Orbiting the Fiber Universe, 17 January 2012

Another wrap-up of all the great fiber arts news that’s caught my eye of late…

Stacey Trock of Fresh Stitches Guides you through Choosing Colours for your ProjectYou know my world is about colour — I talk about it all the time.  And I am convinced that working with beautiful colour makes everyone else’s world better too.  So I just love this quick guide to choosing your own colours for for crochet patterns, from Stacey Trock of Fresh Stitches.  And of course, everything she says works for knitting too!

You’ve probably heard about those programs that teach inmates to knit and crochet, right? Personally, I can’t get enough of them, probably because I so wholeheartly believe that the fiber arts are life-enhancing.  But this article — where inmate are able to use knitting to reach out to kids who are facing the same tough situations they once faced — really touched me.

The number one thing most of my customers tell me they love is the colour of their yarn. And the close second is always the softness.  But, if you can step beyond those two essentials for a moment, come and have a look at these amazing crocheted wire sculptures by Ruth Asawa.  Just breath-taking. (And, when you’re done, you run straight back to soft and colourful, I promise!)

I loved this knitted Happy New Year sign from Mansha Friedrich in Hanover, Germany.  What better way to set yourself up for a year of fibery goodness?!?

Do you speak Finnish? Or wait… is it Danish? No, Norwegian?  Or… oh well, whatever it is,  I bet you will loooove this knitted wallpaper as much as I do.  Knitted walls for the win!

And now, for something really, really important.   It’s not fiber related but, people, this has totally changed my life.  Seriously, it has.  Read this article about olive oil — or, even better, click the link at the top of the page and listen to the actual radio programme.  And then, go out, scour those labels and find yourself some olive oil that was mechanically processed.  And watch your life change.  Well, we use a lot of olive oil in our house (a lot) so it was life-changing for us, but I promise it will at least improve yours a bit.

…No, seriously, do it.  It has changed. my. life.


Oh! and something really exciting happened — I finally got Pinterest!  I mean, I’d taken a little wander through it before and I thought it was pretty but… meh.  Another social networking site?  Another thing I’m supposed to keep up with?  Yeah, I wasn’t that into it.

But then this week, it finally clicked.  It’s for bookmarking webpages, but better.  Instead of a dropdown menu full of words that all jumble together, it’s visual, so I can remember instantly what it is and why I saved it.  Every pin clicks through to the original source.  And it’s social, so I can see all the cool-tempting-interesting stuff other people are bookmarking and grab it for myself — the colours, the images, the ideas.  Half the stuff in this post came from Pinterest.  And… it’s so beautiful.  Really, really beautiful.

I love it.  I’m hooked!  If you’re already hooked too, please come and follow me.   And if you’re not yet hooked, just click on that link and play around a bit. Once you realise it’s for much more than just looking at pretty pictures, I bet you’ll be hooked too.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Orbiting the Fiber Universe, 16 Nov 2011

Some of you may have seen me post and tweeting about sending out a package of 40 pounds — that’s right, forty pounds — of yarn that we recently sent off to fibre space in Alexandria VA.  fibre space is one of the coolest LYSs in the country, and I am deeply honoured to have SpaceCadet yarn in their collection.

fibre space in Alexandria VA is the newest LYS to carry SpaceCadet Creations knitting yarnsBut I didn’t get a chance to tell you about the super cool write-up they did to introduce SpaceCadet Creations to fibre space’s customers.  It was a lot of fun being interviewed by Veronica for it!  Click here to check it out.

And then I thought of all the other great stuff that ‘s been coming through on my Twitter feed lately, and thought I’d share some of it with you here.  So here’s a quick wrap-up of the stuff that caught my eye…


I loved this piece of advice from designer @GlennaKnits: “Is there a knitting pattern you’ve really enjoyed? Consider sending the designer positive feedback! It helps us to know what knitters love.”

Carrie Keplinger designs knitting and crochet patternsAnd speaking of designers, the very lovely Carrie Keplinger, who is right this minute editing my ebook (so exciting! watch this space!), has put her entire Like Clochework Collection of adorable crocheted hats on sale for $14.99 until November 26. Go, quick, get a copy!

You know it and I know it and every knitter and crocheter in town knows it, but now the New York Times has cottoned on: Capes and Wraps are Hot!

You only work on one project at a time, right?  No?!? Ok then, you might enjoy this post, where Stacey Trock of Fresh Stitches does a quick run-through of some basic storage options for WIPs.

KnitPurlGurl's videos for beginning knittersThis one is just for my sister, who has gone crazy for knitting — as in, garter stitch only — but has yet to learn to cast on, purl, or bind off….   Karrie at KnitPurlGurl.com has done some quick videos that explain the very basics of knitting for beginners.  Got a friend who keeps asking you to knit for her?  Smile sweetly, and send her here!

And finally, did you see this?  A crocheted spare tire coverFantastic!!!  Wear your crafting with pride!


Designer Profile: Stacey Trock of Fresh Stitches

Here’s a Friday morning brainteaser for you…  (because, you need one, right? You’re wide awake and raring for brainteasing this morning, right?   …no?  Oh, never mind, keep reading.  It’s worth it.)

Right, here’s your brainteaser: how do you pronounce amigurumi?  Yes, amigurumi.  I’m hitting you with a word like amigurumi first thing on a Friday morning not because I’m particularly cruel and sadistic (although…   umm… no, never mind) but because if you don’t know about amigurumi, then I have someone I want to introduce you to.

Fresh Stitches Amigurumi crochet designer Stacey Trock on SpaceCadet Creations yarn and knitting blog
© Fresh Stitches, used with permission

Ok, let’s back it up and make Friday morning a bit easier.  How do you pronounce Fresh Stitches?  How about Stacey Trock?  Better?   Yep, me too!  I can’t say amigurumi to save my life.  …Well, I can, but I have to slow right down and I sound like an idiot.  I prefer to say Stacey Trock.  Mostly, because I really like her.

Stacey designs crocheted amigurumi, which is a Japanese word meaning a crocheted or knitted stuffed animal.  And so you know they are going to be cute, but Stacey’s designs are not just cute, they’re downright funky.  I mean, right now, you’re thinking “teddy bears”, right?  Nope.

Fresh Stitches Amigurumi by Stacey Trock
left-right: Dale the Mosquito, Mr Crabby, and Zork the Alien (© Fresh Stitches, used with permission)

I met Stacey at TNNA in June — she was unmissable, wandering around with a crocheted monkey on her back — and I quickly discovered she is an absolutely lovely person.  During the Mother-of-All-Knit-Nights (imagine a room filled with every.single.one of your knitting idols, and that’s exactly what it was), Stacey and I got to talking and…  we just kept going for a couple of hours!  Isn’t it just the coolest thing when the people you’ve admired from afar turn out to be truly nice people in real life?


Stacey, your amigurumi are so adorable!   How do your design ideas come to you?  Do you know what the finished project will look like before you start, or do you let the yarn and hook lead the way and just see how it comes out?

Aww, thank you! I have no idea how my ideas come to me… sometimes I think it’s just a little fairy in the night that brings them.  In all honesty, I’ll just get ‘struck’ by an animal idea, and I know exactly how it’s going to look and how it’s going to be made.  And more than often, I’m right.  Once in a while, I go through a phase of experimenting with different shapes and techniques, and then a whole new batch of animals will hit me.

Fresh Stitches Nelson the Owl by crochet designer Stacey Trock
© Fresh Stitches, used with permission

When did you make the jump from crocheter to crochet designer?  What defined that change in your mind?

Ah, yes… you’re hinting at two different questions! The first one is: when did I go from crocheter to being a person who sold crochet designs.  I did that one summer, when I was finished with school, and was tired of what I was doing.  I asked myself, ‘what would I do if I didn’t have to worry about money at all?’.  And I thought, ‘make stuffed animals’.  And, I’ve been crocheting since I was very small, so that seemed like the natural method to make my animals.  Then, I thought about it, and figured I really could make a living of it… so, then I just started designing! My first designs were a koala and a lion.
The second question, when did I feel like a crochet designer is slightly different.  It took a while for me to really believe that this was my job and not just some pipe dream.  I would say that after my first book, Cuddly Crochet, came out, I felt like I was really a designer.
It’s interesting, though- because I think of myself as a stuffed animal designer, not a ‘crochet designer’.  I would jump to knitting stuffed animals before I would design a crocheted sweater.  I guess I’m just obsessed with stuffed animals 🙂

When you design, do you have a specific person in mind?  Are you designing for someone, or for yourself?

I always have one of two customers in mind when I design.  Customer number one is a late-20s, early 30s woman who is crocheting a toy for her children (of course, in real life, it could be a grandmother, aunt or even a father… but marketing folks tell you to be specific!).  She’s interested in a pattern that’s not overwhelmingly complicated (she has other things to do, after all!) and she’s also interested in a fairly mainstream, cute animal.  The animal also will need to be baby-safe (crocheted eyes, no long strings, etc.).  My Nelson the Owl pattern is a stereotypical example of an animal I designed with this customer in mind.
Customer number 2 is a late teenager or 20-something woman who loves crocheting and wants to make a funky and cute crocheted animal.  She’s not scared off by trying a new technique, but the end product has to be awesome.  She may be making it to make a statement at work, or crocheting a gift for a

friend (and wants a super-unique gift over something you can just buy in the store).  Weird animals are totally okay… even suggested!  Sandford the Squid is the best example of a pattern I’ve designed with this customer in mind.
Sometimes, I lose sight of my customer, and design an animal ‘just because’, and these usually end up being flops.  Like, I designed a cheetah… he was cute, for a cheetah.  But, what’s the market? You don’t give a cheetah to a baby.  And, people looking for funky designs aren’t drawn to cheetahs.
It’s been a lesson… even though I’m completely passionate about what I do, it’s still a business, and I need to keep in mind that I’m designing for my customers.

Milton the Slowpoke Snail by Fresh Stitches Crochet designer Stacey Trock
© Fresh Stitches, used with permission

Are there any special skills needed for amigurumi that are different from other crochet projects?

The main thing about amigurumi is that they are worked in the round.  You don’t need any special stitches (it’s the same single crochet, increasing and decreasing that you see everywhere), but starting off can be tricky for folks… it’s getting the piece going in the round.  I use the sloppy slip knot (a technique that I made up by accident) because it’s quick an easy.  The magic ring is another popular choice.
Attaching the pieces (arms, legs, etc to the body) also takes a little artistry.  It can be tricky when you start, but using some locking stitch markers to position the piece (and see if you like it) before sewing it on is a great tip.  Alternatively, Dawn Toussaint is an amigurumi designer who attaches all of the pieces as you crochet- so there’s nothing to attach afterwards… that can make the whole attaching-thing easier!

What is the best bit of being a designer?  What part of it brings you the most joy?

The thing I love most is the flexibility.  I get to work from home and make my own schedule.  My partner (Tim) is Australian, and we go back to Australia for 3 weeks every Christmas.  I’m the studio manager at my yoga studio, and I attend classes at 5pm.  Tim is giving a talk at a university in a few weeks, and I get to just go along.  I don’t think I could do any of those things if I worked a normal 9-5 job.
Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t work a lot of hours… but the flexibility is priceless to me!
It’s funny you ask the 2nd question… because the best thing in the world happened to me this morning- that makes my job super-awesome.  One of my customers emailed me and told me that she was going through a very hard time in her life (due to family illness), and that what had gotten her through was making my stuffed animals for her grandchildren!  I couldn’t believe someone would say such a sweet thing to me! Making others happy brings me the most joy!

Cuddly Crochet by Fresh Stitches designer Stacey TrockWhat is your favourite amigurumi design that you’ve done? Which one makes you smile every time you see it?

I’ve got two.  One is Nelson the Owl… I’m not sure if it’s because owls are insanely popular right now, or what, but I make a lot of them, and they’re adorable every time! It doesn’t matter what color combo you use- he’s adorable!  The second is Milton the Snail from my new book, Crocheted Softies.  I have a total soft spot for snails… and I love Milton!!!

What do you suggest to knitters/crocheters who are nervous about using hand-dyed?

Fresh Stitches crochet designer Stacey Trock
© Fresh Stitches, used with permission

Who’s afraid of hand-dyeds? I’ll go have a talk with them! I think what most people don’t realize is that you can use hand-dyed yarns in almost any pattern that calls for commercial yarns! Crocheters and Knitters seem to get really caught up on using the yarn recommended in the pattern… but as long as you’re substituting a similar weight and fiber yarn (i.e. a worsted weight wool for another worsted weight wool)- you don’t need to think very hard about doing a substitution!  And, there’s so much more variety in the hand-dyed market.  A commercial yarn company produces thousands of skeins of each color… so they’re pretty tied to producing yarns and colors with a broad appeal.  But, since an indie dyer produces yarn in small lots, they can really let their creativity shine through.  I’ve gotten some amazingly colored skeins from indie dyers that would have never been available commercially! Also, you can’t beat the colors and love that goes into hand-dyed… so I say, rock on!


See what I mean?  She’s lovely!  You can see more of Stacey’s designs and books on her website, www.freshstitches.com, on Twitter @freshstitches, on Facebook, and on Ravelry as FreshStitches.