Take tea with Ilaria of Airali Handmade and find out how she dreams up amigurumi personalities and her best tip for newbie crocheters
Italian crafter, Ilaria lives in London where she illustrates and crochets cute creatures, going with the flow of inspiration whenever and wherever it might reveal itself to her. Ilaria also shares our enthusiasm for getting touchy-feely about yarn, literally, and thinks a handmade gift must come in a ‘special package wrapped in gorgeous paper, fabric scraps and tied with leftover yarn’. Is that you kindred spirit? Meet her…
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! I’m Ilaria, fond of the whole world around yarn and fabric. I’m 30 but I draw weird toys like a child and sit on my sofa with a crochet hook like a granny. I love to collect yarn, from cotton yarn to alpaca wool – my favourite pastime is going through my yarn stash and feeling all the beautiful textures!
Who taught you how to crochet? And what was the first amigurumi pattern you made?
My mother and my grandmother taught me how to crochet (and knit, and sew, and embroider) when I was about 6 years old. In summer we used to spend a lot of time in our huge garden but when the sun was too hot to run around the house and climb the trees I got very bored, so they showed me how to craft – I was happy to be taught something new. My first amigurumi was a rabbit, I made it with white and fuchsia wool and – in all honesty – it was very ugly!
Name three things you can’t live without.
1. The yellow diary. I hardly ever remember dates and numbers, it’s a life saver.
2. My red purse with crochet hook and knitting needles. The purse is a Japanese glasses case that I immediately converted into a crochet hook purse.
3. Biscuits, chocolate and ice cream – I have a sweet tooth.
How do you juggle running a blog, your social media accounts and writing a book?
I have a yellow diary and I love to write to-do-lists and organise my work but I’m not good at following my own lists and deadlines! It helps that I love everything going on around my craft works. When I made the characters for the Amigurumi Winter Wonderland book, I worked for months absorbed in all things Christmas when out of my window I could see spring blossoms and sunshine.
After 5 years of blogging, writing about myself and my craft has become a natural part of my daily life. With social media I share something when I have something to tell my following or something interesting to show them, without a scheme. I also spend a lot of time reading blogs, scrolling Facebook and Instagram interacting with my community and other designers – I have always enjoyed this.
As crafters, we love gifting handmade. What’s your favourite thing to crochet for others?
I love to crochet small amigurumi as a thank-you. My favourite is a little whale, I don’t stick to the grey whale-colour, but also make it in pink, green and blue for my friends. I’m very keen on packaging, a handmade gift must come in a special package wrapped in gorgeous paper, fabric scraps and tied with leftover yarn.
Where do you find inspiration for your amigurumi characters?
Inspiration is everywhere, I often start thinking about an animal or an object, then draw the character in my sketch book to find the perfect shape and expression to achieve a cute, funny and unique amigurumi. Sometimes the input for a new amigurumi comes from a Facebook or Instagram comment, the suggestion from a friend or the precious idea of an editor.
Any advice for newbies who want to learn how to crochet?
It may help to start with a medium sized crochet hook, around 4mm. Starting with a small or a very big hook could be more tricky. Don’t rush to learn, start slowly with the basic stitches, you can make some sample squares as training. You can choose a suitable yarn to turn your sample squares into coasters or potholders.
Get the crochet Christmas bell decoration pattern featured above in Mollie Makes 59 (available for print subscribers only, see Subs Club) or buy Amigurumi Winter Wonderland to make the festive characters featured in this post.