This talented crocheter has some of the most original and interesting patterns I’ve seen. I’m sure most of you have seen her work on her blog but I am excited to say that she also recently joined the ranks of us on Facebook as well (you’ll find all her links at the bottom of the interview)!
MCL: Kim, you definitely have a style all your own and you describe your cro-ations as toon-eyed toys. I love (and am a bit envious of your style). Please tell us how you came to the craft of crochet and maybe a bit about how you think you developed your style.
WT: Thanks for the lovely comments, Teeni, and thanks for inviting me to do this interview. Okay, I’ll get right into it – I started to crochet about 8 years ago, when I was in my early twenties. At the time I wasn’t in a great place. I was going through a pretty bad bought of depression. I wanted to find something to get me moving, to keep my mind busy. Mum had been trying to get me to crochet for years and I refused to do it because it looked too hard even though she told me it was easy. Then I found out you could crochet toys. To understand my reaction you might need to understand me a little bit. You see, this is how I would describe myself: I’m a 28 year old (then a 21 year old) with the mind of a 17 year old who acts like a 10 year old. Does that make sense? What it means is that the idea of being able to make my own toys was the most exciting, joyful thing that had entered into my head for a long time. So, I stole a hook from Mum and some yarn, took a few lessons from the Internet, watched my mum crochet a rug, and finally crocheted this-
The stitches were worked all in the back loops, he’s stuffed with random bits of yarn and I think he might be inside out. I showed him to my family and … well … the reactions were polite. I loved him and still do. After that, I crocheted on and off, using it as a sort of therapy until about two years ago I realised I could create my own patterns. A year after that I started to seriously think about creating my own characters and sharing their patterns and in March this year I finally did it. How did I develop my style? Hmm. Basically, I love cartoons. The Looney Tunes, Disney, Japanese Anime, Futurama – I love the exaggerated expressions and features of the cartoons. I find them hilarious and a little crazy and I guess that’s the way I want my toys to be. And while I think cuteness in a toy is important, in the end I want my toys to have more ‘haha’ in them than ‘aww’. Being able to laugh is the best thing in the world. I have to say, too, I have help with some of my toy designs. I’m not great at drawing and sometimes I ask my sister to sketch out a character for me so I have a sense of the proportions. She is incredibly talented and she is the best, most supportive big sister in the world. I have the first sketch she drew of Biff the Angry Bear here.
MCL: Oh, that is too funny. I’ve always said that I act my shoe size instead of my age (and I have small feet). So I totally understand about loving the cartoons and having a youthful joy in life. I think that is extremely important too. I didn’t always feel that way and the difference in my life is like night and day.
Your first project is so cute! But I can see you’ve come a long way since that little guy. Your sister is also a very talented sketch artist. It’s a great skill to have. Still, it’s quite another thing to take that two-dimensional image and give it life as a three-dimensional character. I think you’ve proven that you are very skilled in that area. Also, you have some unique ideas.
Many of your patterns are for things I think most people would not think of – such as the germs and mallet (which I love). Interestingly, I did one time think to make a toilet and searched online to see if anyone had already beat me to it and I believe that is how I first found you. I saw your toilet and just knew I couldn’t top that so I never did make one of my own but I plan to try to make yours at some point! LOL. So what type of things do you think are the ones that grab your attention and make you actually want to crochet one?
WT: I love that you found me via the toilet. Heheehe … ah-hem … yes … I was really surprised (pleasantly, that is) by how popular the toilet was. For me, it was an afterthought. You see, I had made Walter the fish, the paramour of Marilyn, and I was thinking of ways to photograph him and I thought about Finding Nemo and fish using the toilet as a way to get to the ocean and how Walter might have tried to get to Marilyn by flushing himself down the toilet and how it would be great to photograph him doing that. And so I made a toilet. I suppose it’s like this – each one of my toys is a character and I always end up imagining them in some sort of scenario that I’ll want to share on my blog and this leads to new ideas. Sometimes the scenario will require a prop that I don’t have and so I’ll crochet it. This is the same reason I crocheted the umbrella. I came up with the idea of an elephant who thought he was being stalked by the letter E (inspired by those alphabet posters that you find in children’s rooms). Scared that one day he would look over his shoulder and be frightened to death by a giant letter E, he decided to carry an umbrella so that even if the E was there, he would never see it. I didn’t have a mini umbrella for him to carry so out came the hook. I guess I’ll have a go at crocheting anything that will aid in telling a story I want to tell. I waffled on a bit there but I’m hoping there’s an answer in there somewhere.
MCL: I love knowing the stories about your cro-ations! Egmont’s story is hilarious. Mostly because I think we all have some sort of fear like that – something we feel that can’t “get us” if we don’t see it, like a child sleeping with the covers over their heads so the boogey-man can’t get him! LOL. Your blog started right off with your Marilyn the Fancy Fish pattern. Maybe this isn’t a fair question but I wonder if you have any favorites of the cro-ations you’ve made in your hooking career?
WT: I think that’s completely fair. A lot of work goes into each character and the process of imagining them and realising them is such a satisfying, fun process, it’s impossible not to love them all … but I do have my favourites. It’s funny because they are the least popular of all of them. Walter the moustachioed fish and the Ghost Mouse. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s because they are the weirdest. Don’t tell them that though.
MCL: LOL. They will never hear it from me! It’s funny that some of the things you don’t like end up being really popular and that some things you think will do well turn out to be a flop. I guess it’s true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you can’t predict how things will go. Here’s something I know I will struggle with. You offer some of your patterns for sale and some are free on your blog. How do you decide which will be free patterns and which will be sold?
WT: Hmmm … It’s kinda like I have a mental switch. I decide, before I start thinking of pattern ideas, whether the ideas will be for the blog or for the store. Generally, I like to keep the blog patterns small while the store patterns (all two of them) tend to be bigger and a little more complicated. However, sometimes the blog patterns turn out more complicated than I expected, or I’ll make companion pieces for them, but that won’t change their fate. They were destined for the blog and that’s where they will end up. Now, I’ve said that I feel sorry for them. It’s as though they have no free will of their own. Poor little things. Ah well, that’s the brutal, cutthroat world of crochet.
MCL: LOL! What things do you admire about other designers’ patterns or work? Do you have any insights or lessons learned to share with budding designers?
WT: This is easy – simplicity and clarity. In most things I do I feel I over complicate things. Have you ever heard of Rube Goldberg? I feel I approach life like one of his machines – I take the longest route to get to my end point. It’s not always a bad thing – it can be fun but I really admire a simple yet beautiful design and a straightforward pattern. June Gilbank from planetjune.com has mastered this. I’m sure most of your readers will have visited her site before. It’s a great starting point for beginner crocheters and designers. Okay, I still feel I’m a budding designer myself but there are a couple of things I’ve learnt from my experiences: Don’t be afraid to start again, even if you’ve been working on a project for weeks. If a project doesn’t feel right, than it probably isn’t so take a deep breath and start again. In the long run you’ll feel better about it. Write everything down! I know this seems like an obvious point but sometimes you’ll convince yourself you can get by on memory. Don’t take the risk. Take photos. I think photos are essential in explaining a pattern. Take as many as you can, from all different angles, so that when you go up to write your pattern you’ll have plenty to choose from.
MCL: Those are great tips! I’ve not heard of Rube Goldberg but will do some research now. I am trying to be better about taking more photos and that is also helping me when I forget to make a note too! Your work seems to focus on stuffed toys, although you have done some wonderful garments and flowers too! One thing I love about crochet is it can branch off into so many different areas. Is there one are you would never want to venture into and if so, why would that be? For me, I really have no interest at all in Irish crochet which may seem strange because I love filet crochet and they are both done with similar materials. It may just be an attention thing for me though since I think you would need a lot to do Irish crochet.
WT: I’m not sure. At the moment the toys are what I enjoy the most but who knows where my mood will take me next. I make a lot of goofy things and sometimes I get the urge to make some really pretty and delicate. The flowers were probably the closest I’ve ever been to doing that. I think a part of me really wants to try all types of crochet at sometime or another – but then again, that’s probably the same part of me that thinks I can run a marathon.
MCL: LOL. Do you have any other creative hobbies and do they at all influence your crochet work?
WT: I write fiction and the big dream is to one day publish a novel. I suppose that’s where the story telling aspect of my crochet projects come from. Also, since the blog and my crochet has forced me to take more photos than I’ve ever taken before, I’ve become very interested in photography. I don’t think I have a natural talent for it but I love it. Before this year, I never paid attention to light. Now, I see how it can shape an object by the way it falls on it – it’s amazing and beautiful. So often you see something, maybe it’s small like a leaf or maybe it’s an entire landscape and you have this perfect moment. To be able to capture that in a photo would be … well, I suppose that’s another one of my big dreams.
MCL: You know, I love to read, so I’ll be keeping up with that writing dream of yours! Photography has been tough for me – I just don’t have the attention span for it. But I think you have done a great job of showcasing your designs on your blog. I’m sure you can teach me a thing or too (and I’d probably learn better that way than through a book, LOL). So what is next for Woolly Toons? Are there any big plans for the near future that you can give us the scoop on?
WT: The scoop. I plan to do some quirky fairy tale characters for the store which means I will be doing my first human ‘toon’. That will take me a while though and might not happen until next year. I wanted to do some Christmas patterns this month for the blog but I’ve had an idea for an Oddball Little Devil which will probably go up in the next couple of weeks. Also, I might try my hand at yarn bombing. I don’t know for sure if I’ll do it but it just seems like a really fun thing to do. I would love to make a whole lot of ninjas or trapeze artists to hang on the sides of buildings. Anyway, that’s just an idea but who knows …
MCL: Oh, wow! All of those sound great! I can’t wait to see your characters, especially the first human ‘toon!’ Is there anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t touched on? Perfect opportunity to promote yourself, credit others, of just discuss a topic of your choice.
WT: I just want to say that starting Woolly Toons was a huge thing for me. I don’t know if it shows but I am an incredibly shy person, painfully shy. The thought of posting anything on a blog or on an internet forum terrified me. I wanted to do it though because even though I was shy on the outside I always felt like I was loud on the inside – I wanted to start showing that side of myself and the internet seemed like a great place to start. And I am so glad I did it – you hear in the news how the internet can be such a nasty place but I haven’t had that experience. The crafting community is the nicest, funniest, most supportive group of people I have ever come across. And I think, Teeni, you are the perfect example of that. So thank you for being this powerful force of crochet positivity. And thank you for doing this interview with me and giving me a chance to open up.
MCL: Aw, now you’re making me blush. I’m so glad you took the leap because I am actually quite shy and quiet in person. I’ve had to force myself out of my shell and I’m always grateful to find that I’m not alone. Also, I have to echo your sentiments about the crafting community being so awesome. That certainly makes things easier for people like us. Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Kim! I’m looking forward to continuing our friendship and sharing our love of crochet into the future!