I’m sharing the fifth interview in this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month series with Maria Isabel from Chabe Patterns (formerly ChabeGS). Maria Isabel is a Mexican crochet designer. I’ll also be including a roundup of my 5 favorite free crochet patterns from her collection!
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Maria Isabel: I learned as a young girl, around 13-14 years old, I don’t remember exactly. My mom loves crafts and she always shared that joy with my sister and I, so before crocheting I took painting, ceramics and fabric doll making lessons among others. I saw her knitting or crocheting since being little but I guess my hands were not prepared, I just couldn’t get the hang of it. So, as a teenager when I finally learned it was a big accomplishment for me.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Maria Isabel: As I took crochet and knitting more seriously, I started buying books and magazines and realized there were people around the world that actually worked as knit/crochet designers. I had made some designs of my own and shared with family or friends but never had published or done it as a more formal occupation. The possibility of becoming one of those designers and sharing my ideas with more people inspired me to take this craft to the next level.
Maria Isabel: I love bags, they are so useful and fashionable at the same time. I see them as a great canvas for simple crochet stitches and experimenting with different materials and techniques. I also like they can be more flexible in terms of sizing because it’s not an actual garment that requires a very specific fitting.
UC: Your designs are entirely self-published. What do you enjoy about the self-publishing process?
Maria Isabel: The fact that I can showcase my work without waiting for anyone to do it for me is great. I enjoy having direct contact with customers and followers and I constantly learn about digital platforms so it also keeps me busy and updated.
Maria Isabel: The main benefit is that I can reach a wider audience. I can speak my own language with people form Latin America and Spain but also reach people from Russia, Indonesia, Italy, Australia, UK, USA, etc. The main challenge is to communicate as clear as possible in both languages, choosing the right words for an instruction, even when I’m writing in Spanish can take some time.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Maria Isabel: I think nature, people and fashion are my three main sources. For example, my Leaves Backpack was inspired by autumn colors and a friend with two small kids. Once I saw her using a pretty and feminine bag that let her two hands free to hold her children. I thought it would be nice to design one in crochet.
UC: What was the crochet scene like in Mexico when you were growing up?
Maria Isabel: Well, I think it was a bit more traditionalist than today. What I mean is that it was very common to see mothers or grandmothers crocheting but not too many young people, it was somewhat seen as an activity for elders.
UC: How does that compare to the crochet/yarn crafts scene in Mexico today?
Maria Isabel: It has been evolving, I would say mainly because it has been a worldwide trend to bring these crafts to the scene again and make them available and fun for young people as well. I think the real value of crafting has been spread and we can now see more crochet/knit stores, publications, big events and yarn brands in my country.
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?
Maria Isabel: Sure it does, for example, the designs in which I crochet wrapping thick cords were inspired by the wide basket weaving tradition in Mexico. They are so beautiful and colorful. I had always loved them and the technique just seemed so interesting so when I discovered tapestry crochet I found the perfect way to connect my designs to that influence.
UC: What is your favorite crochet book in your collection?
Maria Isabel: It’s actually a collection of 10 books my grandma gave me and my mom. It’s a complete craft encyclopedia so there’s full chapters for crochet, knitting, weaving, sewing. It’s from 1979 and it is so full of beautiful projects and tutorials, also a bit of history of each craft.
UC: Are there any Spanish- or English-language crochet/crafty blogs or websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?
UC: Tell us about your latest projects.
Maria Isabel: I recently releasing a series of patterns for kids’ backpacks. It’s the first time I’m designing patterns for children and so far it has been so fun and exciting. I still stay within the bags idea but with a more playful approach to colors and shapes. The backpacks display the animal’s texture/print in the main body and include the head to use as a decorative and fun lid. So far, I have released the Giraffe Backpack, the Hippo Backpack, the Dino Backpack, and the Pig Backpack patterns.