you should contact if there’s a problem and you never receive a package. And, then, a lot of swaps have what are called “angels,” which are people who offer in the beginning to do a second gift package for someone if their partner drops out or make extra of whatever the item is.

Zontee:  That’s really great to know. And, Liz, you mentioned earlier you’re about really focused things and a really interesting example of a swap concept was “Sock Wars,” which was this phenomenon that came about a couple of years ago in the knitting community.

Liz:  I think it’s still going. I think it might have morphed into something else. I’m not that sophisticated, I don’t really understand how “Sock Wars,” worked exactly. But it looked really fun, if it makes sense to you.

Zontee:  Right. Well, the idea with “Sock Wars” was really that you got ‑‑ it was kind of a play on the game “Assassins,” which some of you might be familiar with, where you got an assignment or a target and the idea was to get rid of that person by contacting them. Or I remember in college we used to play and you used to have to tap that person on the shoulder and tell them, “I got you,” or whatever. So, in the case, you had to finish your pair of socks before you received a finished pair of socks from someone else, because that would take you out of the game. So you wanted to finish your socks and mail them off to someone and they would be out of the game and the idea was to eliminate as many people as possible. And when you eliminated a person, you then got their target. And so the idea was to be the last man standing, basically.

Liz:  Yeah, but unlike the college game of “Assassins,” where when you get tapped out, you’re left with bupkiss, in “Sock Wars,” when you’re tapped out you’re have a beautiful pair of socks.

Zontee:  There you go, that’s very true. It’s like you get a gift for getting out of the game.

Liz:  Exactly.

Zontee:  And going back to other ways you can organize your swap, I though that the Lion Brand Swap Group that just started on Ravelry was a good one because they’re really doing their themes around different yarns. And this is a great way for people to try out yarns that they’ve never tried before and also to play with different color palettes that they haven’t experimented.

Liz:  I think that’s a great idea and I think that works for either gift box swaps or pre‑made item ones. And you can have people fill out little surveys about what they might like to see in their gift box, but make the rule be like, what new thing would you like to try or what kind of new pattern or new yarn. That gives people the incentive to get out of their comfort zone a little but and still get a beautiful present.

Zontee:  I think that’s really good. So basically the idea here with swaps and the reason why we brought it up for today’s “Stash This, ” was because it is about community, exploring new projects, connecting with others and really having fun with your knitting or crocheting. And the great thing about the knitting/crocheting community is really that there’s such wonderful sense of sharing. So, in a way, being able to come together for these swaps allows you to do that in a more formalized way and actually connect with more people.

Liz:  Yeah, so we really encourage you to reach out, whether with your local groups or online, and let us know how your experiences pan out. [music]

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Zontee:  We want to thank all of you for joining us today and we want to thank those of you who shared tips, questions and comments on our blog by emailing us and on our Ravelry Group.

Liz:  Join us in two weeks when we take a listener’s suggestion for an episode topic–thanks, Alane–and share what we here at Lion Brand love to work on and why. It’s going to be a fun and insightful episode. And, of course, we want to know what you would love to work on and why, so be sure to share with us. Leave a question on our blog by emailing us, leave a comment on our Ravelry Group, or by voice mail at 774‑452‑YARN, that’s 774‑452‑9276, and your comments may be included in our next episode.

And, as usual, our music was “Boy with a Coin, ” by Iron and Wine from the Podsafe Music Network. [music]

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For more information about the patterns, links, and products discussed in this episode, please see the episode guide.