Sometimes a maker comes along in social media and, well, you just fall in love. That’s how it was for me with Helen and her Beasties. I caught a glimpse of a small, very stylized little being climbing a tree and that was that; I was intrigued: who were these creatures? Why were they having the BEST adventures out in the world? Who was the creative mind behind these wee wonders? So, Helen and I got to talking and blogging and following each other and I have enjoyed every minute of beasty-time–from their travels to their accessories, to their excellent personalities! So, how could I not share these little masterpieces with you all? You can follow the Beasties and Helen on her blog: Craw Crafts Beasties and (better yet) on Instagram. They will cheer your days and evenings. Someday, I do hope to get in on one of their adventures 🙂 In the meantime, please enjoy the photos (courtesy of Helen) and the interview (below).
What are beasties? Where did these lovely creatures come from?
Beasties are fun, friendly little monsters! I design and make each one, and I use my own patterns and templates for their clothes and accessories too. Although every Beastie is born in my Dublin studio, they love to get out and about, so you could come across one anywhere these days! I’d love to tell you that they have a cool superhero-style origin story – maybe that they were the result of a ball of wool being bitten by a radioactive spider – but the truth is that they came about by accident, when I was knitting a pair of completely ordinary, boring fingerless gloves. I ran out of yarn towards the end, and rather than unravel the whole thing, I thought I’d improvise a pattern for a little woolly dude instead. And that was my first Beastie!
How do you create a beastie?
It often starts with a drawing – sometimes a biro doodle if it’s just for my own reference, or a more finished sketch with colours and notes if I’m making for someone else. Then I grab my needles and get knitting! Knitting Beasties is my favourite activity, and I can be spotted casting them on just about everywhere… on public transport, in cafés and behind my stall whenever I sell at markets. I use natural fibre yarns, and I try to source my materials from local suppliers as much as I can.
Then once I have a body made, I can get to work on the important bits – the features and accessories that make every Beastie unique! I use felt and yarn for their eyes, mouth and teeth, then I add hair, beards, clothes, sports equipment, food… the sky really is the limit for Beastie personalisation. And although I’m trying to use my sewing machine more these days, the majority of their gear is still completely hand-stitched – because they’re small, it often feels quicker to sew an inch-long seam by hand rather than go through the rigmarole of threading up the machine!
Your beasties travel A LOT! What has been your favorite beastie adventure?
Oooh, it’s hard to pick just one! Although collectively, the Beasties are much better-travelled than I am… I’m lucky to have an incredibly loyal community of Beastie enthusiasts who are great for sending me pics of their monster friends out on adventures, either at home or when they travel themselves. That’s been a really lovely (and totally unexpected) offshoot of my craft business! From my travels with Explorer Beastie (my own monster companion), some of my favourite times have been had close to home in the Irish countryside – the stunning scenery and ever-changing weather make for an endless array of photo opportunities. I’ve also had fun snapping him in Berlin, London and most recently Copenhagen!
Where do you look for new inspiration?
I get my ideas from just about everywhere – films, TV, music, even people I see in the street as I wander around Dublin. I like cooking and love food, so quite a lot of Beasties end up with something tasty in their paw – doughnuts, cookies, pies or (my recent favourite) a full Irish breakfast! Quite a lot of my work through the year involves making personalised commissions, so the inspiration there comes completely from the subject – not just their appearance, but their interests, passions and quirks too. It’s like doing a caricature in wool and felt, and that really keeps me on my toes in terms of designing new accessories and outfits!
What kinds of commissioned projects have you made?
Anything and everything! I’ve done famous characters like Doctor Who and Harry Potter, mascots for small businesses, firemen, pirates, ninjas, musicians, mermaids, sporty Beasties with team jerseys, the Grim Reaper, chefs, artists… The real surprise hit has been scuba divers, I’ve made a few of those! The most popular themes are weddings or the arrival of a new baby, but even these offer huge scope for personalisation. To help capture the essence of a person, I’ve made Beastie-sized versions of beloved pets, favourite board games and cherished musical instruments, among other things. I don’t think I’ve ever been unable to “Beastify” something – even if it involves a few late nights and early mornings, I’ve always managed to figure out the angles!
Any advice for crafters who want to stay young at heart?
Haha! Yes, making Beasties really is just an excuse to keep doing the fun stuff I enjoyed as a kid! They’ve grown out of all the things that have always brought me joy – drawing, sewing, knitting and writing stories. And they look the way they do because I have a real soft spot for funny little creatures, especially any that are a bit mischievous or disaster-prone. So I’d say make things that make you happy! Start with the skills you have, and make something that makes you feel good. Then learn a new technique, and make the next one better. And just keep on going – you might be surprised where it takes you!
Where can folks find you and your beasties?
Our main online home is my blog and website, https://crawcraftsbeasties.com/ and you’ll also find us on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/crawcraftsbeasties/), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/crawcraftsbeasties/), Twitter (https://twitter.com/@crawcrafts/) and Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/crawcrafts/).
Thanks so much, Helen!
I love farm visits and meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are a maker, a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a dyer, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above)