my first guest is Emily Ivey of Yarn Miracle. Emily is a wife, mother, gardener, baker, knitter, pattern designer...and an amazingly gifted writer. so much so, that i chose to leave her feature as it is in question and answer form. so much so, that i urge (caution?) you to poke around in her blog. you may find you wish to stay awhile.
~When did you begin toy making?
I've always loved making toys. Even before I could knit, I sewed little creatures, made stuff for my doll house, glued and pasted and assembled...you get the idea. I didn't start making toys to sell until two Easters ago when I opened my Etsy shop with three bunnies.
~Why did you choose knitting?
I am of the opinion that if you are going to bother to do something at all, you should bother to do it well. There are many many things that I don't do well, but knitting isn't among them. I've also never gotten bored with it! It's one of those rare activities that can keep my hands occupied while my brain is busy with something else.
~Do you have a favorite critter of your own creation?
One of the very first rabbits will always have my heart. He had such a sweet expression and photographed so beautifully. I'll never duplicate that.
~Do you also collect knit toys?
No, but I hoard patterns like it's a psychosis.
~At what point did you realize your gift was more than a hobby?
One day my cousin said, "You made that? I thought it came from a store!" And I sort of realized that I had evolved from home made to hand made - at least as far as knitting was concerned. When those first few rabbits sold right away (granted, my timing with the rabbits at Easter was completely calculated) I felt tremendously validated as a creator. They like me! They really like me!
~Tell us about your workspace.
Which part? The yarn is stored back in my crafty room, but I do most of my knitting on the couch in the den these days. Active projects are kept on the mantle (picture included), away from cats and Ellie. Ellie wants to keep everything I make. One baby only needs so many hand knit toys - which is part of why I started selling them in the first place.
~What is your favorite part of the process?
The beginning and the end. I love to decide which animal is next and pick the colors - I've got "What Next" lists that are a dozen projects deep! And I love to sit the finished critter up on the mantle where he can grin at me until it's picture time.
~What is your least favorite?
Rabbit tails. Those pompoms make a crazy mess.
~What inspires you?
It's hard to pin down exactly where inspiration lives. Sometimes it starts with a little "I wonder if I..." and then I chase that down a lot of paths before announcing with confidence that I HAVE AN IDEA.
~What is the best time of day for you to create?
I'm my very best in the early morning before anyone else is awake. But I have to say: I have come to think of Ellie's Naptime as a Special Blessing.
~Please,tell us about your biggest fan!
That has to be Great Gran! She's my regular grandmother - it's a longish story about how I messed that up when I was little, so you should just think of the "Great" as a superlative. She taught me to knit (twice in fact) and has taken a personal interest and pride in everything that I've done since. I have to show her everything I finish and give her copies of all the patterns.
~What has been your strangest request?
I haven't really had one. I mean, someone wanted a GIANT bear, and I made him...but it wasn't really "strange."
~What has been your favorite request?
I recently made a Zodiac Family Portrait (tiger, monkey, sheep) in cashmere for a woman who's first baby is due next month. That was probably my favorite project so far - cashmere is just a dream, but it's expensive, so it's not a fiber that I get to work with for my own self.
~Which similar artist do you most admire?
Oh gosh my knitting idols. Barbara Prime of Fuzzy Mitten leaps to mind. Simply put, her patterns are wonderful. She is generous with permission to sell toys made from them. My main Companion line is derived from her originals. I also admire toy maker Julie Williams from Little Cotton Rabbits. Each animal she creates is fresh, full of personality and wearing the cutest outfit ever. Her work never gets stale; she may make a dozen pigs but it never seems repetitive. In addition to all that: her knitting is exquisite. She's also got chickens! I really want chickens. Susan B. Anderson is another pattern writer that amazes me. When I visit her blog, I always want to ask her where she finds the TIME! I've got a dozen sketches for new toys and might manage to publish three more this year - Susan has a pod cast, three books, a family, a blog and still manages to knit for herself.
~Which classic artist do you most admire?
By "classic," I'll assume you mean "doesn't work in a crafty medium" and not "Dutch Master." :D I've got a BFA (ceramics, if you can believe it - actually, hand built pottery and knitting have a lot in common as far as meditative work that builds on itself goes, but that's another essay for another time. Now you see why I employ footnotes on my blog.) so I've had a fair amount of art history (ancient is my hands down favorite) and feel reasonably qualified to answer this question.
I like artists who paint the same subject over and over again. Artists who recognize that when the light or the season or the surroundings change, the subject has changed. The little differences that make something new each day. Frida Kahlo, van Gogh, Monet with all those haystacks. Artists who don't just want to capture the moment, but who want to capture *every* moment.
~What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began?
A better understanding of Etsy tagging system would have been helpful. it was also tough to put a price on my work. On the one hand, each toy should be nine billion dollars and on the other, it's a good idea to stay competitive with the rest of Etsy's plush.
~What piece of advice would you give to someone first starting out in the knit toy community?
Take the time to be unique. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's very annoying. Even if you are working from someone else's pattern (which I hope you have permission to do), you can still make it yours - through presentation, fiber, colors, attitude, whatever. Figure out how to make your work special and run with it.
~and finally, what is your favorite flower?
Camellias! We live in my great grandparents' home and the yard is packed with them. Gran-dad was a collector. It's like he left me a treat.
*a giant "Thank you!" to Emily for sharing her words and her photographs!
all photos and interview words in black are owned by Emily.