Crocheted Softies Blog Tour, Day 6

I’m stoked to be part of Stacey Trock’s blog tour for Crocheted Softies: 18 Adorable Animals from around the World today.  I am interviewing Stacey, reviewing her new book, and hosting a giveaway for a signed copy of the book, courtesy of Martingale & Company, so read on for more details!

The Interview

Stacey Trock is the mind behind FreshStitches, and is known for her crocheted, amigurumi animal designs, which are available for download on her website, on her Ravelry designer page, and in her Etsy shop.  (Stacey also sells her finished critters in her Etsy shop, in case you don’t crochet, as well as kits for her most popular patterns.)  You can also find Stacey online on Facebook and Twitter.  The pictures of Stacey’s work are used with her permission.

Stacey with one of her creations.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?

Stacey: I started crocheting when I was a little girl… my mom taught me.  I don’t really remember learning, but I remember there was a time when I could only crochet a chain… and I spend a fair amount of time making a VERY long chain!

Wally the Koi Fish.

UC: What was your original inspiration to start making amigurumi, and what led you to start designing your own amigurumi patterns?

Stacey: I call it my ‘quarter life crisis’… I finished school and knew I didn’t want to work in an office. I though to myself, ‘what would I do if I could do ANYTHING?’… and I knew that I loved crocheting! I’ve also always loved stuffed animals (and had previously sewn a few of them), so it seemed like the natural thing to do.  I put all of my energy towards designing a collection of amigurumi and getting a website up and running, and I’ve never looked back!  (UC comment: I had a quarter-life crisis, too, but I didn’t do anything as cool as Stacey during mine!)

Kieran the Beaver.

UC: I love that many (most?) of your designs are larger than the typical wee Lilliputian scale of amigurumi patterns and are more “kid friendly.”  Can you tell me more about that?

Stacey: I think the size of my amigurumi reflects my love of stuffed animals.  I think they’re so cute and cuddly… and it doesn’t make much difference to me whether I crochet, sew, or knit them.  I happen to think crocheting makes the nicest fabric for stuffed animals (as compared to knitting), but my love is the animal itself.  So, it seemed pretty natural for me to focus on the larger size animals.  Most of my stuffed animals are about 8″ tall when completed… and of course, they could be made larger or smaller by using thicker or thinner yarn.

I do realize, though, that lots of folks love making the smaller amigurumi, and I’ve recently released a line of tiny amigurumi.  It’s important for me to design animals that people love… so if there’s lots of people who love the smaller animals, I want to do that, too!  My true love is still the big guys, though :)

Ro the Tiny Monster is one of Stacey's tiny amigurumi patterns.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Stacey: I’m like a sponge… I suck inspiration up from all over! I look at lots of drawings and cartoons (and Clip Art)… I love seeing how other artists conceptualize animals and break them down into basic shapes and components.  I also love all things cute: Japanese stationary, children’s toys, jewelry with animals on it… you name it, I’m inspired!

Oddly enough, I’m not terrifically inspired by actual animals.  (That sounds really lame when I say it aloud!) I’m an animal-lover, but I don’t draw inspiration for my stuffed animal designs from the actual animals themselves :).

Slithers the Snake, from Crocheted Softies, which can double as a scarf.

UC: Most people associate amigurumi and crocheted toys with acrylic yarn, but in Crocheted Softies, you’ve managed to create an entire book of patterns using eco-friendly yarns.  Tell me about your decision to do this.  What was your design and yarn selection process for this book?

Stacey: I’m really passionate about using quality yarn.  And, by quality yarn, I don’t mean ‘yarn sold in a fancy yarn store over big box stores.’  I’ve found scratchy, icky yarn in LYSs (local yarn stores), and some quite pleasant yarns sold by the major yarn manufacturers. What I mean is yarn that is pleasant to work with and that will help you make a quality product that you can be proud of.

For me, crocheting is a tactile process: the yarn runs through your fingers as you hold it… and when you make a stuffed animal, you’re making something that will probably be snuggled up against your child’s face. Why would you want to use a yarn that you’re not totally in love with?

I’ve always used high-quality yarn in my designs, but I thought that writing this book was the perfect opportunity to spread the word about fantastic Earth-friendly yarns… because you’re right, most people pick up a skein of acrylic yarn to make amigurumi.  For me, Earth-friendliness is about being aware of where your yarn comes from and it’s environmental impact.  I know that not everyone will pick up a skein of organic cotton to make your next animal. But, it’s important to me that people realize that when they’re crocheting, they’re creating a lovely little piece of artwork… and maybe they’ll think about using materials that are worthy of the love and energy they pour into the piece.

About my design process… for a couple of animals, I picked pairings that seemed perfect and hilarious: there’s a panda made from bamboo, an alpaca from alpaca and a kiwi from a New Zealand yarn.  For the remainder of the animals, I searched around for yarns that had the texture that would be right for the animals, and came in a colorway that would work.  There’s so many lovely yarns to choose from!

Shewwin the Alpaca, from Crocheted Softies, made in yummy, undyed Cascade Eco Alpaca.

UC: Does your background working in a yarn shop (Knit New Haven) influence your design process?  If so, how?

Stacey: It doesn’t directly influence my designs, but working in a yarn store influences me tremendously in my yarn-life.  I’m lucky enough to see all of the yarns that are coming into the shop on a regular basis, and hear customers’ reactions to them.  I also benefit tremendously from helping customers with their knitting/crocheting problems… I think I’ve gotten a really good sense of what people find difficult/easy about crocheting and pattern-reading.  Since I learned to crochet when I was so young, I don’t remember learning… so hearing the experiences of others who are learning helps me design patterns in a way that’s accessible for the largest number of crocheters.

Courtney the Owl in an Egg can hatch right before your eyes.

UC: Do you have any favorite craft/crochet/creativity blogs or websites to share?

Stacey: Oh my gosh… there’s too many!
I think Delicious Crochet, MochiMochi Land, and MyGurumi are some of the most clever animal designers on the block! I love seeing what new designs they come up with and I just think they’re some genius ladies!

As for blogs, I’ll share a few that are on my reader (which are only a couple from the oodles of amazing inspirational folks out there!):

And, I always happen across lots of inspiring things on Ravelry, Pinterest, Craftsy and Twitter.  So much great stuff going on!

Kai the Kiwi, from Crocheted Softies, in a merino/possum (!) blend.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?

Stacey: Oooh… that’s a very tricky question because I’m actually quite a minimalist about owning books :). I just bought Craft Activism, which is a totally awesome book about how people use all sorts of different crafts (including crochet) as forms of activism. And, I’m in love with Vanna’s Afghans A to Z for sentimental reasons… it was my first crochet book, and I’ve made a number of afghans from it! (UC comment: I once had a well loved copy of Vanna’s Favorite Gift Afghans, but I sold it online to pay some overdue bills during my quarter-life crisis!)

My other favorite books are knitting ones… I’m too multi-crafting to stick to just crochet books!

Lala the Panda, from Crocheted Softies, made with a bamboo/merino wool blend.

UC: What’s next for you?

Stacey: Oooh… I don’t know! I’m absolutely in love with what I do, so I’m totally going to stick with it… and I’m contemplating about how I’d like to branch out.

This January, I’m going to be teaching a couple of online amigurumi classes for Craftsy, which I’m super-excited about. I’m also going to be adding more tiny amigurumi designs to my site over the next year (and, of course, lots of new big ones!), as well as expanding the number of patterns I offer as kits… they’ve been popular!

I sometimes think about designing knitted animals… but I’ll have to see if that’s in the cards! I’m excited to see where FreshStitches will be this time next year :).

Thanks, Stacey, for stopping by for an interview today, and for signing the giveaway copy!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for more chances to win a copy of Crocheted Softies!

Book Review


I confess that I was really looking forward to receiving my review copy of Crocheted Softies from Martingale & Company for several weeks before it arrived.  I really like the look of Stacey’s work, and especially enjoy the larger sizes of most of her amigurumi patterns.  I grew up receiving awesome crocheted bears from my grandmother, years before I ever heard the term amigurumi.  These bears were some of my favorite playthings as a kid, and I love how Stacey merges the coziness of an old fashioned teddy bear with a contemporary look.  I was also really intrigued by the the book’s concept of making amigurumi with earth-friendly yarns.  In my mind, amigurumi has always been associated with acrylic yarn, but in the past year, I’ve been looking at my yarn stash and trying to replace my petroleum based yarns with natural fibers.

I’m going to come right out and say that I love this book, and definitely will recommend it far and wide.  The book starts with several concise but detailed sections: Getting Started, Crochet Stitches, and Additional Techniques.  Stacey’s writing style is really conversational, and she gives some wonderful tips on substituting yarns, informal gauge, assembly and stuffing, and caring for your softies.  She also provides patterns for “basic animal shapes” which are used throughout the book.  Once you are familiar with the basic head, for example, you can use it to make many of the softies.

The book then introduces 18 softies, sorted by region.  Most of the critters are made with one skein of yarn in the main color and then smaller bits of other colors.  Stacey uses safety eyes throughout the book, but provides you with a quick technique for making crocheted eyes so you can easily substitute if your softie is for a baby or toddler (or you just plain don’t like safety eyes).  She uses an interesting range of fibers and her premise is that if you are using only one skein, you can try out some yarns you may not be as familiar with, like soy, corn, or recycled silk, without much of an investment.  All of the projects are super cute and would make great gifts, but I do have a few favorites: Stretch the Giraffe, Lala the Panda, Salty the Crocodile, Milton the Slowpoke Snail, Mr. Crabby, and Sherwin the Alpaca.

I think the book is great for a crochet newbie because it explains things like yarn substitution in a really friendly way, but it’s also wonderful for a more advanced crocheter because it encourages you to move outside of your comfort zone by trying new yarns and experimenting with pattern modifications.  (At the same time, you could make these patterns with your standard favorite yarns also.)  Like all Martingale & Company books, it has a really clean and eye pleasing layout.

Just so I don’t sound like a groupie, I’ll balance my review a bit. Crocheted Softies doesn’t pretend to teach you everything you need to know in order to crochet, though it does have written explanations and illustrations of the basic stitches.  Therefore, it will probably be too challenging for someone who has never crocheted before.  It doesn’t include international stitch symbols, which is ok by me since the patterns are really straightforward, but I know some people prefer to have both abbreviations and stitch symbols. (The book uses U.S. crochet abbreviations, by the way.)   The book obviously doesn’t include a range of project types, and only focuses on softies (though there is a variety of shapes and animal/space creature types).

If I wasn’t buried under a mountain of holiday crafting and design deadlines, I would absolutely be making MC his very own Mr. Crabby right now (not because he’s cranky, but because he’s a Cancer).  I think it will be on my Valentine’s Day gift list instead.

I give the book 5 out of 5 stars as a fun project book that shares some helpful techniques and skills for making amigurumi.

Giveaway

I’m so excited that Martingale & Company provided two copies of the book, so I actually get to keep mine while still offering a giveaway to my readers!  This giveaway is open to international readers.

You will have 7 days to enter this giveaway.

To enter,

  • Leave a comment on this post by 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, December 16, 2011.  Be sure to include your email address (which won’t be displayed) so I can contact you if you win.  (Please note that my comments are moderated, so if you are a new visitor, your comment will not appear immediately.)
  • For another chance to win, like the Underground Crafter Facebook page.  Then you can either post a comment on Facebook or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already like my Facebook page, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, join my Ravelry group.  Then you can either post a comment on my Ravelry group or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already are in my Ravelry group, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, share the link to this giveaway via Twitter, Facebook, or your blog.  Then post a comment here with the link to your Tweet or blog post, or leave a comment on my Facebook page so I will give you another entry.

Good luck!

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