Hi Ilaria! We love your crochet patterns – who first taught you to crochet, and when?
Thank you! My mom and grandma taught me any kind of craft skills, from embroidery to knitting. When I was a child, during the hot Italian summers, whenever my friends and cousins took a nap, I insistently asked to my mother to start a new crochet project with me, like a little bag or a blanket for a doll.
You’re very well known for your amigurumi – what do you love about them?
Amigurumi are indisputably cute and put a smile on everyone’s face! Actually I fell in love with the geometry construction hidden behind any little piece – I like to find out the right shape to create the character I have in mind or I doodle on my sketch pad. Then I challenge myself to keep the instructions easy to follow and enjoyable for sharing my passion to other amigurumi fans around the world.
My first attempt with amigurumi was an awful fuchsia and white rabbit with very long ears and ball shaped limbs – I don’t have a picture, thank goodness, but fortunately, I stubbornly continued to improve my technique until I started to design my own crochet patterns. My first one was a classic Teddy Bear with a long scarf, and he still has a place in amigurumi lovers’ hearts so I’ve recently updated the pattern with a lot of step by step pictures and amigurumi tricks – this is him!
It’s quite impossible to write down a list of my favourites, because there is a story behind all of my characters. I’m really fond of the hot air balloon on the cover of my first book Amigurumi Winter Wonderland – the idea came to me whilst I was working on the other characters in the book, and I created it immediately. The duo published in Amigurumi Circus jumped into my favourites list too: Carlo the parrot and Steno the stilt walker mouse fond of popcorn.
Your garment designs are gorgeous – what do you like designing most, and what inspires you?
Crochet garments are not yet as popular as their knitted cousins. My aim, which is the same for a lot of crochet designers, is to amaze people with the possibilities of crochet – it’s not just for blankets! Every craft technique has its strengths and weaknesses but they are all are beautiful when the design is good. I try to keep my garments simple and comfortable keeping my attention focused on the details, which always make the difference!
I’m inspired by the people I see every day around me, how they mix colours and shapes. Even in this case details are the key, I start with a pocket, a ribbing or a texture – created by a crochet stitch for example – and then I build my idea around it. The internet is the place for filling your sketch pad, between a colour palette from a Mexican traditional shawl and the neat style of a Scandinavian living room, we can drive our imagination around the world, discover what is perfect for our mood, or style and then translate all the feelings into crochet!
It depends on the kind of project. If it is a commission I always have a starting point as the yarn, a mood board or both. I really love to challenge myself with a new yarn or a style I have not contemplated before, so I do a lot of sketches to figure out the perfect construction to achieve the shape or the texture, then some tension squares to try the stitch with different hooks and shapes – for example trying the same stitch working by row, in the round, and with increases and decreases. What do you think I start a new amigurumi with? The first piece I crochet for each amigurumi character is a foot! Yep, it sounds funny, but in some cases it is a quite small and detailed piece and it is crucial for the whole character. Or maybe I’m just obsessed by amigurumi feet
That’s a very difficult question because I love trying new yarns, every kind of fibre and thickness, so I have a lot of favourites. For my amigurumi I often use cotton yarn, DMC Natura Just Cotton creates a bright and soft texture, perfect for small toys. I love the halo created by alpaca yarns and chunky wool yarn, like Rowan Cocoon it’s perfect for crocheting a winter accessories in no time (last minute and super-appreciated gifts!).
What is your advice for anyone who is keen to start making amigurumi?
If it’s your first attempt with amigurumi and crochet as well, I suggest to start crocheting sample squares, working in rows, and practising the basic stitches to gain a little bit of confidence with them – you can turn them into coasters! After that, starting your first amigurumi will be fun! The first time you see a three-dimensional thing, which takes shape and grows up from your hands is an amazing experience, but don’t feel downhearted if it’s not perfect, keep practising and your amigurumi will be neat and they will make everyone smile! Try to use a smaller crochet hook than the one indicated on the yarn label to avoid holes in the crochet fabric and use a tapestry needle for sewing up the pieces of your amigurumi, it slips through the stitches and keeps the seams easy to make.
You can find all of Airali Design’s patterns here – and keep an eye on the blog in the next two weeks for these exclusive Easter patterns from Ilaria!