Meet the Designer – Kristen Stoltzfus Clay

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I think most of us enjoy reading about other crocheters. Hearing their stories, helps connect us to the larger crochet community.

Today I would like to introduce you to Kristen Clay. Kristen’s designs which often appear in Crochet World and Crochet! magazines are always fresh and very appealing and fun to crochet! Kristen’s Art Deco Neck Warmer in the February 2017 issue of Crochet World is no exception. Its vintage-inspired style and modern flair make it a very wearable winter accessory.

Art Deco Neck Warmer Designed by Kristen Stoltzfus Clay

Art Deco Neck Warmer
Designed by Kristen Stoltzfus Clay

I recently interviewed Kristen and share our conversation here:

CW: Kristen, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kristen: I’m 25 years old, the oldest daughter of 7 children. My family moved from Dutch country in Pennsylvania to the gorgeous hills of west-central Idaho less than two years ago. Moving west was to me like coming home from exile – I love it here with a passion. Since then I’ve recently married a wonderful man and live with him on his family’s ranch, which has been in their family since the 1800s.

CW: When did you learn to crochet?

I grew up surrounded by crochet. My mother specialized in thread doilies, especially pineapple designs. My maternal grandmother has made hundreds of baby afghans, including one for each grandchild and great-grandchild, to this day. She learned to crochet to occupy her time once she was older, and made striped afghans using the crazy stitch. So when I was around 6 years old, I naturally begged Grandma to show me how. She started me out with the chain stitch. I learned a few basic stitches but didn’t pick up crocheting seriously until I was about 17, when I was reading my mother’s back issues of old crochet magazines and got hooked.

CW: What other crafts appeal to you?

Kristen Stoltzfus Clay

Kristen Stoltzfus Clay

Kristen: Counted cross stitch interested me for a time, but for the last few years it’s been sewing! In fact, sewing and crocheting often compete for my time and interest. As you can tell from the photo, I love bygone fashion, and make my own clothes from vintage patterns, styling them on my blog

CW: How did you become a designer? What was the first design you sold?

Kristen: I realized afterwards I’d been designing things for a time after I learned to crochet – I just didn’t realize that’s what it was. I’d make doll dresses, and alter existing patterns ad lib according to my needs and the yarn I had on hand. When I was 19, we subscribed to Crochet World. I read about the Winner’s Circle contest and emailed then-editor Michele Maks, who kindly said that she’d look at any ideas I could send her. Ideas instantly began to bombard me, and I’ve never looked back. Everyone in the business was kind and encouraging, despite my ignorance of everything in the beginning. Oh, the learning curves!

My first sold design was a set of two thread brooches with mixed media embellishments, to a craft magazine that no longer exists. Thread jewelry remains a favorite of mine to design.

CW: What is your favorite part of the design process?

Kristen: I absolutely love turning an intangible image in my head into something tangible that others can recreate. It’s like giving body to a thought. Sometimes actually working it out can be tedious, especially if I can’t get something in my hands to look like the picture in my head, and not every design is a success (though sometimes it just needs revamped with another yarn or color choice). But I love seeing it come together in the end, and finding my name in print if the design sells!

CW: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

Kristen: From everything. Pinterest images of home décor or fashion, an element on an existing garment, or unexpected color patterns…often the yarn itself will inspire me by its color or fiber with what it “wants” to be made into. I’ll see something in fabric and think, “How can I do that in crochet?” Often all I will need is someone saying “We need ideas for fingerless gloves” or something generic like that, and that will trigger inspiration for me. Usually when I’m staring vacantly at the wall, looking totally spaced out, I’m working out a design in my head! I also especially love incorporating buttons and bead elements into my designs; many times I will see an embellishment and imagine what would be a suitable backdrop. So a craft store has endless inspiration!

CW: What is your dream project? If you could design anything, pull out all the stops with the perfect yarn ready and waiting, what would you create?

Kristen: I’d love to do a 1930s style dress and jacket set. I’ve seen some gorgeous vintage images of knitted ones! Very chic and wearable, with such unique and fun details.

CW: What does an absolutely perfect day look like for you?

Kristen: A perfect day is one I can share between tidying my pretty little home while listening to music, crafting or reading beside an open window in my spare time with a view of the mountains to be glanced at every few minutes…and most of all, spending time with my husband and family enjoying Idaho.

CW: If you did not crochet what would you miss the most?

Kristen: Having a flexible job that is also a hobby and passion, in which I can express my style and taste in things I create. But my guess is my creative drive would have found some other outlet… I’m just glad crochet and I found each other!

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