From sock monsters to crocheted dolls, Amigurumi Pattern Designer Kate McCully’s imagination has always been filled with creative ideas that she then simply had to make with her own hands. Crochet is her latest passion, and she has devised amigurumi patterns with interchangeable features that provide thousands of creative possibilities for endearing soft dolls. By choosing different skin colors, hairstyles, body shapes and clothing from Kate’s book, Crochet at Work, the maker can create a likeness of someone they admire or stitch an altogether unique crocheted doll.
How did you find yourself on a creative path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
A mix of all of those (apart from the kicking and screaming part). My head is always brimming with ideas and it’s a challenge to try and get them all down on paper so I don’t forget them.
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What inspires you to create?
I just have an inherent need to create; it is always there. Inspiration will give me a direction for my creativity. Inspiration can come from anywhere from a forest walk to something my children might say.
What brought you to crochet? How does it satisfy you creatively?
I didn’t learn to crochet until I was in my early 30’s but had always wanted to give it a go. The look and texture of anything crocheted appeals to me. I love solving problems and finding solutions and that is why designing crochet patterns satisfies me. I like the challenge of creating 3D shapes, it’s quite mathematical.
What is amigurumi and why do you enjoy it? Is it a beginner-friendly technique, or should I try a scarf or some granny squares first?
Amigurumi is a Japanese term meaning “knitted toy”. The technique involves crocheting in a spiral (without joining) to create 3D shapes like tubes and spheres. I enjoy the fact you can create a finished piece quicker, than say, a blanket, or piece of clothing. It is also a lot of fun. They are intended for children after all, so you’ve got to have a bit of fun with it.
If you have never crocheted before then I would definitely start with a flat 2D shape like a granny square. But once you have the basic stitches under your belt you could certainly have a go amigurumi. (It only really uses just one stitch).
What inspired your new book, Crochet at Work, and what do you want readers to gain from it? How is it different from other crochet books?
The new book was inspired and evolved from a series of six dolls I initially designed for a magazine. I wanted to take the idea further so pitched it to GMC, and they liked it. The idea was to create a customisable doll where you can choose a lot of different features including body shape, hair style and skin colour. I want the reader to gain confidence to create their own doll from the techniques I have included in the book. Although the book has 20 career doll designs, you can actually make any doll you like by changing the colours of the clothes. We worked out there are over 100,000 possibilities with all the different features you could change!
Why did you name your business Make Me Roar? What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
The name Make Me Roar came about before I even designed my first crochet pattern. For a long time I had been designing and creating sock monster patterns and monster making kits. I love to encourage people to MAKE and my designs are always bold, colourful and like to ROAR!
I started to design amigurumi patterns shortly after I made the first amigurumi myself. This gave me an advantage, I think, as all the pitfalls were still fresh in my memory. I always write my patterns with a beginner in mind and never assume someone already knows how to do a certain technique. I am a believer in not over-complicating processes so I will always look for the simplest way to create the shape I envision. One stand out feature of my patterns is that they are generally crocheted in one piece (from the feet up) so that there is little to no sewing on most of my patterns.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I do! We moved house just before lockdown and I now have a whole room to myself to create. I have my desk on one side of the room with all my tools and yarn to hand. On the other side of the room is my lightbox which I can now have set up all the time
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio?
The great thing about crochet is you don’t need an awful lot to get going. I think we all start out using simple metal hooks, but if you start to take it more seriously it’s a good idea to invest in some good hooks. I bought a set of Clover Amour hooks and they are my absolute favourite. A good pair of scissors within arms reach is also a must! Stitch markers are also important if making amigurumi.
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
I normally have an idea of what I’m going to make before I sit down. In fact I have a whole list in my notebook of what I want to make;, it’s a matter of deciding what order to make them in! A lot of my ideas evolve from the last project I have been working on. There are just so many possibilities in crochet.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I usually have quite a few sketchbooks and scraps of paper with drawings and sketches in them that I reach for when an idea comes to me. I am learning to be a little more organised and I try to keep them all to one sketchbook clearly labelled for when I finally come round to taking the idea further.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
It depends what I am doing. If I am designing and working out construction then I have to have silence. If I am doing something that requires a little less brain power then I will probably be listening to some sort of true crime podcast or an audiobook.
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?
I think the biggest challenge of starting a creative business is time management, especially when you have a young family. I used to think of the big picture of what I wanted to do and get rather overwhelmed and end up not doing anything. So I have learned to break down every task into manageable pieces and to only focus on that in whatever time slot I had. I still find it tough but I am getting much better at it!
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
I would love to be able to talk with my aunty Jane who we unfortunately lost too early. She was a very creative person and I used to pick her brains in the early days of my craft business. I know she would absolutely love what I do now, and I would love to talk and spark ideas with her.
How have other people supported or inspired you?
My husband is one of my biggest supporters and we are always bouncing ideas off each other. He is graphic designer and creates all my branding, making anything non-crochet related to do with my business look good. My children love what I do and they inspire me often. My parents are also extremely supportive, especially when I chose an art based career path when I left school
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I think both are true and I think people can be creative in different ways. For my daughter, being creative is all in the process; the finished product is almost secondary. For my son, the end product is the goal. It does help if creativity is a natural trait but it can also be learned. You just need to find something that inspires and speaks to you.
How can people overcome the challenges they feel to their creative ability?
Wow, that’s a difficult question. I think a lot of people are not confident in their creative ability and maybe a little embarrassed. A lot of people would have stopped drawing by the time they have left school unfortunately. I think a leaf out of my daughters book would help – create something just for the process and don’t worry about the end result. Pick up a pencil, paintbrush or crochet hook and just have a play. Know that the first few attempts probably will not look good but don’t let that stop you.
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
I hope my website brings a smile to someone’s face. Just like when I used to do craft fairs, the smiles were the best! I also hope people will be inspired to make, too.
Interview posted November 2021
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