Crochet at Work by Kate McCully is a new amigurumi doll book on the market that contains the patterns for 20 career dolls to make and customize. This book gives makers the tools to mix and match different pattern parts to make over 100,000 different doll combinations. Today I’m sharing my review of Crochet at Work by Kate McCully and sharing my interview with the author.
Thanks to GMC Publishing for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, etc.
I’m Kate and I live with my husband and 2 children by the sea on the South coast of the UK. I have always loved art and making stuff. I went to art college and then did a degree in Interior Design. I worked as a Retail Interior Designer for about 8 years. I initially started making sock monsters and designing sock monster patterns as a hobby before I learnt to crochet. I did quite a few craft fairs in the early days which I absolutely loved doing. But now I design patterns only. I don’t like making the same thing over and over, always looking for the next idea!
When and how did you learn to crochet?
I learnt to crochet about 11 years ago when I was pregnant with my first baby. I was visiting my parents for Christmas and unfortunately came down with the flu. My mum got out a very old book by Good Housekeeping which had all manner of different needlecrafts in it. So my mum and I learnt crochet together from the book. I couldn’t do much else being ill so I sat on the sofa for several days making flowers and granny squares until it finally sunk in! If I wasn’t crocheting I was dreaming about crocheting. I then made my first blanket for my son
Have you authored any other books?
A few years ago when I was making sock monster patterns I was commissioned to write a range of sock monster craft books, but this is my very first crochet book.
Where did your inspiration for this book come from?
The idea started life in a magazine. I entered a submission call for a booklet they were
looking to be published alongside the main magazine and my submission got chosen. Six of the dolls were included in the booklet.
When designing I always think of who will be using the finished item and with most of my designs it is children. I wanted to create of range for children who say ‘When I grow up I want to be a…’ I also wanted to be able to create a pattern that could be totally customisable that someone could make it to look like the child it was intended for. Therefore I started with 3 different body shapes / sizes. I chose a yarn range that had a lot of options when it came to choosing skin tones. I also designed lots of different hair style in lots of colours. With all those variables, one person’s Dancer (for example) would look quite different to another person’s Dancer.
How long does it take to complete a book like this?
This is a difficult question to answer because I worked on the book during lockdown while home schooling my 2 children. But to give you an idea, from the first meeting with the publisher to handing over all the content took about 6-7 months.
What’s your favourite design in the book and why?
Another difficult question! My favourite is always the last one I made. But if I had to choose a few from the book it would have to be the Chef (my dad is a chef), the diver and the lumberjack. Oh and the teacher. Maybe the Athlete too. And the Farmer.
What is the process like when you design a pattern?
I always sketch out my designs first and make notes on colours and construction. I then do a little research. If I’m copying something in real life I need to make sure I get it right. Then I get the yarn out and choose the colours. Quite often I will draw out the design at full scale so when I’m crocheting I can lay the work over the top to check the shape is going the right way.
It’s important to make sure after each round to write down what you did and the number of stitches in the round. I always include lots of step by step photos in my patterns. When I’ve made the first doll and am happy with the result, I make it all over again taking photos at key stages. The next stage is to type up the pattern to get it ready for testers. Testers are a key part of the pattern design process. They check for mistakes, typos and that the pattern works in general. (btw I have a blog post all about this based on my Zombie pattern)
What tips would you share with someone just starting out with amigurumi?
Firstly I would say, start with an easy pattern (or just a ball) that has all the basic techniques.
Secondly, don’t be disheartened with your first result. A lot of us start out with our first makes looking slightly wonky with lots of holes! Thirdly, practice the magic ring. It’s tricky to get the hang of but worth it once you do. Look for videos on it and other techniques (like the invisible decrease which is also a game changer) if that’s how you like to learn.
How would you say your crochet or designing has changed since you first began writing/design crochet books?
I would say I have become a more efficient designer! When I started designing patterns I had only recently started making amigurumi, so in a way I was starting from scratch, learning as I went. I think this gave me an advantage though, as all the pitfalls were still fresh in my memory and made sure every step was super clear when typing up the pattern. Now I have a whole bank of construction techniques and shapes I can use when designing the next project which cuts out a bit of time. My designs are also a lot more detailed. I like to use sewing and embroidery in some of my patterns to take them up a level. I still keep the beginner in mind with every one of pattern though, even the more advance ones. I never assume someone can do a certain technique.
What do you hope the biggest take away for makers will be from your book?
I hope that makers would find the confidence to create their own unique doll from the
techniques I’ve included in the book from showing them how to customise all the elements. You don’t even have to create career dolls from the book, you can make any doll you like.
Do you have any other exciting projects on the horizon you’d like to tell us about?
Not anything specific right now, but a lot more pattern designs coming up plus resources. I have a very long list of patterns ideas in my notebook which keeps getting longer as I can’t crochet fast enough!
Like Amigurumi? You’ll Love These Free Patterns
Crochet At Work by Kate McCully Review
Crochet at Work contains the patterns for 20 different amigurumi dolls that each have different careers. The dolls are all based off of 3 different body bases and then changes are made to the bases to create the different career outfits. The outfits for the dolls are mostly crocheted directly onto the doll using colour changes rather than having removeable, interchangeable outfits. The career dolls included in the book are:
- Police Officer
- Racing Driver
The book is written similarly to a recipe book. You’re given the three different doll bases and then each career outfit’s variations are given on their own separate pages. This does result in a lot of flipping back and forth throughout the book so you can reference the doll pattern and your career outfit page as you work. The book has flaps on the cover which help you to keep your place, making this task easier to manage. It would’ve been awesome had they added the doll base pages to these fold out sections or had the doll pages fold out but this is just an idea for ease for the maker but I think it’s great that they have the existing flaps.
Check out my Video Review of Crochet At Work
The resource section in Crochet at Work has some great additions that I was happy to see included that I feel have been neglected in other amigurumi crochet titles that I have reviewed in the past. Things like stuffing the toy, right side vs wrong side of amigurumi, counting stitches, positioning the eyes and rounds vs rows are covered briefly, which was great. Basic stitches are covered with illustrations briefly though some techniques could benefit from an additional illustration or two.
The one thing that I wish was covered better was the small section on tension (gauge). It claims that tension is not critical for amigurumi which is only partially true and could lead to some major frustration for makers. Matching gauge is not critical in amigurumi as long as you maintain a consistent tension throughout your project and I wish that was noted in the book.
When you make dolls that have hair caps like you do in Crochet at Work, tension is actually quite important to ensure that the haircap will fit your doll. If you don’t maintain the same tension throughout your doll and haircap, you could end up with a haircap that doesn’t fit your doll – leading to frustration for the maker. Gauge for the dolls is not given, so there is no guarantee that your dolls will turn out to be the same sizes given for each doll base in the book. I wish that there was a tutorial on how to make wire glasses for the dolls instead of a vague reference to purchasing wire glasses online since, if your doll turns out to be a different size, should you buy the glasses online in the recommended size, they may not fit. This is not a make it or break it but do keep these things in mind when making dolls from the book and temper your expectations accordingly.
The book contains loads of beautiful photos of the dolls. Each doll has photos that show the 360 view of the doll which I thought was a great addition. I love that makers have such a variety of different hair caps and accessories to complement their dolls. The patterns are relatively clear and easy to understand but as I mentioned, do require a bit of work on the maker’s part to piece the patterns together. The patterns are written in the UK terminology and a conversion chart for the UK to US terminology is included in the back of the book.
Overall, I enjoyed Crochet at Work and think it’s a great resource for experienced amigurumi makers that are looking for a resource that gives them tools to create a wide variety of crochet dolls that you can customize.
Copies of Crochet at Work by Kate McCully can be purchased on Amazon.
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