Ever since I was a teenager, I would always envy to people who had a genuine passion for something. I wouldn’t necessarily get it, but I wanted to. Be it obsession with all things vampire, sports or boy bands. Fast forward multiple decades and I am still fascinated by unconditional passion, but this time – I also have one – fiber arts! And it is always a pleasure to discuss fiber things with other craft-obsessed individuals, such as Katarina, who is freehanding all kinds of crocheted garments, jewelry, amigurumis and shows it all on her Instagram page @katarinareckova
The ability to express herself would definitely be number one on the list of her life priorities and she has a strong passion for crafting ever since she was a child. With the help of her folk artist mother, Katarina dabbled in all kinds of crafts, but started seriously crocheting 2-3 years ago.
Katarina: It was just one of those crafts that I remember trying as a child. And as a uni student, I was looking for some activity which would allow me to feel productive – like I have something to show for my time – but also allow me to be creative.
Let’s start by talking about what inspires you to craft?
Katarina: I am inspired by basically anything that comes by and leaves a visual mark in my head. I do not have any huge crocheting heroes … to be honest I don’t think I even follow anyone with over 5000 followers (maybe I do I’m not sure).
I just try to look at things differently. Like art. You just have to ’tilt your head’ a bit and suddenly you are looking at a whole new world. What I mean is … I deconstruct garments in my mind same as art pieces … I look at colors, shapes, compositions, balance, techniques, materials of all images I see in a day and then some combinations make better sense than others. So it is also a big thanks to all of the amazing people on Instagram and in Facebook groups who share their creations and inspire me and many other every day!
So when it comes to your crafting and showing it to people on Instagram – do you feel like you are making art?
Katarina: I think creating or designing something on my own gives me a unique opportunity to express who I am as an individual. I found this out thanks to Instagram, to some degree. I have at first started my Instagram account because I wanted to ‘learn’ how social media works from professional point of view (my marketing and communications studies). But soon enough I started to see that people actually though that I had something inspiring to offer in terms of my crochet creations.
I have had several people write to me that they liked my stories which I do not strictly keep about my crocheting. And thinking it through … isn’t it what art in it’s substance is? Way to express one’s individuality, knowledge and emotions and ability to inspire people with something they consider unique. So, while crafts and arts do have their own distinct definitions, I believe one can definitely have an artistic approach to doing crafts and even to create art with use of traditional crafting techniques.
I immediately noticed that your Instagram profile said that you are not making things for sale. Why did you find it an important thing to say? Do many people often look to buy something from you? Don’t you think that people value more things that they paid for? You know, how many people think that no cheap product ever can be good, just because it was cheap?
Katarina: even though people think that my home has to be all covered in granny squares because I spent nearly all my free time creating something – it is quite the opposite. I focus very much on creating practical things like garments and baby sets for family friends. But I often make my projects complicated,because I do not really care about how much I create in how short time.
I care about making things bit differently and creating something unique, something that could maybe even inspire someone else. In that way I end up sometimes spending even weeks (as in case of the blue coat that I am working on at the moment) on one piece. And that time is for me too valuable to be sold for just money.
Also, to some degree you are right about people valuing things more if they pay for them. But from my experience, it was less of a question of money paid, rather than question of respect for the craft. Someone who does not know the craft and all the effort behind learning the technique and does not understand the complexity of executing a specific design will not understand the value of a crafted item. In many cases people will devalue the item by comparing it to store bought knit items.
So because of that reason I decided to only gift my items and create bigger pieces such as garments only for myself, and offer to people who follow me inspirations and positive crafter attitude rather than finished pieces to buy. And to be honest, I have had only positive feedback so far from the other crafters on Instagram about this.
Also another good thing that came out from this for me was that I have now taught already four of my friends how to crochet! I have told them that I do not create for others, but that I can teach them how they can create whatever they would like themselves. That is why I am very picky about whom I even gift my items. I want the gift to have meaning and to be valued.
Give man a fish and he will eat it, teach that man to crochet and he can have all the bralettes and baby sets he wants.
When I saw all the empty yarn labels with a caption about how little time it took you use up all those skeins, I was shocked, it looked like a lot! How much do you typically spend a month/a year on your crafting hobbies? How many tons of yarn have you bought, Katarina 😀 ?
Katarina: I usually buy two bulks before Christmas time (I have one online shop I prefer to buy cotton and acrylic blends from and another one where I prefer to buy wool from – it is a matter of where I can get what quality for what price for me) so I usually fill up my ‘shopping cart’ until the ‘free shipping’ icon turns green and check out. My rationing is – I can have three extra skeins of cotton for the price of that shipping so why now 😀
And then I just craft away and just buy additional yarn in smaller quantities if I think of some specific project throughout the year. I think my yarn spending could average out to a monthly gym membership price. Some people might consider it unreasonable amount (mainly if they look at my yarn spending or yarn stash in November) but I have yoga matt at home and all the streets and parks in the city to go jog in …so I feel like me spending the money on yarn rather than gym membership is more fulfilling investment for me.
You originally come from Slovakia, then lived in US and now in Denmark. Have you ever been involved in any crafting community/activity? Do you think there is a difference in how fiber arts and hobbies are perceived in all these countries?
Katarina: There is one thing which had me thinking about yarn crafts in Slovakia compared to Denmark lately. When I was last time in Slovakia in yarn shops, the majority of yarns were acrylics and thin cotton thread. It is much different in Denmark. I personally do not prefer acrylic yarns, but sometimes it is just the most suitable fiber for some projects in my opinion.
And I had a lady to even give me a funky look once when I came into a yarn boutique in Denmark (not knowing about what kind of yarn they were carrying) and I asked if they had a specific blend of acrylic yarn. I was told quiet proudly that they do not sell acrylic yarn in that shop. Which, I kind of like, I see acrylic yarn being harmful for environment, however it is also at times the best fiber for projects like functional swimsuit, outer layer of a coat.
Very interesting about specific types of yarns for different purposes. I myself do not like synthetic yarns much, because I think that natural ones simply have better properties and they can all be composted or deteriorate by themselves through time. This cannot be said about synthetic yarns. However, I also believe in functionality, like you just said, so I use nylon in my sock yarns. But… there are cool new fibers that have such “sporty” properties that you are looking for, but they are not completely synthetic, as in they are biodegradable. For example, INGEO. And synthetic yarn recycles fairly well, so I don’t hate it because of that too.
Katarina: I absolutely agree with you about the acrylic yarns and I am so happy to hear that there are new fibers coming up to possibly replace the synthetic fibers ❤
Do you buy patterns? Do you have a favorite pattern designer? I know you like to come up with your own designs and freehand entire garments. How come? Do you not believe that pattern designers hold special engineering knowledge and you might avoid a lot of structural issues? Or do you just possess such knowledge yourself?
Katarina: I must laugh a bit here because I think it must be clear to everyone who is watching my Instagram that I do not possess the engineering knowledge of garment structures. BUT I honesty do not worry about it. I am not selling any garment patterns also for the respect towards those who do possess the knowledge.
I do the garments to fit me, since I will be the only one wearing them and it is my hobby – my fun time! So I go all the way! I make drawings of ideas, it might just be a flower that I draw, or a random coat. Then I decide I want to make on. So I research the internet and look at hundreds of garments to see how they are structured and I think through how I could execute the structures with the skill set that I have. I love challenges! I think it is a perfect exercise for creativity and creative problem solving, to look at something that is seemingly complicated, but then try to execute it in any way I can. Many of my projects were not meant to be what they ended up being, but whenever I ran into some difficulty I just fixed it any way I could and that what made them special at the end.
I would love to one day design patterns on my own, however I like ‘breaking the rules’ too much so I am not sure how instructive would my patterns be at this point. However, I am giving it a try with preparing some videos for small projects which I would find hard to describe otherwise in a written pattern.
Your items come out special indeed. I love how you pose with your clothes in these funny videos.I look at it and am like “I can’t believe what I am seeing”, because: a) I don’t have balls to perform in front of a camera like I am a super model, b) I don’t believe anyone does. You are super brave 😀
Katarina: I really hope you do not take my fun videos too ‘seriously’. The reason why I decided to start making them is because I have spoken with several other crafters on Instagram and I realized how many of us felt so insecure about out crafts. Like we love what we do, we are super proud of our creation, but some people just never wear what they actually create because ‘its handmade, people will know’. So I try to show the confidence I have in my craft even while I wear my pieces.
And trust me… I felt awkward when I saw myself on a video for the first time, and just the process of making the few seconds long video was like ‘why on Earth am I doing this’. But what I learned is that social media can actually be used in a very positive way to help one feel confident. If one creates a brilliant supportive audience for oneself like my amazing Instagram followers I have, it does give one a feeling of understanding and confidence and validation from other crafters.
I think it is so important mainly in a hobby like crochet and knitting because most of us practice this craft alone at home and not in a community – sometimes theses are feelings which we miss out on, in comparison to people with more social hobbies. So I think in this way social media is brilliant. I personally love the Facebook group called Crochet Beginners Group – it is an amazing place which is so well managed by their admins and they encourage their members in so many ways with creating safe environment to try to post a video of themselves presenting their current WIPS during ‘film it Friday’ days.
What are your plans for the near future? Do you set yearly goals in crafting or make plans to learn some new skill? What are ways you can dive deeper into your fiber hobby if you do not intend to turn it into a business?
I think I found a very fulfilling way to feel ‘productive and pro-active’ in my professional career even if I am at the moment unemployed. And all thanks to my hobbies! I have learned how to edit videos, how to establish and manage a website, how to write SEO optimized content and lot of other very practical skills only by progressing with my passion for crochet and recently also knitting! I love it and I am more or less letting this passion to have a life on its own at the moment.
Which means that I will be soon starting my own blog where I would like to write more about all of my different hobbies and also share some baking recipes and have a go at writing some patterns and creating some tutorial videos. I want a space where I could not only share a picture of my newest creations but also my ‘trial and error approach experiences, which someone else could potentially learn from.
So I usually do not set any specific goals for my hobbies. But this year I have had done that on my Instagram to stay motivated and dedicated to moving forward with my craft and also personal and professional learning.
Huge thanks to Katarina for the interview and to everyone else – go check her out on Instagram 😉