Who doesn’t dream of making their own stuffed toy? Stuffed toy making can be from a few methods, besides sewing, AMIGURUMI (crochet or knit stuff doll) is one of the most popular methods. When I saw Mei Li’s blog (AmiguruMEI) for the first time, my jaw dropped. When I got to know that she designed her own amigurumi doll, I knew I need to know her more and introduce her to you. Visit her blog (AmuguruMEI) and you will know that I am not joking or exaggerate my statement. Today, Mei Li is sharing with us her another creation, Mr. Murasaki – a sleepy purple owl amigurumi, murasaki means purple in Japanese. You can view her other free pattern, here. Similar to her other Amigurumi doll, Mr. Murasaki the owl amigurumi has a unique character and I just love his sleepy look. Besides sharing this owl amigurumi pattern and tutorial, I have an exclusive interview Q&A section with this young and vibrant 30 year-old lady, read along to know her more.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your blog. How did you get started with creative crafting? When and how did you start writing / blogging about it? As a child, I enjoyed doodling and colouring and playing with homemade playdough (my mom used to get her zany craft ideas from Australian craft magazines). I also remember this incident when my older sister had to babysit me and she ingeniously kept me busy by leaving me outside on the porch, with a piece of paper, some colouring pencils and a stack of leaves that she had collected from the garden (in retrospect, I think she was just trying to keep me out of mischief but I enjoyed the leaf-rubbing activity tremendously). I enjoyed making little handmade cards and gifts during Mother’s and Father’s Day, but I was rather average on the creative side. My sister and brother, on the hand, have always been great at sketching, painting and making clay figurines. About two years ago, after leaving the advertising industry (which had hectic work hours) I had a little more time on my hands so I wanted to take up a new hobby. At about that time, I was also steadily building a craze over Japanese anime, and was particularly in love with the Studio Ghibli series of films. I wanted to own dolls of the characters from those anime, and it wasn’t so easy finding them here in Malaysia (and I wasn’t a fan of online shopping). So I thought, hey, maybe I could make my own dolls. That’s when I discovered the art of amigurumi, while browsing through the craft section at the bookstore. I was fascinated by this book, “Crochet Animals” by Annie Obaachan, but I wasn’t so sure if I could make the dolls in the book. After all, I had never touched a crochet hook in my life! I almost put the book back but my husband encouraged me to “give it a go”. So I happily returned home with the book and for the next few weeks, had a frustrating time trying to understand what crochet was all about. After a dozen and one tries, I was all ready to give up. Still, my husband was very encouraging and even went on to search for some crochet tutorials on YouTube that I could learn from. And that’s really how I got started with amigurumi! I must really thank my husband 🙂 My first amigurumi was a lamb in slumberland (though he looked more dead than anything, haha!). It felt so good when I completed the doll! I started making Totoros, and little bunnies and after a few months of doing that, I decided to set up a Blogger account to document my amigurumi adventures. I only started blogging seriously when my husband (again!) bought me my own domain (amiguruMEI.com) last year. By then, I was getting better with photography and had also bought the wonderful Canon G12. Most of my earlier photos on my blog were taken with that camera. I must say that I was greatly inspired by Inhae Lee of www.mymilktoof.blogspot.com, who makes tiny teeth figurines and writes amazing stories about them. I wanted to do the same with my dolls, and that’s what got me started on creating character stories for each of my handmade dolls. Oh and not long after that, I was offered to do a craft column, Craftypedia (information below), for the newspaper that I work for. My editor knew that I was making dolls and she naturally assumed I would be good in all kinds of crafts! So I guess you could say that I only started crafting when Craftypedia launched in March 2012.
2. I understand that you are working in The Star Daily as the writer of a few columns. Tell us what topic are you writing for? How do you manage to handle between your work, blogging and family? I currently write for Star2, which is the features desk for The Star newspaper. I am attached to the Family/Parenting/Women beat, which covers issues from those themes. I also have a fortnightly craft column, Craftypedia, where I share fun tutorials to encourage families to take on crafting with the kids. I work on photographing the tutorials for Craftypedia twice a month. On weekday nights, if I’m not too tired, I’ll launch into one of my amigurumi-making moods and try to hash out something with a particular yarn colour that I happen to fancy at the moment. On the weekends is when I do most of my photography and uploading of blog posts. It hasn’t been easy as I have to juggle between finishing up on my amigurumi projects and spending time with my husband as well as my mom, whom I take for grocery shopping on Saturdays. I usually take my amigurumi tools with me on-the-go – if you look closely enough, you might just see a girl crocheting away at a Starbucks somewhere. That would be me 🙂 My husband enjoys reading, so he’ll be with his book and I’ll be working on my half-finished doll – that’s one of the ways we spend time together. Just the other day, I was quietly crocheting away at a Starbucks while I waited for my mom and the barrister came over to ask what I was doing. I wish people were more interested with amigurumi, but alas, only Starbucks employees it seems!
3. What changes has your life undergone since you started? Have there been any memorable surprises, challenges or rewards it’s brought you? Ever since I started making amigurumi, my crafting perspective has just expanded. I think being creative with crafts has also allowed me to be more creative in life – having to navigate through the many crafting challenges reminds me that there’s always another way to solving a problem; we just have to look at it from another angle. The biggest surprise I got was when I started getting feedback from random strangers on Instagram and on my blog, telling me that they loved my dolls! I started making dolls because I really wanted them in my life; little did I know that through the dolls, I would one day be able to touch the hearts of so many amazing people out there! Recently, I’ve also gotten quite a few comments from kind souls who said that I inspire them! Who would’ve thought? I think the most rewarding part about discovering amigurumi is that I get to do what I love, and at the same time, spread a few smiles around. I can’t imagine myself not making amigurumi. I often wonder how I could have lived for so long without a crochet hook and yarn!
4. What kind of relationship do you have with your readers/followers, and what posts, subjects or projects have proven most popular with them? Could you provide us with links to a couple of your most popular original craft projects/tutorials? Most of the time, I do get the same avid readers/followers who will comment on my post or ‘like’ my pictures. I have made a few friends through my Instagram and also my blog, and they are mostly amigurumi fans as well. Whenever I share a new pattern on my blog, I’ll usually get write-ins to thank me for sharing a free pattern, and that’s how I get to know my readers a little more. I’m big with replying e-mails and comments whenever I can – I will always remember how kindly the crafting pros treated me when I first started making amigurumi, and had a 1,001 questions to ask over the simplest things. I would say that my Tuxedo Sam pattern has been the most popular post so far – I came up with that pattern over a year ago but up until now, I still get new readers sending in a picture of their version of Tuxedo Sam. In July last year, a group of amigurumi hobbyists in Taiwan asked if they could translate my pattern into Chinese and use that same pattern to make over a 100 dolls for children with cancer at a non-profit public hospital in Tainan. I was really moved by the gesture – that the amigurumi hobbyists actually took the time to make handcrafted dolls for kids whom they knew nothing about, if only to see them smile. I can’t say that I contributed to that project but it really did make me feel warm and fuzzy all over, knowing that someone chose a project of mine to make a difference in the lives of others.
5. You have tried so many different crafting techniques—from sewing, amigurumi to kids craft. Which is your favorite and why? I’d still have to say amigurumi. I still can’t paint and I’m clumsy when it comes to sewing. Making amigurumi requires me to do very little sewing, and that’s fine by me 🙂 There’s just something about working with yarn that gets me going. It’s very satisfying watching a strand of fiber wind itself into the head of a cat, or a fluffy panda. And yarn! I just love the sight of yarn. I have so much yarn!
6. I love your amigurumi creations and they are so kawaii. Each of them has their own character and name. Where did you get the inspiration from? How long does it take to design and make one? Even from the start, I’ve always treated my dolls like friends whom I welcomed into my life. A lot of the dolls are inspired by people close to me (like Chiyo-chan, who takes after my niece), or a cartoon character that I simply fell in love with. I’m crazy over anything that’s remotely cute, so whenever I watch a super-cute anime, I’ll be super-inspired to hash out that character in amigurumi form. I don’t always sketch out my designs beforehand. While I have the most fun designing the facial features and expressions of my dolls, that process can also be the most frustrating one – there are some days when a cute face just goes into hiding and I spend hours moving an eye to the left and right, just to see if that changes anything. On average, the simpler dolls take at least two hours to complete (like my Moomin doll). The more complicated ones, with finer details may take up to six hours, or even days.
7. Do you have any tips to those who are interested in designing their own amigurumi character? I think it’s always great to involve your personal experiences with the designing of an amigurumi character – there may come a time when you’re happy, or sad, or angry, and you can make a doll based on that feeling of yours. From there you can move on to special occasions or changes that happen in your life. For my Mei-chan doll (a fuzzy pink fox wearing a Totoro hat), the design is based on what I would actually look like if I were a character in the amigurumi world 🙂
8. I saw that you have shared your amigurumi creations to magazines like “Mollie Makes” and “Simply Crochet”, do you have any other contributions to other medias and magazines? Some of the pictures of my amigurumi have made it to the “Show & Tell” section of Gathered by Mollie Makes, which is a digital craft magazine from the creators of Mollie Makes. I am also a regular contributor for original amigurumi patterns for the Simply Crochet magazine – my Little Red Riding Hood pair is in the latest issue (yay!). I have also been signed up by HTC Malaysia as a brand personality and now I take all my instagram photos with the HTC One 🙂 I’m currently working on an exciting project that I’m not able to announce just yet, but I hope to be able to do so very soon!
9. From your youtube videos, you seem like to make stop-motion video to tell a story about your amigurumi creations, where did you get this idea from and do you think this would be the future way to present the craft? I’ve always been fascinated by stop-motion productions – at a young age, my brother was really good with filming his own stop-motion plasticine figurines (dinosaurs and monsters) and I’ve always wanted to follow in his path. I focused on film in my final year of studies, so I had a basic knowledge of film editing to help me out. I love telling stories, and that can be done with photography, but there are just some things that are too cute not to be shown on video. I am a big fan of Instagrammer @Usakichi07 and her amigurumi work, which has been featured in several stop-motion commercials. I really hope that my dolls will get to star in their own commercials one day! I think there isn’t anything new about featuring amigurumi in stop-motion videos, but there are a whole lot more interesting stories yet to be told; I just hope that I can have the honor of telling half of them!
10. You are a Malaysian Chinese but you seem to know Japanese language so well. Do you study Japanese? Tell us more about it. My father used to pepper his sentences with strings of Japanese words – he was a koi fish importer and had visited Japan many times. I obviously didn’t pick up my Japanese from him (haha). When I started making amigurumi, I also started watching a lot more Japanese anime (while I crocheted) and sometimes, there would be no English subtitles available. I also discovered that our bookstore Kinokuniya has a great range of Japanese craft books that I desperately wanted to read, but couldn’t. With that in mind, I started taking twice-a-week Japanese lessons at a language school in July last year. My teacher is a super-fun (and young!) Japanese lady from Tokyo who hates sushi, but absolutely loves Malaysian food. I’ve learned so much from her! I’m currently doing my Advanced Level 3 and mastering conversations on how to politely decline when someone offers to pay for your meal. I can read and write in hiragana and katakana, two of the basic characters in the Japanese language. I’m struggling with kanji, the third and last character, which is mostly identical to traditional Chinese characters, but for the pronunciation. For now, I can only read Japanese children’s books (which I love), but my goal is really to be able to read a whole novel in Japanese, and hopefully to one day write a book in Japanese too! In the meantime, I can now safely crochet and watch my anime without having to look up at the screen all the time! I saw this funny quote from an e-card recently and it said: “You know you’re addicted to crochet when you’ve watched three seasons of a TV show, but you have no idea what the characters actually look like.” That’s me! Haha!