Inspired by her online community, crochet designer Iris van Meer makes crochet accessible by translating patterns that are beginner-friendly and (mostly) free that she offers in her club, A Nice (Beautiful) Gesture. Those two elements – community and sharing – are what creative makers are all about, and Iris brings it to a new level with her passion for crochet and willingness to share. Her followers share right back, and the energy connects people through practicing their craft.
How did you find yourself on a creative path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I actually hate anything to do with arts and crafts with a passion. That may sound super weird, as I am a creative entrepreneur, but I just really don’t like anything to do with paper, scissors and getting stuff to fit logically. I come from a very creative family and, as the youngest daughter, always felt like I wasn’t “as good” as the other siblings or my mom. I only found crochet about 8 years ago to kick my computer game habit. It’s been life changing!!
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Why do you crochet? How does it fulfill you creatively?
I crochet because I love to create stuff to share with the world and with my children. It’s easy to pick up and put down, the possibilities are endless, you can rip out easily when there’s a mistake and you don’t need many tools or machines to get started.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
One of the things I do is translate patterns from English to Dutch. That’s the way the website got started. I always ask permission of the designers and share their links, so it’s good for all involved. 🙂 Because I translate from other designers, the patterns I offer on my website are really diverse, with a lot of different styles and types of instructions. I try to make them “my own” a bit by always making sure I DON’T use abbreviations (as they get confusing easily in my opinion), and I always link to instructions for each stitch.
What are the advantages of crochet as a creative activity?
It’s relatively cheap to get started (but don’t get yourself attached to Alpaca wool if you want to still have savings in 2023 ;-)), it’s very diverse because you can make toys, clothing, blankets, decorations, bags, pillows and so much more.
What I also love about it is that when you make a mistake (which we all do), you can just “rip” back to where it is and carry on. I know I struggled with this so much the few hours I tried knitting: how to fix errors. With crochet that just comes quite easily. I can also put it down in the middle of a row, and there’s not a big sewing machine type set-up needed. Just a chair and my hands will do, with a little basket with today’s project at my feet.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I’m mostly very, very disorganized when it comes to creating. I need chaos to thrive 🙂 I have started writing down my patterns in a more organized way, but I also really love to take my followers along on the “journey” of creating instead of just providing them with a clear-cut pattern. You can learn so much from the decisions of others, not just from the end result! I do also *have* to be a planner with 4 homeschooled children and a business, so I’m practicing that. But it doesn’t come very naturally to me.
What inspires you to create a new pattern? How do you decide which ideas to develop? Can you share a bit of the process of getting an idea from the initial spark to the published pattern?
I usually get a lot of input from my online community on Facebook. They share something, or ask for clarification, or send me a pattern they want translated. The process of getting permission falls flat in 99 of 100 cases, but if I do cooperate with another designer, then that’s the process often. When I design my own projects, it usually starts with a fruitless hunt for something I want to make. Then I play around with colours first, textures next and then finally I get down to making the project. I film a lot of the steps, talking as I go, explaining what I’m doing and why for my Club Membership.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I do and I don’t. There’s an attic office, which is an absolute chaotic mess, and then there’s “wherever I am” 😉 I almost always have some projects near the couch, near the dinner table and in the attic office. There’s bags and bags of WIPs (Work in Progress’s projects) strewn around. I’m a toddler when it comes to cleaning up haha 🙂
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
Actually not that much. My phone is my camera, I have a camera stand on which it can rest when I’m filming my hands. I have a daylight lamp for better lighting. Then there’s hooks and yarn. And of course my laptop to video edit, pattern write, translate, social media, etc… The funny thing is that I started crochet to get away from the computer a bit more…. and now I end up spending so much time on the thing to keep the website rolling… But it’s more productive than playing the Sims, so there’s that 🙂
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
No. I want to, I love buying stationery. But end up never using it. (“It’s tooooo pretty to write in.”)
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
If it’s a really easy project, I watch some binge worthy series (Grey’s Anatomy, Virgin River, Station 19, that type of thing) in English or Dutch (because I can’t read subtitles whilst crocheting). I love audio books too! Podcasts somehow never keep my attention and I’m too scatterbrained for long movies.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I’m really not a creative person. Like I said before, I hate arts and crafts for the most part. Crochet is the *only* thing I’m good at creatively. I would say to people to just keep trying different things until you find something that you *do* love. It’s possible 😉
How do you get unstuck creatively?
This is not a problem I encounter 🙂 There’s always a million projects I want to do and at least 10 on the go, so if I’m bored with one, I switch to the other. Finishing stuff is a much bigger problem than creating stuff 🙂
How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?
Yes, how! I’ve starting using Trello for this. So now there’s rows and rows of tons of cards with translations in process, projects on the hooks, to do lists for creating Canva pictures and social media posts, content for newsletters, etc. It is helpful, I must say, to finally put it in one place. Took me 6 years of building a business to get that organized….
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
People will gain access to more than a thousand free Dutch crochet patterns and a few English language crochet patterns. They will get a huge stitch library and just basically lots and lots of crochet inspiration.
Tell us about your online club, A Nice Gesture. (Is that the correct translation to English?) Why did you start it? How does it keep people engaged in the art of crochet?
The name actually came from another business venture. I wanted to teach Baby Sign, but there was a lot of cultural appropriation backlash from the Deaf community on hearing second language learners teaching Baby Sign, so I wanted to be sensitive to that and stop it. Then the name just kinda stuck, as I do still think it’s a nice gesture to share all these free crochet patterns with the world 🙂 I started Club to be able to give video trainings. It started in covid lockdowns as workshops on donation basis on Facebook, but that had some downsides (no lefthanded versions, no redo if I made a mistake, no rewinding or pausing, etc.). I love love love sharing crochet knowledge and the courses in Club allow me to do so.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
Yes I do! Sometimes workshops on donation basis on Facebook, always in Dutch, and in Club. I also do in person events if people want me to. They can reach me on [email protected]
How do you keep all the balls in the air? Is there one you wish you could drop? Which one will you never give up?
I have a lovely husband and amazing children that motivate me every day to keep all the balls in the air! At the moment I’m strongly considering “Marketing without Social Media” as an experiment for Q3 or Q4. So just focusing on my newsletter, but not spending so much time on social media. I’m spending 5 hours a day on my phone, which is a stupid and unhealthy habit/addiction. Part of this is keeping up with the business social media channels. So as an experiment I’d like to see if I *really* need to be on Facebook and Instagram so much, or if my income streams would keep running without it….
Interview with Iris van Meer posted July 2022