Today we are highlighting one of our most frequent contributors to I Like Crochet: designer Amy Gunderson. Amy certainly knows her way around a skein and hook—she works as a creative lead for Universal yarn and still finds time to design crochet and knitting projects on her own. She began working for the company in 2012, moving to North Carolina in 2012 to pursue her true interests. On top of all her fiber fun, she also finds time to snuggle with her pets and ride her motorcycle.
Read our Q&A with Amy below to find out more about her design inspirations, daily crochet adventures, and plans for 2017. And don’t miss her patterns in this issue, like the Retro Bookstore Tee and Belle of the Ball Wrap.
Q: When did you learn to crochet, and who taught you?
Amy Gunderson: My grandmother tried to teach me when I was a teenager, as she had been an avid crocheter much of her life. But by the time we got around to having me learn, her dementia had gotten the better of her and she could no longer teach me. Years later at age 20 (I’m now 38), I learned to crochet from a craft store booklet. I learned the basics from that, but “unvented” most of the techniques I know. I can remember when I came across tapestry crochet for the first time, something I thought I had come up with all on my own!
Q: How did you get involved with Universal Yarn?
Amy Gunderson: After I’d been knitting for a couple of years, I saw a job posting on Ravelry in the designers’ forum. Thinking I was totally underqualified, I applied anyway. Much to my surprise, I was hired!
Q: Were you more excited or nervous (or both!) when you first decided to move so you could take the job in North Carolina?
Amy Gunderson: I was both, but much more excited than nervous! My husband and I owned a pizza delivery business for 8 years before that and I was very burned out. I couldn’t wait to stop smelling like pizza and talking to drunk college kids every night at 2 in the morning! And there’s nothing more exciting than the prospect of having a job that we actually might enjoy, right? I can’t say I love everything about my job, but most of it I sincerely do. It is equal parts creative, problem solving, technical, and grunt work. And as stressful as it can be, I like going into the office every day knowing that I might have a very interesting adventure!
Q: What other crochet-related activities do you engage in with fellow crafters? For example, do you teach any classes or go to any workshops/crochet events?
Amy Gunderson: I’ve taught a little – a few classes at local yarn stores. I also attend Vogue Knitting Live and Stitches events regularly as part of my role with Universal Yarn. I taught a class at a Stitches a couple of years ago on crochet charting. Though I didn’t know anything about crochet charts when I began crocheting almost 20 years ago, it’s something I’ve learned somewhat recently. And when I discovered I could make my own charts on my computer, I was hooked! I love that crochet charts are both beautiful and functional.
Q: In addition to all your other projects, you’ve also published a few books (such as Crocheted Mitts & Mittens). What goes into creating, assembling, and publishing a craft book? Did you enjoy the process?
Amy Gunderson: Wow, that could be a very long answer but I’ll try to keep it brief!
To start, I didn’t come up with the concept for the book. I was approached by the editor from the publishing company who asked if I’d be interested in doing such a book. Keep in mind that I had just finished the counterpart book, Knitted Mitts & Mittens which also had 25 projects. So initially, I was very overwhelmed by the thought of coming up with 25 brand-new ideas for gloves and mitts.
But once I thought it through a little bit, I remembered just how different knit and crochet are, and how much more I can do with crochet in terms of stitches and shaping.
First I came up with a rough idea for the first 10 projects. I had a timeline of something like 10 months to get all the projects and patterns finished, so I knew I had to finish one every week or two. I work well under pressure and with deadlines, so this kept me focused.
I began by working on the ideas I felt were the most solid and I felt the most confident with. I would intersperse those with my more “experimental” ideas so I wouldn’t get bogged down when things didn’t work out. And let me tell you, ideas don’t always work! As much as we might think we have everything planned out, there is bound to be some aspect that is overlooked that ends up being crucial to a design. At that point in the process, we have to decide if there’s an alternative solution and if it’s worth it to keep going, or to scrap it. And when working on a deadline, that’s an important decision.
The best part of the process was being able to send all my pattern files, charts, and photos to my editor and mail off all the projects. The worst part is the editing process. I hate it! It can be very tedious. But of course, it is crucial to having as error-free a pattern book as possible.
Overall, yes – I love the process of doing books. I like having a singular idea or theme and expounding on it. I’ve had some ideas floating around in my head for my next book and I can’t wait to see it happen!
Q: What does a day in the life of Amy Gunderson look like?
Amy Gunderson: It starts with a mocha and ends with red wine! In between, any number of things might be happening. I work a pretty standard 8:30-5 work week, Monday -Friday. At my job with Universal, I could be doing any number of things:
I might be working on developing a new yarn – looking at samples from our mill, helping to decide if we want to try to revise a sample incorporating a new fiber blend, picking out a color palette for a new yarn, naming the yarn, naming colors, doing technical work with the yarn, determining knit and crochet gauge for the yarn. I also design our yarn labels, so I might be making a new yarn label, or obtaining UPCs for new colors.
Developing seasonal collections is a huge part of my job. This starts usually by perusing forecasted trends for the coming seasons and putting together an inspirational mood board. Then, swatching and sketching ensues. Eventually I decide what the pieces will be, and it’s a frenzy of pattern writing and making specs for all the projects so that they can be made in a timely fashion. Once the projects come back, I organize our photo shoots which could be simple studio shoots, or more elaborate shoots with back drops, or location shoots. And then after the projects come back, it’s a mad frenzy to get patterns written and laid out into ebooks. It is a lot of work!
For the past year or two, I’ve also been maintaining a weaving column on the Universal Yarn blog, so from time to time I’ll head home and work on a weaving project. Weaving can be a nice change from crochet and knit – another fun thing to do with yarn!
I also work with our sales team so that we all know what is going on in our respective worlds. In this kind of business, it’s very important to be on the same page and have an ear to the ground. We all value our customer so highly and want to be sure that we’re serving them in the best way possible. There’s nothing better than getting a kind note or email from a customer saying that they love our yarn, pattern, or customer service!
After my official work day is over, I head home to keep working! And dog cuddling. My husband and I have a yellow lab (Suzy) and a foxhound (Charli) who keep us quite entertained. They are both about 6 which is a wonderful age for a dog. They’re old enough to not destroy the house, but young enough to still have plenty of energy. I do a lot of freelance design work, crochet charting, and tech editing. So in the evenings I am usually in my comfy chair in front of my laptop with a dog at my feet and wine by my side. I’m crocheting or knitting until I can no longer keep my eyes open – every night!
Q: What’s your favorite type of project to crochet?
Amy Gunderson: Hmm…definitely not single crochet ribbing, though sometimes it’s necessary! I’d have to say most any kind of lace pattern. Crochet lace is so pretty, and so fun to work.
Q: Where do you find your inspiration for designing crochet patterns?
Amy Gunderson: Gosh, all over the place. One of my favorite things to do lately has been to look at vintage stitch patterns and re imagine them in more modern takes. That is exactly where my head was at with the Aloe Bloom Shawl from the February issue of I Like Crochet (http://www.ilikecrochet.com/crochet-shawl-patterns/aloe-bloom-shawl/). I saw a vintage doily pattern and riffed on it. I adapted the stitch pattern some and made it into a wearable 3/4 circle shape. It’s also updated with that pretty tile blue color and a silk blend yarn.
Q: What is your go-to yarn when it comes time to find the perfect match for a new project?
Amy Gunderson: Definitely Deluxe – any variety. Universal Yarn Deluxe Worsted is our staple worsted weight wool yarn. It also comes in bulky weight, superwash in various weights, and superwash tweed. I crochet, knit, and design with them constantly. They’re affordable with huge color palettes, and I know what my gauge is in all of them so that saves me time when designing.
Q: What makes crochet more than a hobby for you?
Amy Gunderson: I can think of many answers to this question. But my first instinct is to say because it is a challenge. Compared with its tamer cousin knitting, crochet is like a free wild child. It can be short or tall or go this way or that way. If I have an idea for a project in mind that I’m not sure I can actually accomplish, I’ll do it in crochet every time because crochet comes through! I get bored easily, but crochet holds my interest after all these years. It’s because it’s possibilities are nearly endless.
Q: I saw on your Ravelry that you have some other exciting interests, like motorcycle riding! Can you tell me more about that?
Amy Gunderson: When I was a kid, I always wanted to ride on a motorcycle but never did. When I started dating my (now) husband and I was in my late 20’s, he bought a new motorcycle. I got to ride on the back of one for the first time in my life. It was fun, but not as fun as I knew it would be to ride my own.
My first motorcycle was pretty small – I’m short so I can’t ride anything too enormous. It was okay for tooling around town under 40 miles an hour, but it was pretty dinky. A couple of years later I found the one I ride currently which is a 650 CC Kawasaki and very fast. I love it, and can even put my morning mocha in my tank bag.
I commute to work during the warmer months on my motorcycle. It’s amazing how different the world appears when you’re outside the confines of a car. Just yesterday as the weather was unseasonably warm here in Charlotte, I rode to work smelling and seeing the cherry blossoms in bloom along my street. I never would have noticed them in my car. I notice fresh blacktop smell (a sharp reminder of childhood and kickball!), small grooves in the road, a sudden change in temperature change depending on elevation, and so many other senses that I never otherwise notice.
When life is feeling monotonous and I’m in a rut, there is nothing like riding a motorcycle to give me a new perspective!
Q: What’s next for you in 2017?
Amy Gunderson: Gosh – more of the same! I’m traveling more than usual this year, which makes me sad because I miss my husband and dogs when I’m gone. Next month I’ll be going to Cologne, Germany for the Handarbeit craft festival. In April it’s back to another Stitches event – Stitches United in Hartford. The summer TNNA show is in June in Columbus, VK Live Seattle in November.
Oh, actually – I’m kind of nervous about one travel event this summer. Universal is partnering with one of our LYS (Friends and Fiberworks in Asheville) for an Alaskan Cruise and I’m teaching all the classes for the event. I’m super excited because I’ve never been to Alaska, or on a cruise for that matter! But I’m very introverted so just the thought of doing that much talking makes me exhausted! It’s going to be a blast, though.
My husband and I also have season passes to our local amusement park, Carowinds. So there will also be lots of roller coasters in store for me this summer. It’s good to be an adult, right?
Find more of Amy’s crochet designs: http://www.ilikecrochet.com/author/amy-gunderson/