Sunday, November 9, 2014

Toy Design with MochiMochi Land at Vogue Knitting Live Chicago

Two weeks ago I had the most amazing time at Vogue Knitting Live, Chicago!  I did so much in the three days at this conference that I will divide my experience into four separate posts.   I will slowly take you through my weekend, starting on Friday morning with a "Design Your Own Knitted Toy" workshop taught by Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochi Land.  Anna is a Chicago based knitter who focuses on toy design, from the realistic mini creations to fantastically alive computers and couches.  She has published 4 books and multiple ebooks through her website, Mochimochi Land.

When Anna was creating her first toy, she put on the eyes and then thought "Oh, this is amazing!  You are alive!" and she was hooked.  8 years later she has published multiple books and is a name many in the knitting community know and recognize (even if we may have to ask her how to pronounce her last name!)

I showed up to class with a few of my friends in my pocket.

I like knitting toys because they make me smile.  Anna pointed out in her short lecture that many people start designing while making toys because there are many opportunities for you to make choices that you might not be comfortable making when making a garment you are going to wear.  Anna has designed many teeny toys and she really has been able to capture their essence and reduce them to their basic elements (as was her goal).

After Anna's inspirations lecture I realized that I really need to keep up with my pinterest inspiration board.  I have a (private) board that I used when trying to work on some specific designs but I'm realizing that I need to just hold onto images that inspire me.  I don't want to force my inspiration, my best work comes from when I see something and then get an idea that I just can't shake.  Even if something doesn't give me an idea right away, I should still collect images of things that excite me.

Anna's biggest design tip was to sketch, sketch, sketch.  By her own admission, she is "not an illustrator" but the sketching process will help you figure out what you want to create.  From your sketches you break them down into the basic elements - what pieces do you need to make?  What are the basic shapes and how can you create them?  Sometimes you need to go to the needles to work things out, but you can figure out a lot as you work on the sketches.  It helps to look at illustrations and clip art especially when you are trying to capture the essence of a creature while still making sure it is recognizable.

In addition to discussing shaping and inspiration, I became inspired by a number of Anna's designs.  My notes from class are interrupted with excelamations like "Skunk! Teeny skunk!"  And now that I'm writing this post I CANNOT FIND THE SKUNK!  It must be similar to the teeny fox pattern with different colors.  I'll have to see if I can make this happen since I love the fox anyway.  I fell in love with Farfalla, a flying narwhale.  Anna also shared Rachel Borello Carroll's Cabled snowman.  I was delighted by the feeling that this snowman was wearing a sweater because he was cold.

Once we went through some different types of shaping, we took some time to sketch out our designs.  We got up one at a time to share our designs with the rest of the class on a big pad of paper and to discuss how we might shape things.  Can you tell which design is mine?

Spoiler alert, here it is!  I am still in the sketching phase to figure out exactly how I want this toys face to be constructed.  Plus I need to do some shopping for some novelty yarn to really do him justice.  I need to get cracking because Anna wants us to email her our progress in a few weeks.  I think I'll start casting on to see where I get shape wise.  Wish me luck!  

I can't draw.  It really isn't a bird, I promise!  

I ran into Anna again in the marketplace where she had an incredible twig art display.  There were many vignettes on the hanging twigs but this mini set up was my favorite:

I proudly wore my Mochimochi Land button the rest of the weekend.  The little gnome is still on my jacket!  (I switched up the shawl I wore each day to the conference and I wanted to keep the little guy around so I switched him to my zipper pull.)  

I feel so inspired after this class.  I've finished up a sketch for a top secret project I'm working on (I was working on it in class when I should have been finalizing the project I was going to present!)  I have my Indy head to work on and a few other sketches in my notebook.  I hope to be sharing some of these with you guys early next year.  

Guess what, Anna talked about our class on the Mochimochi Land blog!