Sweet Bird Crochet

Guest Post: Ali Yesilkanal of Ali Fiber Arts · Sweet Bird Crochet

Guest Post: Ali Yesilkanal of Ali Fiber Arts

I first met Ali on Instagram when I was scrolling through my explore page. I always think it’s super cool when men crochet or knit. I loved the wooden grain background to many of his posts and when he mentioned he was bi-stitchual, I immediately clicked the follow button! He not only has a great sense of humor, but he also knits AND crochets.  His designs are pretty awe inspiring and if you like to nerd out on scientific motifs, go give him a follow!

Okay, without feather ado, let’s read our conversation and get to know the King of Cables, Ali Yesilkanal!

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When did you learn to crochet and knit? Which one did you learn first?

I first learned how to knit in 2014 and picked up crochet a few years ago in 2020 during the Covid lockdown

Why did you want to learn a fiber craft?

I picked up knitting back in grad school to help me fight anxiety and depression. Growing up, I have seen my family get so much joy from knitting and crocheting. I thought it could help me as a meditative hobby as I navigated through graduate school. I wasn’t wrong. I wanted to learn crochet because I was simply bored during the lockdown, and I wanted to expand my skill set.

What difference has knit and crochet had on your life?

I think I kind of answered this already. Knitting got me through grad school. Focusing on each stitch and working towards finishing a project has a meditative effect and it helped me get out of my head. Also finishing each project gives me a sense of accomplishment and progress which I was craving so badly during grad school.

Now I have a whole community of fiber artists that share the same passion. Knitting and crocheting also provides me with a creative outlet every day.

What was your very 1st knit and crochet design? Could you share the inspiration behind the design?

My very first crochet design was a Greco-Turkish Nazar pouf that I designed using the tapestry crochet technique. The pouf had giant evil-eye motifs on top and bottom, and a band of Greek keys around the pouf. The inspiration is clear: I was born and raised in Turkey and growing up I was surrounded with the Nazar motif to ward off evil. Our home had a wall hanging with the evil eye on it at the entry. My mom would always attach a bead of Nazar inside my uniform before sending me off to school. It is a quintessential motif that is recognized worldwide. I wanted to add the Greek keys into the design as well because I like the way they look, and Turkish and Greek cultures have a lot in common.

My very first original knit design was my Shooting Start Beanie. This was a simple chunky color-work knit with a stripe of yellow specks randomly interspersed in an entirely blue background to mimic the tail of a shooting star, topped with a yellow pom pom to finish off the shooting star look.

Can you describe your design process?

Being a scientist, I am constantly inspired by the patterns and motifs that mother nature and laws of physics create every day. So, all of my designs start with a scientific concept like a sound wave, or the shape of a bacteria-eating virus, or the structure of a molecule, or the DNA molecule itself. Once I have my inspiration, I look for ways of translating it into a classical look. The challenge in taking science-related motifs as the inspiration for my designs is to ensure that the finished project does not look like a Halloween costume or middle school science project. I make many sketches of my vision for the finished item and decide what techniques and stitches would help me create the look I want. The rest is the usual trial and error process where I make multiple versions of the same item, changing this or that every time, until I achieve the look I set out to.

What is your favorite stitch?

My favorite stitch the Tunisian crochet Smock stitch. In terms of knitting, I am a huge fan of cables.

What are your favorite needle and hook brands? Favorite yarn?

My favorite needle brand at the moment is Addi just because they produce my favorite interchangeable needle set, Addi Click. The Click-in mechanism for connecting needles to the cords is 100% snug-free and the connections never come un-screwed. I don’t have a favorite crochet hook brand, but I know I work best with tapered head hooks as opposed to in-line. I LOVE the way Furl brand crochet hooks look, though I have yet to put my hands on one.

My favorite yarn is Hobbii’s Zafira but unfortunately it was discontinued. I have been looking for a replacement for that for a while. Other than Zafira, I really enjoy working with Hobbii’s Acacia and Metallico series and Lion Brand’s Heartland series.

Be honest, do you like knitting better than crochet? If so, why?

My honest opinion, they each serve a different purpose for me and I have to have at least one knitting project and one crochet project going at a given time. I find knitting more suitable for knitwear as the finished object is much lighter and there is more variety of wearables that land themselves to knitting. So, it is usually easier for me to design knitting patterns.

That being said, prolonged act of knitting usually leaves me with shoulder and arm pain, while crocheting relieves that pain. I enjoy the act of crocheting much more.

What inspired you to start designing knit and crochet patterns?

I have always had a vision of sharing my designs with other creators. Something about other people making and wearing my designs is so thrilling and being able to turn that into a business model is even more exciting! So, I always wanted to have an online store where I share my creative designs with the rest of the world.

The idea of having science-inspired designs and developing a science-y fiber art niche was much more of a spur of the moment kind-of decision. I was testing a knitting pattern for another designer which had two cables crossing each other. My then lab-mate saw what I was working on and said “this looks like the DNA molecule… You know what, you should design science-themed stuff!” And that immediately resonated with me. I am a scientist after all, that’s what I do day-to-day. What better way to combine two of my obsessions in one creative process? So, that was the beginning of Ali’s Fiber Arts.

As a pattern designer what advice would you have for an aspiring knit or crochet designer?

Put your fears aside and just jump into it! You will learn a lot of things as you go. You will find the right people to help you. You will find the right people who will love your designs. And you will get immense satisfaction out of others making your designs. You have nothing to lose!

If you are not sure where to start, there are always YouTube videos and online courses on pattern writing. There are also wonderful editors, like Sweet Bird Crochet, who will make sure that your patterns are in tip-top shape and follow all the industry standards.

Have you ever been injured by your needles or hook?

Not really, but I once owned very sharp bamboo circular needles that would hurt my finger every time I pushed against them to realign my stitches.

If you could have a craft party, what three people (living or dead, real or fictional) would you invite?

  1. Queen of Tunisian crochet Toni Lipsey, because I have a huge fiber artist crush on her
  2. Queen Elizabeth because I just would love to know what kind of a crafter she was
  3. My mom, she is just as fiber obsessed as me, but we never get to craft together since she lives in Turkey

What’s your favorite quote or saying?

“Just do it!” by Nike 😊

Honestly though, this quote has helped me so many times take the next step in all aspects of my life when I was paralyzed by fear or indecision. Without this quote, I would have never gotten a PhD, or published my own patterns, or started my own online business. It is simple and effective!

Do you have a bucket list? If so, what are the top 5 things you want to accomplish?

  1. Write a book
  2. Own and run a little coffee shop
  3. Make my own crochet hook set
  4. Go to space
  5. Sing in a Broadway musical

What’s your all-time favorite movie? Book? T.V. Series? Podcast?

Huge fan of Harry Potter books and The Lord of the Rings movies (I know, I am such a nerd). My favorite TV show of all time is The Handmaid’s Tale (the most contemporary version). I am not a big podcast person; I prefer to listen to true crime audio books instead while I am knitting/crocheting.

If you could travel anywhere in the world (all expenses paid), where would it be?

Japan! I am just amazed by the culture and the cuisine.

To find out more about Ali or to follow him on social media, please click the links below! 

 

ETSY: www.etsy.com/shop/AlisFiberArts

RAVELRY: www.ravelry.com/stores/alis-fiber-arts

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/alisfiberarts/

 

Thank you for visiting the blog today, Ali!

Friends, what scientific motif would you like Ali to design next? I keep trying to talk him into turning his caffeine knit beanie into a crochet motif! How many of you would make a caffeine beanie!?

💛Cherie

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Cherie Mellick

Cherie Mellick

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