Handmade Conversations: Amy Palanjian, Crafter and Writer

Posted by on Apr 24, 2012

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In our "Handmade Conversations" series, we ask amazing people in the craft, food and/or fashion industries a few questions that provide you with a glimpse into their world. This week's featured professional is Amy Palanjian, author of "So Pretty! Crochet," published by Chronicle Books.

In addition to authoring a crochet book, Amy is also a food editor, whose work has been seen in "Modern Bride," "The Wall Street Journal" and more. Her next craft book, "So Pretty! Felt," will be released in the spring of 2013. Amy and her husband live in Des Moines, Iowa, and are happily expecting a baby girl this June. 

girl playing dress up
A young Amy, playing dress up
What was the first craft item you made?

I am guessing that it was either a Christmas tree ornament, such as a pinecone covered in glitter, or a painted pasta necklace.

Making a tom-tom was one of my earliest projects, too. I like to think that I've come a long way since I made this when I was about 5!

What is your craft medium of choice, and why do you prefer it? 

I first go for fabric crafts since that was the first craft genre that I really learned in depth. I learned to quilt about a decade ago and love that I literally don’t have to follow any rules. Fabric (and stitches) are so forgiving that even when I mistakenly cut a hole in something, I can usually make it look like it was on purpose or chalk it up to handmade charm. I also like that the materials involved are so basic that I can usually put a new quilt together using leftover fabric from my stash. 

I learned to knit and crochet a few years after I learned to quilt, and those are my second go-to crafts. I love how a simple needle or set of needles can allow you to transform a ball of yarn into an endless variety of items, and also how portable they are.
radishes in the garden
Radishes in Amy's garden
Who or what inspires your creativity? 

Since my husband and I are expecting a baby in June, I’ve been very inspired lately by crafty mothers. I love seeing the clothes that they are making and how they use their own ingenuity to come up with solutions for basic necessities rather than simply buying things. I recently was on Sew Liberated, a site that I love, and I found my way to Made by Rae and Elsie Marley. I haven’t had a dropping-down-a-rabbit-hole experience with blogs lately, so it was very enjoyable. 

I’m also inspired by nature and what grows in our yard and garden. I love walking around the back yard to see what’s coming up since the last time I was out there. The colors always seems so vivid after a long Midwest winter.
One of Amy's year-long quilts.
Which of your craft projects took the longest to finish? 

I made four quilts as wedding presents in a row that were all full-size. I’ve gotten a lot faster in the past few years, but my larger quilts used to each take me about a year since I did all of the stitching by hand.

Tell us about your crafting experience. 

I’m an evenings and weekends crafter. I have a basket with supplies by the couch and I usually do an hour or so each night during the week. It helps me to wind down and to be productive on something that is more tangible than computer-based work. 

On the weekends, I do longer stretches if I’m working on something that is really compelling, though lately I’ve been very task-oriented in bursts or an hour or so. I’ve made a travel changing pad, burp cloths and a handful of little clutches to give to friends with birthdays that are coming up, since I am betting that I won’t have much time in the early weeks that the baby is here.
alabama chanin wedding dress
Amy's stunning wedding dress
What is your dream craft project? 

I made my dream craft project last year, when I worked with the amazing women at Alabama Chanin to make my wedding dress. My mom and I went down for a fitting and to pick out the style. Their master seamstress cut the panels of the dress and painted the pattern on, and I took the panels home and embroidered and beaded them. It took about 5 months for me to do all of that work and it was the most amazing wedding preparation I could have asked for. It really helped me to stay focused on what mattered to me on that day. It was also amazing to be so intimately involved with my dress. I lived with it for so many months that it made me feel entirely like myself when I put it on for the big day. I loved my dress, all of the work that went into it, and I was so happy to be able to wear it for both the wedding and a party the day after. It’s going to be pretty hard to top that!

Describe your personal style in 3 words. 

Simple, natural, varied.

In addition to crafting, what other talents do you have? 

My husband and I love good food, so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and baking, and he spends a lot of time in the garden growing vegetables. I spend my days as a food editor, so my interest in food comes in handy, as does my enjoyment of writing, which is something that I’ve loved since I started writing stories in the fifth grade.

What advice would you give to aspiring craft authors? 

Surround yourself with creative people and indulge in your own creativity whenever you can. Be prepared to spend a lot of time with your idea/manuscript, too. It can take a long time from the idea stage to seeing a book published, so it’s much more enjoyable when you love the subject matter. Patience is key. It can take months or years to see the project through to completion, so just know that is normal. 

Keep the faith!

If you were only allowed to send out one tweet or Facebook post for the rest of this year, what would you say? 

I’m busy making things.

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