Designer Interview | Irene Strange


It’s time for my first Designer Showcase of 2017! Even before I started creating my own patterns I was curious about the process of designing crochet patterns and in previous posts I’ve really enjoyed getting to know some other fabulous fibre artists!

Today I’m excited to be speaking to Irina aka Irene Strange.

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Irina is a bit of a amigurumi expert whose fabulous designs have featured in the popular Zoomigurumi books (1, 4, 5 and 6!) and in popular publications like Let’s Get Crafting: Knitting and Crochet, Inside Crochet and Crochet Now magazines.

Irina has a wonderful eye for amigurumi and creates wonderfully cute characters – I recently completed her little ‘Blossom Bunny’  for Little Miss and I’m seriously in love with her Clara The Unicorn pattern and her free Gracey the hippo ballerina

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It was great to get to speak to her and here’s what we chatted about…

Why are you called Irene Strange?

I used this name when signing up for my first email address all the way back in 2000,
my step-dad’s family name is Strange (what a cool name, right?) and Irene is an English version of Irina – we just moved to England and at the time it felt like a fresh start in a new millennium and a new land. I guess it just stuck! 

How did you first discover crocheting and amigurumi?

My grandmother taught me to knit and crochet when I was little, I picked it up again
when studying for my degree. I was writing a paper on how brands use mascots and characters and came across some crochet toys on Flickr. People kept referring to them as ‘amigurumi’ so naturally I had to find out more about that! I tried making my own, a funny little mouse, and discovered I really enjoyed crocheting toys – from then on I was hooked.

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How did you become a crocheting designer? Is it your real job?

To start with I released a few patterns on Etsy just to see what happens, then an editor from a crochet magazine approached me and asked to feature some of my work. Then another editor asked if I’d be interested in writing some patterns to which I said yes, of course! At the time there wasn’t as many amigurumi designers in UK, at least not on-line, so one commission followed another quite fast. For a good few years I was writing as a hobby alongside a day job. After having kids I wanted to focus on crochet more, so now I write patterns in between playing with Lego and watching cartoons.

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

It’s quite hard to pinpoint what inspires me most; I collect all sorts of objects, prints and photographs of animals or dolls – anything curious. I have to say seeing what other designers and artists share on Instagram across different crafts is also very inspiring, it is amazing how many creative people are out there.

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Tell us a bit about your design process…

When designing something for my pattern shop I might get an idea seemingly out of nowhere, which I will then sketch and mull over for days or even months. I will sketch the design many times, thinking about best way to make it. Then I make prototypes and sometimes get it right on first or second try.

Often a particular project will stay in my head for weeks, almost like an obsession – where I’ll keep coming back to it in-between different makes, trying something out and abandoning it, until I get it right.

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Many of your creations are animal themed amigurumis – are they your favourite things to make?

Oh yes, I adore all animals! Growing up in a big city not many people we knew had pets, so encounters with animals became very special. I love watching documentaries about the Earth, it’s simply amazing how many different creatures call it home!

Do you have a favourite creation that you’ve designed?

I’m still exploring different styles and ways to make an amigurumi, looking for a balance of an object that’s interesting to look at but not too complicated for others to make. I think Hopscotch Bunny is the closest to what I like making.   

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Do you have go to hooks and yarn?

I have a strong preference for natural fibres, especially alpaca and cotton. Cotton is so durable and versatile, but alpaca gives the make a much more natural and soft look. As for hooks, I always use Clover Soft Touch.

Who gets your creations; you, your family, your friends?

At the moment my daughter is very quick to claim anything I make, often even before it’s finished. The rest gets given away to friends and family. If a visitor likes a particular toy most of the time they take it home with them.

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Where do you work? Do you have a studio space or do you work from your living room chair?

I’m a bit of a messy creative (just ask my husband!) so things end up scattered all over the house. We share a room as a studio where I have a wall of yarn to inspire me, and a desk for pattern writing and research. Curling up on a sofa with a cup of tea, a sketchbook and a film in the background is my favourite way to work.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I’m planning to make many more cute and unusual animals, but also some home accessories and decorations – there’s a book full of ideas just waiting to be made into new patterns.

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Tell us a bit about yourself – what do you do when you’re not crocheting?

When I’m not crocheting… I love going riding my bicycle, foraging around local woods for berries, visiting museums and fairs or just spending the day holed up out of the way somewhere reading a good book.

Finally finish the sentence … I love crochet because…

I can make anything that comes into my head with just a thread and hook – it’s a bit like magic!

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank Irina again for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions. I’ve really enjoyed getting a better understanding of what’s involved with in her designing process and hope you have too. I hope you will pop along to her website and ravelry page to see all of her great designs!

 

2016 in a Nutshell


I thought I’d do a little review of my hooky year in pictures…

January saw the release of the biggest thing I worked on all year. It’s also the item and design which I am ultimately most proud of. The Everything Is Cool and Groovyghan 2016 Crochet-A-Long is definitely the most challenging thing I have designed and shared so far and the finished groovyghans made by other crafters have just blown me away (you lot are amazing!). Although the crochet-a-long has now finished you can still make a groovyghan of your very own by checking out the details on the blog here.

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February and March I was busy growing a human which turned out to be quite hard work! So, aside from the groovyghan, there wasn’t a whole lot of crocheting going on…

Then in April my new shawl pattern, The Spring Blossom Wrap, was released in iLikeCrochet Magazine. Worked in a smooth 4ply cotton yarn and a 3.5mm hook I was really pleased with the floral look I eventually achieved on this shawl which I based on cherry blossoms.

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In May and June baby had finally arrived so I got back to a little hooking by working up some quick little hats and a headband for my new arrival. I just chose some patterns on Ravelry that I liked the look of and they actually turned out to be all free patterns. The hats and tie back I made include the Sedge Stitch Newborn Beanie, the Bonnie Bell Bonnet, the TopKnot Baby Hat and the 15 Minute Tieback.  The Bonnie Bell Bonnet was one of the first hats I hooked up. It’s such a cute design and as its worked in Aran (Worsted) weight yarn it’s very quick to work up.

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In July I hooked up a little Amineko cat for Little G’s summer fayre, such a fun design and super cute!

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In August and September I was working on some exciting patterns for October (more on that later) but I still found time to hook up a little Pumpkin hat for the baby and Baabara for this years Yarndale charity project

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and I finally finished a work in progress which had been started a year previously! The Corner to Corner Granny Stitch Throw  was a great pattern to use up loads of odds and ends of double knit in my stash…

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So October was a busy and exciting month; my RainBOW Clip Organiser was released in Issue 31 of Happily Hooked Magazine…and I was completely delighted to be asked to take part in the Stylecraft Blog Tour for 2016 for which I designed the Harmonious Hexagon Blanket (free pattern here).

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In November and December I hooked up several Christmassy items for my girls including some cute Elfin baby boots and some fabulous elf hats. I also hooked up a fab little mouse baby hat for a Micky fan – unfortunately this particular pattern is no longer available, there are plenty of alternatives out there though if you are looking for this style.  

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I also hooked up my special animals from my TOFT yarn and some awesome little Princesses for some gorgeous little girls; but I’m going to blog about those later so I’ll save those ta-dah moments for 2017!

Wow, I enjoyed that stroll down memory lane! I find when it’s all written down like this that I have accomplished more than I realised! Crochet is such a big part of my life that sometimes I forget what I have been up to in the year as I’m concentrating on the next design or project.  The most fantastic thing about crochet is that it continually brings me happiness, fun challenges, surprises, satisfaction at a job completed and most of all relaxation. 

So what can you look forward to in 2017 from me?

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I have so many plans for 2017! I’m extremely excited to be working with several crochet magazines this year on new designs, I’ve also got various exciting collaborations coming up, I’m going to be catching up with patterns that I didn’t finish due to being pregnant (and ill) and then having a newborn (for those waiting for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – this is at the top of the list!) AND we’ve got a brand new crochet-a-long to look forward to (starting in March) which is also in development behind the scenes as we speak.

Finally I’d like to say a mahoosive thank you to everyone who has followed me on the blog or on social media in 2016…

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My thanks is to everyone who may have brought and/or made any of my patterns, who have read my musings following me here on the blog and for those who have offered / or continued to offer their hands in friendship. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your support, enthusiasm and your camaraderie and how much I love to see your finished work!

Well until next time, happy hooking and keep calm and crochet on my friends xx

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Stylecraft Blog Tour 2016 | Pattern Round Up


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So did you all travel along with this years Stylecraft Blog Tour? What amazing crochet and knit patterns there have been!! All I can say is hexagons seem to be the thing to make right now – can’t believe so many of us chose that shape! 😝 

Well in case you missed any of it I thought I would do a round up on the beauty for you with all the links you need to find each pattern. 

Day 1: Emma Varnam – Blencathra Blanket (Oct 24)

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Find all the details about the Blencathra Blanket pattern here.

Day 2: Janie Crow – Diego’s Flowers Crochet Hexagon Motif (Oct 25)

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Find all the details about the Diego’s Flower pattern here.

Day 3: ME!! – Harmonious Hexagon Quilt (Oct 26)

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Find all the details about the Harmonious Hexagon Quilt here.

Day 4: Stylecraft – Tablet Cover (Oct 27)

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Find all the details about the Tablet cover here.

Day 5: Le Monde de Sucrette – Chunky Stool Cover (Oct 28)

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Find all the details about the Chunky Stool Cover here.

Day 6: Cherry Heart – Bobbing Along Ripple Blanket (Oct 29)

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Find all the details about the Bobbing Along Ripple Blanket here.

Day 7: Susan Pinner – Spinning Top Blanket (Oct 30)

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Find all the details about the Spinning Top Blanket pattern here.

Day 8:  The Twisted Yarn – Scarf (Oct 31)

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Find all the details about the scarf pattern here.

Day 9: Annaboos House – Granny Wrap (Nov 1)

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Find all the details about the Granny Wrap pattern here.

Day 10: Craftnoon Treats – Blandala (Nov 2)

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Find all details about the Blandala here.

Day 11: Hand Knitted Things – Special Stripy Blanket (Nov 3)

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Find all details about the Special Stripy Blanket here.

Day 12: The Patchwork Heart – Chunky Cowl (Nov 4)

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Find all details about the Chunky Cowl here.

Soooo much gorgeousness am I right!! 

Until next time; keep calm and crochet on my friends xx

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Stylecraft Blog Tour 2016 | Harmonious Hexagons Quilt Free Pattern Release


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So following on from my last post about this I must say again how chuffed to bits I am to be one of the bloggers for this years Stylecraft Blog Tour to celebrate the winning colours, from the recent poll they conducted, for their Special Aran and Special Chunky yarns. 

Monday the tour visited Emma Varnam’s blog and we got to see her beautiful Blencathra Blanket, yesterday we popped round to Janie Crow’s blog and drooled over her gorgeous Diego’s Flowers motif (make sure you check them out if you haven’t already) and today the tour is with me!

First off if you are new to my blog WELCOME one and all! So pleased you could join me, I have a brand new pattern, using Stylecraft Special Chunky, to share with you and later there will also be a chance to win your very OWN Stylecraft colour pack so stay tuned for that.

Right lets quickly recap about the colours which I reviewed here.  The wonderful public chose 6 colours…

Pale Rose  Empire  Storm Blue  Sage Pistachio  Saffron 

but for my new pattern a couple more colours have been added for a nice balanced palette.

Parchment Pomegranate  Spice  Gold

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Although I played around with different shapes and designs on paper and in my head the thing I was certain about was that I wanted to use all ten colours in my pattern. Shape wise I’ve worked with so many squares / rectangles recently that I also knew that I wanted to do a different shape. But what to make…that was the quandary! In the end I decided I wanted to make a nice thick lapghan to keep me warm as our British nights grow ever cooler.  

I have always had a fascination with patchwork and, as someone that can’t sew for toffee, love to see this medium re-created in crochet.  There are some fabulous patterns out in the crochet-verse already inspired by quilts (like the gorgeous Sunny Log Cabin blanket by Attic24 or the Jewelled Star Blanket by Janie Crow) and this definitely motivated me to try and create my own patchwork inspired design.

 I have to confess when I got my yarn to play with I kept on returning to the idea of a rainbow with chunks of solid colour (because who doesn’t love a rainbow) and there is just something so satisfyingly delicious I’ve discovered about pure colour chunky hexagons!  

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My finished pattern embraces a contemporary look that allows bold pops of rainbow colours to illuminate a classic patchwork design. So without further ado let me introduce you to the Harmonious Hexagon Quilt…

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I had so much fun making these hexagons and playing with the colours that I didn’t want it to stop!

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As the yarn is super nice and chunky the pattern works up quickly, and as it’s made in pieces it’s a great project to take out and about with you if you want to hook on the go.

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The finished blanket measures 118 cm x 98cm (46.5 x 38.5 inches) so the perfect size to throw over your lap to ward off a chill. 

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The hexagon motifs do not require advanced skills to execute and, as always with my patterns, terminology is written in both UK and US terms. I have included explanations of all stitches and abbreviations and also added some photos in the pattern to hopefully help with any tricky parts!

Click the link below to add the Harmonious Hexagon Quilt to your Favourites and Ravelry Queue.  

          HARMONIOUS HEXAGON QUILT           ♥ 

If you’re not on Ravelry and you’d like a copy of the pattern, you can get in touch with me via email at kcacouk at gmail dot com and I’ll send you a pdf version.

If you would like to win a pack of Stylecraft Special Chunky in the colour pack I have used follow the link below to enter the competition. 

  COMPETITION now closed, congratulations to Beverley Lotz    

And the exciting news is that the Stylecraft blogtour has only just begun! Make sure you check out Stylecraft’s Facebook page for details over the next couple of weeks to find out the blogger of the day, get their fabulous free pattern and to be in with a chance to win a yarn pack!  Still to come at some point are the following bloggers:  

  1. Crafternoon Treats
  2. The Twisted Yarn
  3. Patchwork Heart
  4. Le Monde de Sucrette
  5. Hand Knitted Things
  6. Cherry Heart
  7. Sue Pinner
  8. Annaboo’s House

Until next time; keep calm and crochet on my friends xx

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Blog Spring Cleaning


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It’s not spring so I have embarked on what I can only call ‘autumnal cleaning’ this weekend.  My house is a bit of a state because of the building work, which is driving me a bit crazy, so I decided to turn my attention to trying to tidy my blog a little as  it’s long over due. I have to confess my poor little area of cyber space has been neglected since I started it in 2014. I haven’t really tinkered with the site as much as I should have, although I have been trying to add a week posts (of which I’m getting better at) I just hadn’t got round to sorting out everything else I wanted to.

But that’s all changed…I have now spent a bit of time making sure that all the information on here is up to date! There’s a bit of a dossier about me for anyone interested…  I’ve got my two beautiful little muses in my blog header (Little G now on the left, Little G when I started blogging (middle) and my new Little Miss (on the far right). I’ve collated all the crochet-alongs information in drop down menus (much to my endless delight! Simple pleasures and all that 😆), I’ve added all my pattern information (for free and for purchase) and also added a contact me page (which for some reason I had never got round to including). 

But now I need your help…

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I’d love to know what you think about the new look; have I missed anything? Is there anything you would like to see improved?  Please drop me a comment or use the new contact me page, I’d love to hear what you think!

Until next time; keep calm and crochet on my friends xx

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