A. My roommate Lauren taught me to knit my sophomore year in college and my first project was a really simple, white, boat-neck sweater. Looking back, I'm not sure that I even used a pattern. I had absolutely no concept of what gauge was for at least my first two years as a knitter. The first toy I ever knitted was from a pattern for a ball written by Marcie Nishioka. I made two of them and turned them into a pair of peas in a pod. I learned how to do shaping from that and started writing my own toy patterns immediately afterward.
As far as the person who has had the most influence on me creatively, I would have to say that it is a toss up between my mother, Justine, and my husband, Mark. My mom really influenced me creatively as a kid because we always had a house full of crafting supplies and she was always willing to help with whatever I needed. We did Christmas crafts every year and she taught me to sew and crochet. Without her encouragement I know I wouldn't have grown up to be the creative person that I am. My husband Mark is a huge influence on me now because he really keeps me thinking of fresh ideas and gives me his honest opinion of every single thing I make. He always has a new idea for a toy pattern or a color combination that not only keeps my work new and different, but keeps me interested enough that I never feel like giving up on creating things.
Q. What types of yarn do you find work well for your patterns?
A. In the past couple of years I have started almost exclusively using 100% wool for my projects. There's just something about a knitted project made out of wool that gives it this richness and depth and warmth. I really feel like it brings life into my toys. My go-to yarn is Cascade 220. I have a ton of it and I feel like I can use it for anything. It comes in every color you could possibly imagine. Lately I've been experimenting with different weights of yarn. I almost always use worsted weight wool and size 3 needles for my patterns, but a couple of weeks ago I made up a teddy bear and a hedgehog in super bulky yarn with size 10 needles. They turned out amazing! The great thing about knitting toys is that they don't have to end up a specific size so your knitting gauge absolutely does not matter at all.
Q. Rachel, your love for your knitting patterns and kits really shows in your Etsy shop and in person. What helps you keep your inspiration and passion for what you do?
A. I have always felt really passionate about everything that I make, but the past few months I have been working incredibly long hours on Yarnigans-related stuff, so keeping my inspiration has definitely been an issue. It always really helps to keep me driven when I get nice feedback from people about my work. A few weeks ago I got a message from a nurse at a children's hospital in New Zealand who said she had been making my toys for the patients and that everyone loved them. That sort of thing really keeps me going at the end of a long day. I also just really like the idea of spreading the love of handmade toys around the world-- it's so cool to think that kids all over the place are playing with toys that were made just for them by people who love them. That's the sort of toy they keep forever and pass on to their own kids. My kits and patterns are helping to spread that to people and I really love it.
Q. Do you have any new items or plans for your Etsy shop in the coming months that you’d like to share with us?
A. Absolutely! I'm preparing for the Holiday 2010 season to be the biggest yet for the Yarnigans shop. In addition to the usual stuff, I'm going to start carrying really adorable four-packs of my mini dolls, which haven't really debuted online but have been going to arts festivals with me and out to the shops that carry Yarnigans. They've been a huge hit so I'm really excited to start listing the four-packs of them. I'm also going to be doing some classic-style large bears out of a great chunky wool. They're going to be great gifts for little kids-- they look like something that just came out of Santa's workshop. I have a three-year-old son and he has already claimed two of the prototypes, so I have a feeling they're going to go over well with kids. I have a few patterns in the works as well, but I'm not sure yet when those will make it to the shop.
That sounds exciting. We all look forward to seeing more of your adorable toys. Thank you Rachel, for allowing us a look into your creative life.
You can find Rachel and her adorable toys on the following links: