I’ve been thinking I should do more interviews on this blog. I love to learn more about the people I admire and have an excuse to ask them nosy questions. So I was very excited that my friend Kristen Rask just came out with a new book, which seemed like the perfect opportunity!
Aside from being an author, Kristen is the owner of Schmancy, the super cool plush and vinyl toy store in Seattle. She’s also president of Urban Craft Uprising, curator of the Plush You! shows, and all around mover and shaker in the world of craft. For her new book, Yummy Crochet, she worked with a group of talented crochet amigurumi designers to come up with 12 crochet food projects! The book comes with a kit (perfect holiday gift for new crocheters, I should think!) and is now available at Barnes & Noble stores and at barnesandnoble.com.
She even signed this copy for me—how sweet!
OK, here goes with the interview!
Anna: Congratulations on your new pattern book and kit out at Barnes & Noble! Why do you think people are so excited about making crocheted and knitted foods these days?
Kristen: Thanks Anna! Well most people love eating and I think food is such a focal point of all of our lives. Slap a happy face on something you already love and you have got some true love action happening there. Plus I think it’s great because both kids and adults can appreciate it. Kids might like it more because it’s like play food and adults can appreciate its charm. Win win!
Anna: This is not your first crochet book. How did this one come about?
Kristen: For this project, I worked with a third party who makes the book and then shops it out to a publisher. Barnes & Noble ended up buying the first one, Creature Crochet, and it sold so well that they asked to do another one. The funny thing is I pitched the food idea right after Creature Crochet came out, but it seemed like they needed to warm up to the idea of food and initially said no. A few years later they wanted to do it. But working with such a huge book seller means more rules I think, so they requested specific items. I suggested a few others that I thought would be great, but you do what you can, right? I really do think this one is super cute and I am really happy with the end result.
Anna: For someone (like me) who has done a little bit of crochet before, but is not so experienced, would you recommend any specific patterns from your book to start with? And do you have any basic advice about the best materials to use for amigurumi?
Kristen: I learned to knit way before I learned to crochet, and I had a hard time with crochet at first. The movement and tension are different, and it was a hard switch. After I finally gave up and signed up for a class, it came to me pretty quickly. I like the movement of crochet now better than knitting, and for a person that has tight muscles a lot, crochet is not as hard on my body. I think all the patterns are pretty much good for a newbie but I would suggest something like the cookies or donut to start with. You can figure things out a lot faster with crochet it seems. Not that I don’t love knitting still, but amigurumi seems easier with crochet and faster! I’m an instant gratification kinda girl. The other great thing is, cheap yarn, the acrylic kind, is actually best for this kind of work. A little note, don’t use beans to weigh down your amigurumi. Sometimes if they get wet they will actually sprout and that would be sad.
Anna: In addition to designing and making crafts, you also run an entire store in Seattle! What’s the toughest thing about owning your own retail business, and what’s your favorite thing about it?
Kristen: Toughest would be that you have to be there all the time and be responsible for it all the time. If I am sick, I often still have to go..unless I feel like I am on my death bed and then I’ll close. I haven’t had too many Saturdays off in the last 7 years, that kinda sucks. The economy blows, and you always wonder if you are on a sinking ship or if your ship has sailed and you just are living in denial about it. That kinda stuff is hard because I wouldn’t want to go out unless it was what I wanted to do. It would suck if it was the only option, you know?
Best part is I am my own boss and I am not good at taking orders. I can be a few minutes late and it’s my problem. I can wear whatever I want. I can decide to be lazy and no one is gonna care but me…although then I feel guilty. If a mean person comes in I can tell them where to take their negative nancy attitude and no one is gonna yell at me. It’s all me, and as much as that can be challenging, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I hope I never have to write a cover letter or get interviewed ever again. Or at least I don’t think I do.
Anna: You must have a really interesting perspective on the current crafting climate from running your store and also from your position as president of Urban Craft Uprising, which organizes craft fairs in Seattle. How have you seen craft as a whole change in the past five years, and are there any emerging trends that you’re excited about?
Kristen: I think craft shows have gotten a lot more refined these days. There isn’t a whole lot at a show where people walk around and say “I can make that”…which is totally rude and if you do feel that way, please keep those comments to yourself. There are perhaps less birds these days, ha ha. I am really excited that canning and preserving seem to be all the rage! I love cooking and have rekindled that love since I have moved into a new apartment, so all that stuff is really exciting to me.
I honestly think the best part of being in the craft world is the community. I have made solid relationships with people who I mainly talk with on the internet or have met through a craft show. For instance, I met my friend Michelle (xobruno.com) at a local craft show about 9 years ago. She lives down in Portland and always comes up for Urban Craft Uprising. We have a tradition now of going out one of the nights after the show for drinks and food. I love seeing how she has evolved her work over these years and just think she’s awesome. It’s crazy to think that we became friends from a craft show…crazy awesome that is. And you! It’s fun to come to NYC and go get coffee or a treat…all because of our love for craft and our involvement in it. I can’t imagine a better community to be in and feel so happy to be part of it in any way I can.
Anna: When you have a moment to spare these days, what are you crafting?
Kristen: I am really honored/excited that I was accepted to Crafty Bastards. I have heard amazing things about that show for years and finally bit the bullet and applied. It seems like stiff competition, so I am really excited. SO I have been crafting up a storm for that. I have been making small magnets and pins, pouches, headbands and even ornaments. I am trying to focus on things that I don’t have to charge too much for. I am not a master crafter of any kind, but I do love the act of doing it and if I can make people smile and make a few bucks along the way, all the better.
Thank you so much, Kristen, for taking the time to answer my questions. You’re a great friend and crafter!