We spoke with Irene Strange about her new book; Irene Strange’s Curious Crochet Creatures – and here’s what she said:
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m Irina and I design and write crochet patterns for all kinds of animals and creatures. I live near London with my husband, two kids, our pet stick insects, and the ever-growing library of craft supplies and yarn. I first discovered amigurumi at university while researching character design. There were so many fun characters, materials and possibilities – I just had to try making some myself! I’ve always been quite crafty, from sewing plushies to making costumes for drama club, to making friendship bracelets for anyone who’d ask at summer camp, but there is something about amigurumi crochet that really clicked!
Tell us a bit about your new book?
Curious Crochet Creatures is a collection of the more unusual and interesting mammals, reptiles, birds and sea creatures – the underdogs of the amigurumi world, if you like! I love experimenting with different shapes and construction methods, as well as mixing fibres and finishing techniques – in this book you will get to try out some of these ways to construct amigurumi toys with yarn and hook. I’m hoping to make projects that feel logical, intuitive, and fun to make – the crochet process should be just as enjoyable as holding the finished toy.
How big a part does sustainability play in your work?
I feel it is very important to think about sustainability in our day-to-day life, even small green steps will help. In practical terms, for most of my self-directed projects I choose to work with natural fibres, like cotton and wool. As well as choosing biodegradable materials I prefer to use recycled or cotton stuffing, sometimes just pulling in all the yarn ends from past projects to stuff the toys.
I feel that handmade toys and garments are more sustainable in the long run, they are cherished and looked after much more than mass-produced throwaway equivalents. through crochet, we are creating heirloom toys that will be loved for years to come.
What advice would you give to your beginner self?
It’s a bit of a cliche, but I would say focus more on the work that makes you happy and less on other people’s expectations. It can be quite scary to switch careers and set out on a new path, but it’s really worth it in the long run.
Which project would you recommend from your book for a beginner to try?
The Aardvark is a good start to try some shaping, colour changing and sewing – it will produce an impressive size creature in no time!
How do you think you reached this point in your craft?
When I made my first amigurumi I had no idea one day there would be a book with my name on it, it’s still feels very surreal. I started making my own designs almost by accident, mostly because I was too impatient to follow someone else’s instructions and preferred to just make it up as I go. The early experiments didn’t always work out how I imagined them, you can still find some of them up on Flickr, for those of us making and sharing things online before Instagram. I started contributing to magazines and blogs quite early on, alongside to working as a graphic designer. After having kids going back to full-time work didn’t feel right so I have been focusing more and more on crochet as they got older. This has led to collaborations with yarn brands and other designers, a creative partnership with Airali Design with our Amigurumi Adventures Mystery Crochet-Alongs celebrating different seasons, and now my first solo book – yay!
What’s next for you?
There are some future projects already in the works, we are planning more mystery crochet-alongs and online events. I’ve been toying with the idea of launching a podcast or Youtube tutorials too, so that’s something I’ll be exploring this year if I get over the fear of the camera… And more cute and odd amigurumi patterns too, of course!