I got some great news last month: SpaceCadet Creations yarn has been chosen for two designs for two upcoming books! How cool is that?!? Seriously, I am so excited!
And I want to introduce you to the designer, Amy Maceyko. Not only because she turned out to be a really nice person, but also because it’s really interesting to see as she how she applies her experience as an architect to her fiber arts. So I asked her a few questions…
I know you are an architect, a knitting teacher, and a crochet designer. How do these three parts of your creativity influence each other?
Good question. They are honestly even more intertwined than I expected them to be back when I started knitting. The way that I work as an architect definitely influences my process when I’m designing knit or crocheted pieces. Just as an architect draws 2-dimensional plans of a 3-dimensional building, I tend to draw 2-dimensional “plans” of my designs in yarn. I even add notes and dimensions the same way I do it for buildings. It is entirely possible that an architect could look in my knitting/crochet notebook and understand my creations better than a fellow designer, but I haven’t had a chance to test this theory yet.
As for the other way around, I think the way that my yarn endeavors influence my architecture is a bit more subtle. Crochet and knitting gives me a way to play with color and texture in a much faster medium than architecture. So all of the time I have spent putting different colors of yarn together, playing with proportion and looking at ways that textures react to different 3-dimensional shapes has improved my work on the interior design aspects of the job.
And lastly, there is a lot of similarity between teaching and working with a client as an architect. Most people who are building a building have never done so before (with the exception of the head honchos), so there is some teaching that goes along with working with any client. In general, all teaching that you do makes you a better teacher, so I felt ready to jump into teaching knitting and crochet quickly even without a lot of past experience.
What came first for you, crochet or knitting? Has that influenced the way you design?
Technically, I learned to crochet first because my mom taught me when I was little. But it didn’t stick and I only cross-stitched and sewed for many years before coming back to yarn crafts in my late 20’s. I learned to knit first and then to crochet (again) about 4 years later. I think my brain probably tends to swing more toward knitting designs because at this point I’ve been knitting about twice as long as I’ve been crocheting and I’ve made so many more knitted objects. But since there don’t seem to be as many independent crochet designers out there, I am trying to force myself to keep thinking about crochet designs to build an audience. I also think there are some things that knitting does better and some things that crochet does better, so when I think of a particular look I want to achieve I try to imagine which fabric will serve the purpose best.
Hmmm…that kind of sounds like the famous Louis Sullivan quote “Forms follows function.” Apparently my architectural influences are everywhere…
When did you make the jump from knitter/crocheter to knit/crochet designer? What defined that change in your mind?
Some of it was gradual and some of it was much more sudden. Even since I first learned to knit I have made up patterns as I went, and whenever I followed a pattern I always altered something about it. At least the yarn, probably the gauge, maybe the edging, etc. It is just in my DNA to try things differently. I had a student who wanted to learn a free online hat pattern a few weeks ago, so I knitted one the week before the class to ensure that I could teach her all of the skills she needed. As soon as I finished, I cast on another that removed all of the garter ridges and added 4 columns of cables. I just couldn’t stop myself!
But in all of these years I haven’t actually written my made up patterns and shared them with anyone. I have thought about it. But by the time I really felt confident enough to do it I had a 2 year old and a baby…and not enough sleep to do pattern writing after they were in bed.
And then a year ago I was laid off from my architecture job. After the first optimistic 6-8 looking for a job, I started talking to my local yarn store about part time work and looking at design submission requests on ravelry. Within a couple of months I was teaching classes, working some part time hours in the shop and had three designs accepted for a series of crochet books! I am still looking for full time work, but now that my kids are older and I have “established” myself a little, I plan to keep up some teaching and designing even if (when) I find another position as an architect.
How do you approach hand-dyed yarns that’s different from the way you design in commercial yarns? What do you suggest to knitters/crocheters who are nervous about using hand-dyed?
It is somewhat easier to design with commercial yarns because you can tell the knitter or crocheter exactly what to buy, and I’ve found there are lots of crafters out there who even want to use the same color that’s used in the sample. There are people who want to see exactly what they’re going to make before they make it.
There is so much potential in hand-dyed options and so many people spinning their own yarn, it is really an important market to consider designs that go beyond the workhorse commercial yarns. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I have some yarn in my stash that I have acquired at wool festivals. This is yarn that few, if any, of the people buying my patterns could acquire. It is also yarn that I *really* want to design with, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the best ways to go about it.
One thing I have been thinking about is including a picture of the yarn in the hank as a part of the pattern when I use something unusual or hand-dyed. This would give the knitter or crocheter a sense of what I started with to help them in the shopping process.
But in the end, it is really all about swatching. I can look at a skein of hand-dyed yarn and have an idea. But until I swatch I don’t know for sure if it will work. The more I work with variegated yarns the better sense I have of what will and won’t work before I swatch, but not well enough to describe it to other people yet. 🙂
My advice is that if a hand-dyed yarn has caught your eye and you can’t stop thinking about it…buy it! Yarn is not a precious commodity, it should be used. Buy it, wind it, and swatch it! In the worst case, if you don’t like what you try making, you can undo it and try something else.
How many projects do you have on the go right now? Is there such a thing as too many projects or too much yarn?
2 baby blankets (One of those babies just turned 1 – oops!), 1 Babette blanket, 1 sweater for class and for the book series – 2 blankets, a girl’s cardigan and a girl’s jumper. I also have a small pile of hand knits that need mending or sweaters that aren’t quite right.
I did find that when I had an infant I really had to keep my number of projects low so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by my projects. I also don’t tend to have WIP for years and years, Babette being the one exception because I tend to work on it in fits and starts. That list above is really everything that I have in progress. I don’t have a bin of items that I abandoned. Although I do have a number of bags with yarn and an index card with the description of the item that yarn could (should?) become. But since I haven’t actually started them yet beyond the idea, they aren’t WIPs.
What can you tell us about the two designs you’re doing in SpaceCadet yarns?
The first is a wrap cardigan in girl’s size 4, 6, 8 and 10. Although someone saw me working on it at my LYS this week wishing I would make an adult pattern. The cardigan has some flower motifs along the front, but most of the fabric is worked in double crochet through the back loop. It has been a little tricky to figure out, but I think it will be pretty straightforward for the crocheters to make.
The second is a very textured blanket. I’m actually making two versions of it for the book, one in Space Cadet yarn and a second in Berroco Vintage, one of my favorite commercial yarns. My initial goal in making two is to show the amazing opportunity to play with the yarn choice – from high contrast to something more subtle and variegated.
I’m very excited to see how both projects come out!
Both of Amy’s designs will appear in the Fresh Design Crochet series from Cooperative Press: her cardigan will be in Fresh Design Crochet: Sweaters, coming out in Spring 2012, and the blanket will be part of Fresh Design Crochet: Home, in Autumn 2012. You can check out Amy’s blog, Structured Stitches, to follow her adventures in fiber arts design.