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Amy Solovay: Prolific Designer ~ Part 2: Designing

July 12, 2014
Amy Solovay: Part 2, Designing

I first met Amy Solovay when she joined my fan group, Cro-Kween Designs on Ravelry. She was humble, enthusiastic and a delight to have as a group Courtesan. I wanted to know more about her designs and the inspirations for them. Check Amy's website often as she is currently focusing on developing it into a comprehensive resource covering both crochet and knitting, as well as other topic of interest needleworkers.

I wondered what got Amy interested in crochet and how long she has been designing.
"I started designing original patterns for public consumption in 2009 when I began working with My father's aunt taught me to crochet a granny square when I was a child of about 7 years old. She also taught me the basic crochet stitches, but I was on my own with figuring out what to do with it all.
Envision 7 year olds -- They draw pictures; build things with Legos and blocks; and follow their creative muses without hesitation. I did the same, creating stuff like blankets, clothes for my dolls, and stuffed animals. I didn't know about patterns and was just designing things I wanted to make off the top of my head. It was fun for me; it kept me busy.

Later I discovered crochet books and was drawn to inspiring freeform books. So by that point, I was exploring in the opposite direction -- not worried at all about following patterns, but creating everything spontaneously. I haven’t given much thought to the distinction between designing and crocheting until lately. In the past, if I was doing one activity, I was also doing the other. Lately that hasn't been as true, because I've been making more of an effort to crochet from other designers' patterns. Overall, I’ve been crocheting about thirty years".

Amy is a busy and prolific designer who produces a new pattern, tutorial or article per week. She says that some days she wakes up with design ideas that pour out of her. “I couldn’t stop them if I tried. Often I have more ideas than I can realistically work on. On those days, hubby Mike has to remind me to eat and drink!

With degrees in both mathematics and interior design, Amy describes her work as “Art Inspired  by Fabric, Fashion and Interior Design.” I wanted to know more about what inspires her. 

Will you share some of your creations that have evolved from various sources?
"My designs are often inspired by one or more of the following things:
-The vintage crochet manuals which I collect. I draw from them constantly for reference and inspiration.

-A yarn, thread or other materials like beads, wire, pretty colored plastic shopping bags. Lovely printed fabrics can influence me as well. My fabric crochet necklaces are a perfect example  of projects that were inspired by such materials.

-An interesting stitch (or stitches.) For example, when I discovered the Lacy Interrupted V-Stitch,    I was enthralled by it, both by its look and the speed at which it works up. 

    -'What-Iffing’ --  One morning, I might wake up thinking 'I wonder if I could make dull orange, bright blue and dusty pink look like they belong in the same project?' Or I might be at the craft store, looking at supplies, and wonder 'what would happen if I use this thread with these beads?'  I may do some unraveling of these weird experiments, but a surprising number of them turn out well enough to be shared.

- My readers, and their requests, ideas and interests. While I'm not able to work on every request, I do take all my readers' comments, insights and requests into consideration when planning my projects. I tend to prioritize the ones that have mass appeal I also gravitate towards requests that I personally find interesting, or think would be interesting to a majority of my readers.

-Keyword lists from places like my site's metrics is a more indirect form of inspiration. If one zillion readers have searched my site wanting an "easy scarf," I know that if I haven't already posted some easy scarves, I better get going on it immediately!"

In her designing, Amy puts her educational background to work in many ways. 
Elaborate for us on your interest in color forecasting. 
“At one point, I taught trend forecasting to fashion design majors at a design college. Working in the industry, a textile designer naturally develops this ability to predict color trends. Often these colors must be predicted up to two years in advance due to the long time it takes for fashion to reach the marketplace.  

With my crochet work, I take a different approach. Most of the time, my goal is to transcend the trends. I want to give my readers projects that will be just as stylish and beautiful in fifteen years as they were on the day their project was first crocheted. When crafters take the time to make something by hand, we want it to last. Our handmade projects are not intended to be disposable. I focus most of my efforts on creating appealing, trend-proof designs that will last a lifetime for their makers; it is my way of rebelling against planned obsolescence, which I see all too often.

In the past, our grandmothers and great-grandmothers mended their clothes, darned their socks, and handed things down. They extracted every bit of value possible out of a garment or textile before disposing of it. At the same time, the things they handed down were often worth handing down, due to excellent design, craftsmanship and quality. I see these as being ideals that are worth striving for -- to design things of lasting value, to achieve excellence in craftsmanship, and to create exceptional items worth hanging onto and handing down.

I confess that there are times when I do get distracted from this goal, and I give in to the urge to design a trendy project. Like my latest -- I resisted that trend for as long as I could, and then one day I was overwhelmed with a design vision that I thought would be so spectacularly gorgeous that I just had to give in and try it. I do love the scarf and it has been well-received. 

So there's this battle in me between the fashion industry professional and the environmentalish/traditionalist. I want to stay completely up-to-the-minute with the trends, yet I also see the need to design and create sustainably. It is my hope to channel my talents in such a way that I can help needle workers satisfy both desires at the same time.

With crochet, it's sooooo easy to try interesting things with colorwork. I often try combining crazy combinations of variegated yarns -- particularly embracing colorways that probably shouldn't be used together, just to see what will happen. I find it particularly entertaining to look for ways to make unworkable yarn combinations work. It's also fun to see how many variegated yarns can be packed into the same project -- without ruining it."

Amy prefers to carry out color experiments on low-commitment projects like pot holders “Let's say one of my dishcloths turns out hideous. So what? No worries, because it will still scrub my dishes clean. Plus wild and weird dishcloths tend to make great conversation starters when one is doing the laundry in an unfamiliar marina!

If you use a technique like tapestry crochet, you don't have to worry about floats across the back of your work, like you have to worry about with fair isle knitting. That alone is incredibly freeing.

Of course, with crochet being done completely by hand, you don't have any of the limitations that come along with things like machines and looms.  Crochet isn't without its limitations, but it's a medium that is incredibly free, and allows for almost-complete spontaneity."

Will you share some examples on how combining your knowledge of math and textile design has worked out perfectly?
"At the hand-craft level, I used to design knitted and crocheted garments, and math was also useful in that capacity -- particularly for grading patterns and figuring out shaping. Lately I've been doing more quick, beginner-level projects, and I haven't needed much in the way of complex math.

I do love geeking-out on things like tessellations, logarithmic spirals and dynamic symmetry, but I haven't made these sorts of things a priority to work on lately. I'd love to get back to playing with math-meets-art-type design elements in the future. I would particularly love to try crocheting some of the tessellating patterns I drew and painted back when I was designing printed fabrics.

For now I'm happy to focus most of my efforts on simple stitch repeats, simple shaping and projects I can get finished in a week or less.

I asked Amy about her involvement with Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) and how it has influenced her work.
Being outside the USA, I am not well-situated for taking best advantage of the benefits that group membership offers. However, as a non-member, I can say with certainty that the CGOA is an amazing group. I have boundless admiration for the group as a whole, and for everything the organization hasaccomplished. CGOA has definitely furthered goals that I currently hold nearest and dearest, and share with the guild: educating people about crochet and its many benefits.

The CGOA has also provided me with inspiration and some interesting blog post material, particularly from the design competitions. I've also enjoyed reading, reviewing and sharing books written by CGOA group members, who are a talented and inspiring bunch. I've often linked to CGOA resources, and recommended the group to my readers. The group has indirectly contributed to my writing career -- by being newsworthy, by being worth writing about, and by providing helpful materials that I think crocheters should know about!

I like to think that I've also given some value back to CGOA as well, in the form of raising awareness to my readers and pointing them in the direction of the group.

I'd say the Guild has furthered my design career largely because members are often at the forefront of providing innovative crochet and needlework that inspires me through a variety of  noteworthy materials, such as videos and books. I look forward to continuing to refer  my readers to these valuable resources. 


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