Ira Rott is a Canadian designer, fiber artist and author. She’s known for her adorable crochet, knitting, and quilt designs. Learn more about Ira’s Ukrainian heritage and what she’s been up to lately.
The questions are mine; the answers are Ira’s.
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Some of my readers won’t be familiar with you. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Hi everyone and thanks Edie for inviting me!
I learned to sew, knit, and crochet at a very young age and I enjoy sharing my passion for fiber art through my designs inspired by animals and nature. While I appreciate all kinds of textile art, there’s a special place in my heart for crocheting and it will always be my first love. I also design knitting and quilting patterns, as I think diversity prevents boredom in the creative process. My happy place is where fabric and yarn meet fun!
Here is one of my latest designs, inspired by my Ukrainian heritage – Ukrainian Vinok. Vinok is a traditional flower crown, widely used in our modern society as a cultural symbol on festive occasions, holidays, and even daily life.
Where did you grow up and what crafts did you do when you were younger?
I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Zaporizhzhia, located on the Dnieper River in southeastern Ukraine. Both of my parents are textile engineers, so I was growing up in a home packed with fabrics, yarns, and books. I never missed an opportunity to create, either with my parents, grandparents, or in school. Needle-crafting has always felt natural to me.
When I was 12, I helped my grandma grow tomatoes to be able to buy my first sewing machine with my own money. The scent of fresh tomatoes on the vine is still one of my favorite smells, as it reminds me of times spent with grandma. I had a great childhood and I learned so much from my family – sewing and pattern-drafting, knitting by hand and on a knitting machine, crocheting, macrame, embroidery, analog photography, upcycling and recycling, gardening, cooking, and baking.
Do you have a formal design or crafting education?
Back in my teenage years, I thought my best bet would be to get an accounting degree as I always loved math and numbers. However, right after college, life took me in a different direction – from working in a photo studio to designing crochet garments and writing craft books. On the good side, math is an integral part of our life (including crafts) and I’m using it daily in my crafting business even without a formal crafting degree. Although, if I could go back in time and change one thing, I would have pursued an education in fashion design.
You have an active and engaged following on social media. What goes on in your online communities?
I started most of my social media channels in 2009, except Instagram, which I only picked up as a business tool just a few years ago. My followers are the best part of my business. They inspire me every day and encourage me to create new designs. I try to answer all comments and am always listening. Listening is very important, as we can’t get better without it…no matter how hard it can be.
I also love to see what people make from my patterns. I appreciate when crafters tag me, and I try to stay engaged with them. If you are not familiar with my social media channels, please check them out and join the fun: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube . We also have a great crafting community on Facebook, where we share finished projects and help each other, you are more than welcome to join our group Ira Rott Crafting Community.
What ‘s the next big thing you have coming up and can’t wait to share?
I am super excited about the release of my new book Crochet Animal Blankets and Blocks, loaded with adorable exclusive patterns and project ideas. It’s been a long journey and it was so hard to keep these new designs secret for over a year.
The book features 16 animal blocks + 2 mix and match animals that you can incorporate into different projects, such as blankets, cushion covers, toy storage bags, book bags, backpacks, and lovely wall hangings. You can finish a blanket in 3 different sizes (small, medium, or large).
Make it without a border, add a granny square border, or crochet a fancy shell border to turn your special handmade blanket into a meaningful family heirloom that can be passed down to future generations. There are so many variations, the only limit is your imagination.
Asking a multi-crafter which craft they like best is never a fair question. Instead of choosing a “favorite” craft, what are you most enjoying working on right now?
Even though I don’t have a lot of extra time for spinning yarn, I really enjoy playing with drop spindles. During the past couple of years when we moved across Canada three times, I managed to spin enough yarn to make a shawl.
Here is my most recent knitting project made from my own hand-spun yarn (a mix of baby alpaca and merino). This shawl is incredibly soft, light, and cozy. I think it deserves a very special place in my wardrobe and will be loved forever.
What do you want to learn next?
A long time ago when I was in middle school, I took a few years of piano classes. I can still read notes and play a little bit, but of course, not like a pro! My one small dream is to find a good piano suitable for our house and budget, so I could learn again. Playing piano is a great brain activity and I think my canaries will enjoy singing along to the music.
What do you struggle with? What keeps you up at night?
Sleepless nights are more than familiar to me. I worry a lot for the safety of my family in Ukraine. They love their country and do not want to leave Ukraine, even temporarily. Having elderly parents and a disabled aunt just minutes away from the battlefield is insanely hard. Our lives will never be the same, but I believe that good always wins over evil. We all need peace and freedom, that’s why it’s important to stand with the people of Ukraine during these difficult times. Ukraine deserves victory and Ukrainian children deserve a happy, healthy, and safe childhood.
If you could do any job you want, except what you are doing now, what would it be?
I could totally be a baker, like my dad. His secondary career after textile engineering was at the local Ukrainian bakery, where he enjoyed baking bread for the past 10+ years. Their bakery produced 100-200 tons of bread a year, with about 40% of it made by my dad. He retired just before the war began.
I love sourdough bread and I love experimenting with dough. It’s a magic of chemistry and is never boring. Here are some of my artisan breads, mainly sourdough or hybrids.
Give us a sneak peek behind the scenes at your studio. What kind of support staff do you have? Family? Dogs? Cats?
All of our four children are in their 20s and have already begun building their own future. We now have a 6 year old granddaughter, who recently started sewing and crafting with me. We also have a 16 year old dog Buddy and 3 canaries; they give us comfort and inspire us.
Maurice and I have made a great team over the years, we really enjoy working together from home. We have separate offices to be efficient without interfering with each other, but we gather in the evenings for hockey and crochet or for anything good on TV and anything good in my crafting basket. Ten years ago, we incorporated our business (IraRott Inc.), then we registered trademarks in Canada and USA.
Maurice takes care of bookkeeping, pays bills, taxes and payroll, manages and organizes events, analyzes statistics and does advertising. I create new designs, answer emails, draw diagrams and edit pictures, write patterns and books, record my work in progress and post on social media, manage my online shops and write blog posts. We both participate in craft shows occasionally to sell my handmade samples and promote my books.
My brother Roma Rott lives in Kyiv, Ukraine. In 2015 he built our current website IraRott.com from scratch using Ruby code, and he is still helping us with the website maintenance and SSL certificates. He is very talented and a true hard worker. The windows in his home-office are currently taped for safety.
What else would you like to share with us?
If you can help Ukraine, please do! Every effort, every word, every action, every dollar matters. Check out this article on LoveCrafts about supporting Ukraine and practical ways you can help. I also donated one of my patterns (inspired by my brother and tech edited by Edie) to help Ukraine through LoveCrafts – Roma The Happy Penguin. When you buy this pattern on LoveCrafts, 100% of sales go towards the charity Choose Love’s Ukraine Crisis Fundraiser.
Thank you everyone for reading my interview. I am very honoured to be able to connect with you. Whether you are a knitter, crocheter, or quilter…I appreciate your support of my designs. Here are three of my best-selling patterns (1 of each craft). I can’t wait to see what you make,
CROCHET – Josefina & Jeffery Elephant Rug
KNITTING – Josefina & Jeffery Elephant Pillow
QUILTING – Cuddles the Hexi Bear Jelly Roll Rug
Check out these other books from Ira:
Read my review of Crochet Animal Rugs.