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Interview: Alla Koval, Kids Couture Designer

I am participating with 9 other bloggers in the Blog Tour to promote Alla Koval's 2 new books: Imagical Seasons Volumes 1 and 2. See my review here on the blog at 8:00 AM (CST) on July 15, 2015. To join in the blog tour and see other reviews, interviews and give-aways, see the schedule below.

Alla Koval with Pixie
CrochetQueen: Your kids fashions are charming and unique. What inspires you?

Alla: Thank you so much, Gwen!
Sometimes, the idea for a design just comes into my head and I don't know from where. I just visualize it clearly and then somehow turn the mental images into something real.

Other times, I find inspiration in paintings and photographs—Pinterest is an amazing source of inspiration and eye-candy. I look at things and try to understand if I can see something special that has to be noticed. Many times I start by looking for unusual stitch patterns, and start building my ideas from them. It’s so interesting to see how a stitch pattern evolves when you start modifying it, especially when combining with other patterns!

But most of my inspiration comes from colors of nature and changing of seasons. It’s no secret that I am endlessly inspired by beautiful colors, you just have to take a peek at my portfolio to see that most my designs are thoroughly and obsessively color-coordinated.

One of a brightest memories from my childhood was my very first set of 48 color markers. I was super excited to experiment with the colors, and my mom paid attention to how I used them. Later she told me that when she asked why I combined the colors that way, I explained - “They felt happy together.” Well, I still have that excitement about colors, and l am always on the lookout for new color combinations with which to work.

CrochetQueen: I know you have children. Is it a passion for motherhood that allows you to create such unique designs?
Alla: Indeed! I have been knitting and crocheting since I was a child, but rarely created any children’s items – just did not have much motivation. But when I had my own daughter, I started imagining all the cute things Kristin could wear, and this is how I started designing children’s clothes. It was then that I realized that it was exactly what I wanted to do in my life!

CrochetQueen: How long have you been designing? What got you interested in crochet? What have you discovered about crochet that is unique to you or your life?
Alla: From early childhood I was involved into the joy of creating my own garments. My mom is a professional seamstress and amazing knitter/crocheter; and she preferred to make most of the dresses for me and my sister by hand. As far as we all remember, I participated every single time - as a trouble maker when I was too small and as artist and designer once I got older. 

The very first garment I designed and made by myself was a sweater for my daddy which I knitted when I was about 11 years old.  I was so proud of the fact that my dad loved it and wore that sweater until it practically started to break apart. Since then I enjoined knitting garments and accessories for gifts or by request from my friends and family.

Surprisingly, but I do not remember exactly when I started to crochet on "regular base" and what was my first crochet project... But, Russian and Ukrainian languages have no word for determining crochet apart from knitting. We say "knit with needles" and "knit with hook". Back in Ukraine I was mostly knitting with needles, but always had a bunch of crochet hooks just to fix something or to crochet embellishment, finishing edging and so on.

Crochet creates easy textures and flexibilities and works just ideal for the purpose of my books - to show the imagical way. That's why I decided to start my first books with crochet but I do have a plan to release a book where both techniques would be used. I will finish book volumes 3 and 4 - Fall and Winter -  around New Years and then I will be able to talk about future plans more freely. 
CrochetQueen: You also design for knit. Do you find any differences in what inspires you for one or the other. Do you find the customers are different for crochet or knit? Have you ever created crochet patterns in other categories besides for children?
Alla: I knitted for a long time, but there were years when I didn't do it. Learning to knit happened in the early years of school, mostly during after school day care hours.After I finished that sweater for my father, I was knitting garments and accessories as gifts or by request from my friends and family.

When I discovered the crochet world, I was completely hooked and amazed of all the magic and possibilities of crochet textures and techniques. I do love both knitting and crochet equally because they’re so different. I tend to use crochet more for lace on summer and spring garments and knitting when I want something more fluid or use textured yarn. But my absolutely favorite part is to use both techniques together in one project; they both add so much to each other and there is such a sense of freedom in the creative process.

Do I find the customers are different for crochet or knit? Hmm  … I don't have statistics but from my own experience I see that majority of US customers prefer crochet over knitting - I pretty often receive requests to "turn" knitted designs into crocheted version, but not often the opposite. And I've noticed that European and Australian customers use both techniques and actually ask for projects where knitting and crocheting are combined.  

I enjoy creating accessories for ladies—scarves, hats, wraps, necklaces, pins, etc, which have appeared in several magazines, including Crochet! and Interweave Crochet. Also my accessories patterns can be found at  my website and in the Imagical Seasons book series.

CrochetQueen: I don’t see any patterns for boys. Do you design for this species?
Alla: I definitely would love to design more for boys and creating a boy's line is one of the exciting projects I have in mind! It's just a matter of timing, but so far I have couple designs for boys:

·     Petit Mousse Sweater with removable sleeves/vest 2 in 1 designed for collaboration with amazing French designer Servane Barrau: 
Petite Mousse Sweater

·     Mr. Mouse Jacket, designed and knitted for our friend's handsome son: 
Mr. Mouse Jacket

        Give a Hoot Crocheted Hat pattern, I am offering for free download: 
Give A Hoot Hat
CrochetQueen: You say you are happiest designing instructional patterns so others can make your designs.
Give me some of the feedback from people who have crocheted your designs.

Alla: One of first and most memorable stories from the wonderful people who make my designs was told by dear Karen Gaskell:
"I saw your site listed on a group to which I belong, Crochet Partners, and I checked it out, as I always look at their referrals.  When I saw your Sea ShellsScarf  which looked so familiar. I recognized it immediately as a scarf which I had recently seen. I knew in real life that it was a stunning piece and I knew I had seen in done in a pale to mid shade of blue. It then came to me that I was in line at Starbucks in Ponte Vedra, Florida yesterday. The weather was really nice & warm so most people in the very long line wore shorts. The woman in front of me, though wore a light blue sweat suit, carried an incredible large and lovely blue handbag. She also wore this gorgeous blue scarf….yours……she looked stunning. I know she was from Europe as she and her companion were speaking Italian and her clothing was well made with that European style. Anyhow, that scarf made the outfit and everyone in the long line was admiring her. - Karen Gaskell, Beautiful scarves"

"Thank You so much for posting these wonderful- cute as a bug patterns! Finally some REALLY cute crochet patterns for real life wear. My girlies and myself LOVE to wear crochet but almost everything you find is soooo outdated. My 7 year old's head is just about to pop off with excitement because her summer outfits are going to be so cool… - Jennifer in Missouri"

"Alla, I am truly amazed by your creativity! I haven’t seen such beautiful designs in years. It is so wonderful that you share your gift with others. You have inspired me to move on to more challenging projects. I look forward to seeing your new masterpieces in the future. Again, Thank you for sharing!- Joyce"

"I do not want to go to work. I just want to sit down and crochet. Your designs are so inspiring. I wish I had half of your talent.- Rania"
CrochetQueen: What is your educational background? Did you have a career before getting into designing?
What brought you to Seattle and from where did you move?
Alla: After graduating from the University of Economics, I worked as a computer programmer for 8 years until my family moved from Ukraine to the US in 1999. During the first year I met a wonderful lady, who was running her own business and I worked as designer and knitter of ladies coats and Judaica crocheted hats for two years. I have found Seattle to be wonderful and friendly! 

CrochetQueen: Is fashion design/pattern writing a full-time career for you? Are you not selling any custom fashions now?
Alla: Since 2004 and for the several years I’ve created and sold hundreds of custom-made (mostly one of a kind) items online. However, one day I realized that I have too much on my plate and couldn’t keep up with all orders anymore. And I want to create instead of repeat. I thought if I start to write patterns, I could make something just once and let other knitters and crocheters make garments by themselves, and even sell finished projects made from my patterns. I really feel that it was the right direction to take, and since 2008 I am 100% a pattern writer of knit and crochet.

CrochetQueen: Are you a current Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) member? 

Alla: Yes, I am a CGOA member since 2007 and decided to become more active and participated in 2015 Member Design Competition for first time.

CrochetQueen: Is there anything you want to add that I have not covered already? 
Alla: I would add couple words about my Imagical Seasons book series. I wrote these books pretty much to express myself to the other crocheters and designers. The main message, I believe, is a language of design and inspiration. which is not only international but targeted all ranges of skills. I tried to show how to apply same pattern in different ways to get outstanding results. I created a totally new style of my pattern, and each pattern includes: unique and very detailed crochet stitch diagrams, schematics, tutorials, easy-to-follow written instructions and stunning full-color photos. Many Thanks to Edie Eckman for tech-editing my patterns; and as a result of taking her Edie Eckman’s How to Say It class, they have never been in such terrific shape! 

My book is useful for English readers from US or Europe and for readers with no English at all; useful for crocheters of any skill level - from beginners and to advanced designers; and finished projects to be worn by girls from 2 to 12 years old and some pattern are suitable for adults also!

Alla Koval Blog Tour 2015

July 13:  Knitting and Crochet - Amy Solovay

July 14:  Faina’s Knitting Mode – Faina Goberstein

July 15: Crochet Queen: Royal Ramblings – Gwen Blakley Kinsler

July 16:  Crochet Concupiscence – Kathryn Vercillo

July 17:  Petals to Picots - Kara Gunza

July 18:  Stylish Knits – Simona Dest Merchant

July 19:  Craft Gossip – Sarah E. White

July 20:  Positively Crochet – Mary Jane Hall

July 21:  Magic with Hook and Needles - Vendula Maderska

July 22:  Cute Crochet – Jocelyn Sass


Amy Solovay said…
Fantastic interview, Gwen & Alla! I really enjoyed this, and found it interesting.

Alla, I particularly enjoyed seeing your patterns for boys. Your girls' patterns are exquisite as well, but since little boys are so often neglected by pattern designers, it makes me happy to see great boy patterns become available. It's also helpful to have more recommendations ready when my readers ask for boy-friendly project ideas; it's a question I get asked often.
Alla Koval said…
Thank you so much Amy for your such kind of words!

For patterns for boys, - I totally agree with you and it's exactly what our friends and parents of boys keep saying. Not to mention that design for boys is so much fan!!! So far, most requests I got are for boy's hats. Oh, and I also want to play with crocheted blanket for baby-boys. As for sweaters, vests and other garments I see them more knitted than crocheted, but please let me see first ;o)

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