Today, I’m interviewing Paula Prado, a multi-talented Chilean yarnie.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to spin, knit, and dye?
Paula: I learned how to dye – tie dye really – when I was 12 years old. Then, after school I took a Natural Dyes class that my dad was going to take but couldn’t because of work, and I loved it. After a while, I got a job dyeing for a a store that sells cross stitch and wool yarn. My dad taught me all about dyeing with colorants and creating colors. I had already opened the store by then, and asked my grandmother to teach me how to knit. I used to knit these long skinny scarves, but I didn’t know how to cast on so she would do that for me .
The spinning part came out of frustration, As I was no expert knitter, I wanted interesting textures so the knits were simple but original because of these awesome yarns I had in my mind, and I couldn’t get anyone to make them. Spinners, especially countryside ladies here in Chile, are so traditional, so then I understood I was almost offending them. I made a drop spindle with a knitting needle and a weight I took from a knitting machine, and taught myself how to spin thin and thick yarn, using wool tops. I fell in love with spinning. Then, I started developing art yarns, and bought some books, I couldn’t find anybody in Chile spinning these yarns. So I spent a lot of time on my wheel, creating textures than I can apply to my production. And I even had the opportunity to travel to other cities to teach these techniques to traditional spinners and even give a workshop to teachers of Textile Design at a university in Santiago. There is no doubt that spinning is what I enjoy the most about textiles.
I also hand felt, like two weeks of the year. It’s so fun. I try to always have some felted pieces at the store, and Merino scarves, cowls, and shawls.
UC: What inspired you to open De Origen Chile on Etsy? Do you sell elsewhere, too?
Paula: I was inspired by the idea of giving value to handmade, which is hard in Chile. We are just learning to do that as a country. Lots of people think because you handmade your items, they have to bargain.
On Esty you see how people really give value to their work and give positive feedback or advices so you can improve. I sell at my workshop in La Ligua and a few stores carry our yarns and knitting tools across the country. I also sell at different yarn and crafts events.
UC: In addition to yarn, you also sell knitting needles and crochet hooks. Do you carve those yourself or do you work with another artisan?
Paula: Every tool in the shop Is made at the workshop by Osvaldo (my boyfriend and now business partner). He also makes spinning wheels and looms, and any knitting and spinning related tool our clients ask for.
UC: You’re coming to Chicago for Vogue Knitting Live in November. Tell us a bit about what you’ll be selling and why you decided to be a vendor at this venue.
Paula: I am spinning a limited edition art yarn, mixing natural fibers (Corriedale, Mohair, Merino, linen, and silk), hand dyed linen, viscose and wool yarns, and the giant knitting and crochet tools that go from 6 mm to 40 mm.
I’ve been going as a vendor to yarn events in Santiago and getting really good results. The biggest one is organized by a knitting magazine, Tejidos Paula. I thought since I was selling on Etsy, and some of the clients want to really touch and squeeze the yarns, it would be a great idea to travel to an event organized by a major knitting magazine and meet those clients so they can see the quality of the products, then come back and develop new lines based on the experience.
UC: You were born and raised in Chile. What was the yarn crafting scene like when you were younger? Has it changed much over the years?
Paula: It has changed a lot! I always saw my grandmother knit and my mom crochet. People in La Ligua used to finish a lot of the sweaters using crochet. But knitting in general was an old women thing. Since 2003, lots of young people started knitting and crocheting. Men, kids, and women would meet to knit at cafes. There are stores only selling yarns now, and it’s growing .
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?
Paula: I think that working with natural fibers is the way my background has influenced my work from the beginning. I can’t think of working with other materials, they don’t talk to me. I don’t feel like spinning a bunch of nylon, for example, but I am obsessed with wool or alpaca or mohair or cotton. And then I can see my grandmother’s knit sweaters, my mom’s crochet cotton curtains, and my dad talking about natural fibers.
UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet, knitting, or craft blogs to share?
Here in Chile, I love:
- Camila Larsen’s blog, Corriendo con Tijeras. It’s really fun. It has tutorials and teaches some classes I hope I can have the time to go to soon!
- Debbie’s blog, Daiverdei. She crochets really cool amigurumis.
- Patricia from Pupol spins art yarns and hopefully she will travel with me in November to Chicago for Vogue Knitting Live.
But nowadays, I spend a lot of time on Tumblr and Facebook. I’m more of a visual person .
Thank you so much for stopping by, Paula, and I wish you the best at Vogue Knitting Chicago!
The last interview in this year’s series will be posted on October 15 with Celia Diaz/Abejitas.