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 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,, on Twitter @freshstitches, on Facebook, and on Ravelry as FreshStitches.

Shop Update: Snorkel, Sailor’s Warning, Beguile, and Rescue

The ebook has been sent to the editor, the shop has been restocked  after PLY, there’s a website revamp underway (now, there’s a mix of joy and pain!), and the Super Secret Thing is almost ready to go…  It’s been a good week.  …A busy week!

Oh, and there’s been dyeing.  Lots of dyeing.  Some of it has been that fantastic experimental stuff that I love to do — that’s going into the Yarn Adventurers’ newsletter that will go out later today.  If you’re on the Yarn Adventurers’ mailing list, keep your eyes open for it.  And if you’re not on the list, get on it!

And there’s some wonderful stuff that’s gone into the shop…  A wonderfully vibrant colourway called Snorkel (not for the faint of heart, that one!);  the warm and tropical Sailor’s Warning (see it knitted up as a sock);  the absolutely stunning greens of Rescue (and there’s four skeins of it, enough for a cardi); and then there’s one of my most favourite colourways ever ever ever, Beguile (three skeins, enough for a bigger project).  The skeins of Rescue and of Beguile are both split over different dyelots, but they are all so close that you can feel confident buying across the dyelots if you do want to do a larger project.

Hand dyed yarn for knitting and crochet by indie dyer SpaceCadet Creations

Today is the LAST DAY to join the Yarn Alliance

This is just a quick reminder that subscriptions to the InterStellar Yarn Alliance close at midnight tonight.  If you’ve been considering joining, thinking about it, checking out all the fab parcels and the lovely yarns…   now is the time!

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Each member will receive an exciting parcel delivered every other month containing:

  • SpaceCadetTM Creations yarn (light to medium weight) in an exclusive Yarn Alliance colourway (guaranteed not to be offered on the SpaceCadet website for at least 6 months)
  • A great Yarn Alliance gift tucked into every parcel!
  • The SpaceCadet’s Log exploring the inspiration for each colourway.
  • An InterStellar Yarn Alliance group on Ravelry where you can discuss WIPs, ask questions, and share FOs with fellow members.
  • The InterStellar Yarn Alliance newsletter with periodic special offers exclusively for members.
  • A 15% off couponevery six months

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Subscriptions: 6 months (3 parcels) $125; or 12 months (6 parcels) $235

Parcels will be sent out in late October, December, February, April, June, and August. Subscription openings will be available in March and September. Shipping within the United States is included in the price; extra charges apply for shipping outside the US.

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Remember, subscriptions close at midnight tonight!  Join now!

Fresh Design Crochet: SpaceCadet Yarn

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.

SpaceCadet Creations, yarn, crochet, knitting, indie dyer, hand dyed

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.

SpaceCadet Creations, yarn, crochet, knitting, hand dyed, indie dyer

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.

SpaceCadet Creations, yarn, crochet, knitting, Amy Maceyko, indie dyer, hand dyed

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.

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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.

And Now With Less Added Confusion…


I’ve discovered that apparently when I decide to write blog posts/emails while I’m all knackered out right after doing a yarn show…  well, what I write is pretty darned confusing!  The previous blog post in a case in point.  So now I’ve had some coffee, let me see if I can clarify.

I talked about two mailing lists in my previous post:

If you want to find out about the upcoming ebook, the Super Secret Thing, and all sorts of SpaceCadet news and shop updates, make sure you’re on the main SpaceCadet Mailing List.    Emails go out about twice a week, and they’re full of good things.  Click here to sign up.

The second mailing list is members-only for the InterStellar Yarn AllianceIf you joined the Alliance in March, you need to get on the Alliance Mailing List by letting me know it’s ok for me to sign you up.  If you’re already a member of the Alliance, go ahead and shoot me a quick email with  “PUT ME ON THE ISYA MAILING LIST!” and so I can get you signed up.

And if you’re not a member of the InterStellar Yarn Alliance?  The Alliance is currently open for subscriptions, but only for another four days, so come and join us now!

Click here to join the InterStellar Yarn Alliance

Phew! Ok, I think that’s a bit better.  Lesson learnt: I must never blog or email before coffee!

The Super Secret Thing and Other Exciting Stuff

The PLY Party was seriously crazy!  There were so many people that, at moments, I hardly knew where to stand.  It’s so much fun when it gets like that… when everyone’s starting to get a bit high on the fiber!

But, before I tell you all about it, I just want to let you know that there are only FOUR DAYS LEFT to join the InterStellar Yarn Alliance.  This is the SpaceCadet’s Cosmic Yarn Club and it is a BLAST!  Click here to read more about it, or just click on the button below to join now…

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Ok, back to the PLY Party…  First, yeah, it was crazy, and then when it calmed down a little… well, that was really nice too, because I got to chat with some really great people.  A couple of them were members of the InterStellar Yarn Alliance: one I’d met before in person (and who had such nice things to say about the Alliance that she actually made me blush!) and one whom I’d known only through the forums — what a lovely surprise to get to meet her in person!

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I also ended up in a conversation with a brand-new crocheter and showed her a couple of exciting patterns on Ravelry, so (I hope) I helped to get her even more excited about new yarny adventures.  And I had a wonderful conversation about England with a lady who’d lived there for years.  Really joyed meeting everyone!

But after a show…  exhaustion.  And yet, there’s so much to do!  First, I have to fill the shop back up after emptying it for the show.  That was supposed to happen Tuesday — I’m hoping to get it done today.  Check in throughout the day to see if I manage to do it…!

But more exciting than that are some great things on the horizon…

First, I’m working on an ebook: a short introduction to using hand-dyed yarns and choosing patterns that will bring out their best.  I know hand-dyeds can be a little daunting to some knitters and crocheters — all those crazy colours! — so this will be a quick guide on how to understand them and get started without fear.   It should be done in the next month or so, so if that sounds like what you’re looking for, be sure you’re signed up the newsletter to get first dibs!

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Speaking of newsletters, I’m about to send out the first InterStellar Yarn Alliance newsletter with exclusive offers just for members.  This is a new feature for the Yarn Alliance, so if you’re already a member, please make sure you’ve told me it’s ok to sign you up to the mailing list so you don’t miss out on the offers. (We value your privacy, so of course we will never put you on a mailing list that you haven’t requested to join.  Just fire an email to me with  “PUT ME ON THE ISYA MAILING LIST!” and I’ll get you on it straight away!).

And… there’s another Super Secret Thing in the works.  I can’t say any more about it, but I am so excited, I’m ready to burst!   All puffed up and ready to burst!    (…That was a hint.  Did you get it?)  The Super Secret Thing will be ready nearer the end of September — again, make sure you’re on the mailing list to hear about it first.

So, lots of exciting stuff going on.  And, also… the post-show exhaustion.  It’s sooooo not a good combination.  sigh…  Could someone please grab me a coffee?

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