Ylenia Tagliafraschi. The name that does not sound Japanese at all, but in fact she has a lot to do with Japan. Indeed, Ylenia is an Amigurumi expert.
Amirugumi is a knitting or crocheting technique with which wonderful stuffed animals are made. A technique with very deep roots, that we discover today with Ylenia, our fellow Prato resident who is in love with Japan. The characters that she knits with her own hands are a lot like her: they are sweet, colorful and they make you want to be happy!
So, could we miss the opportunity of working with her? Of course not! We asked Ylenia to make a small Amigurumi using our Feather yarn, with a triple advantage: it took her less time to make it, it is easy to make even for beginners, and it is easier to find a spot for it once it’s finished! To discover Ylenia’s amigurumi, and see how we made it, please click here!
An obligatory question to start. How did you get into the very Japanese art of Amirugumi?
I have been obsessed with Japan for many years now, and during a period in which I had a looooooot of time to spare, I started browsing websites about crafts and handmade objects. And just like magic, I came across hese cute little fun things!
How would explain this technique to those who do not know it yet? Is it similar to the ancient crochet art as we know it or are there significant differences?
Yes! It is very similar, and actually quite simple. All you need to know are the basic crochet stitches. The main difference is that you work in a spiral, without ever closing the circle. Of course, by flipping through some wonderful Japanese book you are going to find some more adventurous technique, but you can do anything with just the basic stitches. The important thing to remember is to never leave holes in between stitches, otherwise it’s not going to look cute!
From what I understand, people who do Amirugumi have a very definite set of favorite subjects to work with. Can you tell us what most people like, and which do you personally prefer?
There are some classics, or the most common subjects anyway. Also, when one is not very confident they tend to copy other people’s patterns, so here we go with lots of puppet versions of cakes, dolls and little animals. I personally love the typically Japanese taste for creating antropomorphous objects. The idea of objects and food that look at you and smile is funnier, I believe, but lately have been rediscovering the pleasure of making some little animals (also smiling, of course).
Kawaii (a Japanese word meaning cute, adorable) and Amigurumi go hand in hand. What does being Kawaii mean to you?
It is a fundamental prerequisite. Basically, Amirugumi do not have an actual use, all they need to do is to be Kawaii! Well, it’s a difficult question. If we are talking about Amigurumi, they are kawaii when I look at them and they inspire me a feeling of tenderness. For me, they don’t have to be great or perfect, they have to touch me. I wish I could take them all home with me. For example, last year in a shop in Kyoto there were Amigurumi that were very well made, totally perfect from a technical point of view, and then I turned around and I saw a little dragon put aside in a basket. It was the sale basket, but it has such a sweet little face that I took it home (which was quite inconvenient since it was huge).
Do you have a mentor that influenced you?
Not for Amigurumi. I mean, of course when I open a great book I go crazy but it’s also very hard to follow Japanese designers. You look at the websites and for the most part you do not understand what they are saying 😐 However, Japanese people have such a sense of aesthetics and such manual skills that basically I like them all, from the ones that are perfect in the tiniest details to the ones that are all crooked. Famous or not, it makes no difference. My true absolute idol has nothing to do with Japan or Amirugumi. She saws, is a graphic designer, does thousands of collaborations and is the one who made me think “Hey, making stuffed animals this way is incredible!” I am talking about Heidy Kenney aka My Paper Crane.
What do you like to have near you when you are making your little creatures? Music, a cup of tea, your friends…
A cup of tea is a must, especially if it is Hojicha! And then, comfortable clothes and a bit of music or a documentary in the background. I prefer to work alone so I can stay focused. It also seems quicker like that. Every now and then I stop, I check, try to see if there are any stitches that I do not like… To put it simply, I am just more at ease.