Design, inspiration, and what comes next, with Toni Lipsey
Crochet | 3 min read time
Toni Lipsey, the creator and crocheter behind TL Yarn Crafts, shares her crafting journey, inclusivity in the craft world, and her favourite Black makers.
Toni Lipsey and TL Yarn Crafts
How did you get into crochet?
My mother was the first person to introduce crochet into my life. I learned the craft when I was just 13 years old - my mom put a granny square in my hand, taught me the basics, and said "keep going". Over the course of a summer, I learned a new skill, and also spent hours and hours bonding with, and learning more about, my mom. To this day, I'm grateful for that early lesson. It gave me the skill and passion to be a full-time crochet designer, and it allows my mom and I to stay close.
Where do you find inspiration for your patterns?
Inspiration can strike at any time so I try to keep myself open to the subtleties of life. The colour of an animal or the lines of a building can spark an idea that blooms into a new design. When I'm in need of inspiration, I typically look to other mediums of art and design, like high fashion, architecture, or jewellery design. For colour ideas, I love scrolling through paint samples at the hardware store or just popping to my local yarn store to see what’s new. There's nothing quite like a new skein of yarn to get my creative ideas flowing!
What led you to becoming a designer and deciding to start your own business?
I stumbled into crochet design purely by accident. Before becoming a designer, I sold handmade pieces at markets, making those pieces from patterns I found online. I was in search of the perfect slouchy hat to add to my booth and was having no luck finding one. I decided to take some of the stitches and techniques I'd learned to create that perfect hat. After doing so and sharing the new creation on Instagram, I got a lot of requests for a pattern. I was surprised that anyone would want it, but I wrote up the pattern and published it shortly after. That pattern is my Mega Pom Beanie, and it's still one of the top selling patterns in my shop.
Have you seen a change in the support for, and inclusivity of, Black designers and business owners within the craft world?
I'm grateful that the craft industry is experiencing an awakening right now. More black and brown artists are finally getting their overdue support and acknowledgment. I am hesitant but curious to see if the trend of amplifying black voices will become a mainstay within our industry. There needs to be a commitment to inclusivity on every level, from individual makers to small and large companies alike. While I am grateful for the opportunities I have been afforded, my heart truly brightens when I see companies I know and respect lifting up lesser-known but equally talented BIPOC designers and creators.
Who are some of your favourite Black designers and creators?
I'd run out of fingers and toes trying to count all of my favourite black makers, but a few that come immediately to mind are GG of @GGMadeIt, Ashlee of @thedreamcrochet, and Vincent of @visuvios_crafts. But there is also an extremely promising class of new designers and makers entering the scene, like Kalilah of @kopykalii and Stephan of @stephmadethat. The landscape of fibre arts is changing, seamlessly incorporating classic craft with a fresh perspective. I love the change - it keeps things exciting.
Is there anything you're working on at the moment that you're excited about?
Right now, I am thrilled to debut my very first book. My new book is called The Tunisian Crochet Handbook. With over 60 pages of beginner Tunisian crochet photo tutorials and 20 brand new patterns, this book breaks down the basics. I wrote this book to inspire someone to try something new and test their skills. Tunisian crochet is much easier than it looks, and the fabric it creates is beyond anything you can achieve with traditional crochet or even knitting. The Tunisian Crochet Handbook is scheduled to hit shelves on November 16th and I couldn't be more excited.
Do you have any advice for crochet-lovers looking to design their own patterns?
My advice is to just do it! Don't overthink the first pattern. It likely will have mistakes and you probably will have to release multiple versions. My Mega Pom Beanie has seen 3 iterations since I first released it in 2015. But with more and more practice, I was able to spot the mistakes and opportunities within that pattern. Get your first pattern out into the world and assess whether it's a path you want to continue.
About Toni Lipsey
Toni Lipsey is the crochet designer and instructor behind TL Yarn Crafts. Through her printable patterns and cheery video tutorials, she strives to make crochet accessible to makers of every skill level. Toni learned to crochet as a teen but honed her skills after graduating college. She was bitten by the entrepreneur bug in 2013 and began TL Yarn Crafts as a finished product business. At present, Toni spends her time nurturing her community of over 400K makers across platforms by offering approachable crochet patterns that inspire and encourage a new generation of makers. Follow her daily journey on Instagram @TLYarnCrafts and find her patterns and maker gifts on TLYarnCrafts.com.