We can't get enough of the new additions to the Deramores toy collection, so much so that we caught up with designer, Amanda Berry, recently to ask her about her design process and her inspiration (there's even a few sneaky peek pictures too!)
My inspiration …
I make a lot of animal toys, so taking time in nature is a big inspiration. I live near the River Thames and walk besides the river everyday to do a spot of bird watching. My walking time gives me the chance to organise my thoughts, and new design ideas pop in to my brain.
My other big influence is animation. I grew up watching Roobarb and Custard, the Mr Men and Henry’s Cat, which use simple shapes to convey a character. This has really influenced my design style.
My design process ….
I start with a basic sketch or doodle. This helps decide on the colours to use and any texture stitches to incorporate before I start knitting. I am not a great artist, but it is really handy to have a basic drawing to refer back to as the project continues.
I design the pattern as I knit, so my next step is to pick up the needles and get knitting! I have a notebook to write down the pattern as I progress. Occasionally a bit more planning is needed, especially if there are colour patterns or cables in the design. I use graph paper to help me plan out this work before knitting.
For most toys the head is the most important piece, so this is where I always start. I spend a lot of time getting the head and face to look just right, as it really can make the difference between a design being a hit or not! With my dog collection I had six dog’s heads sat on my desk for a few weeks whilst I finished the bodies, which looked a bit unnerving!
After the toy is made, I then write up the final pattern for the customer. It is then checked and test knitted before the final pattern is published, and there is a bit of photography to do too. It usually takes at least 70 hours to create a pattern from concept to completion.
My design goal ..
When I first started to learn knitting I wanted to make toys, but I struggled to find some easy patterns. So as well as trying to make something cute, I always try to make sure my patterns are easy to follow. This is why my designs are knitted flat rather than in the round, to make them more accessible to knitters of all abilities.
My toolkit …
My favourite yarns for knitting toys are acrylic DK yarns, like Deramores Studio DK, because you tend to get a great colour range, they are relatively cheap to buy, and they are washable which is handy if your toys get grubby through play.
Apart from yarn, needles and toy filling, my essential toy toolkit includes…
- pins for making up
- buttons and beads for eyes
- a darning needle for seaming
- embroidery thread for adding features (this it is much sharper than using yarn, especially on smaller toys)
- Cups of coffee are essential!
Why should I knit toys? ..
Toys are a great project for stash busting, and most can be completed in a few hours or a weekend. So don’t let those odds and ends of yarn balls go to waste, knit something to make someone smile!
Any toy making tips? …
My top tip is to take time on seaming and finishing. If you usually rush to get your project finished, you may see a real difference if you set aside a bit of time here.
When I am planning any toy, I set aside one day for finishing. That may sound like a lot, but toys are usually made of lots of little bits that are sewn together, so it is really important that you put as much care into the finishing as you did into the knitting.
The best thing about my job is …
Giving my toys a big hug when they are finished is my favourite part, it never fails to make me smile!
My favourite project for Deramores …
My dogs…. this was a big challenge and involved a lot of research on how to portray specific breeds. I was so happy with the finished puppies, I hope your customers like them too.
At a guess, Amanda, we'd say we all do!