Tag Archives: guatemala

Interview with Letty Giron (Hispanic Heritage Month series)

HHM Letty Giron

I’m continuing my Hispanic Heritage Month series today with an interview with fellow New Yorker and Etsy seller, Letty Giron. Letty is a Guatemalan-American crocheter and maker sells her creations as Simply Baby by Letty. Letty can also be found on Instagram as SimplyBabyByLetty.

 

All images are copyright Letty Giron and are used with permission. Click on the image to be brought to the listing in Letty’s Etsy shop.

This post contains affiliate links.

Letty Giron.

Letty Giron.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet?

Letty: As a young girl, I always saw my mother with a crochet hook in hand doing little dresses and sweaters for babies in pastel colors and I remember thinking that they looked like cotton candy, because she used to hang them in a line.  They were beautiful and she made them all herself after going to craft classes.

Then, as a teenager, my older sister taught me the basic stitches. As my mother had so many magazines, all of them about doilies and tablecloths, I started to read them and learned more about stitches, and I started to follow the instructions. So in the beginning I only learned how to make doilies. Not major items. But that’s how I began and slowly it grew from there.

A dress combining a sewn cotton skirt with a crocheted, mercerized cotton top. (Size 6-12 months.)

A dress combining a sewn cotton skirt with a crocheted, mercerized cotton top. (Size 6-12 months.)

UC: What inspired you to open an Etsy shop?

Letty: I’ve always made baby clothes for friends and family who are expecting and sometimes they would ask me to make something for their friends.  Also, I’ve been working with children for four years and it helped me learn the different sizes of babies as they grow.  Someone suggested that I open an Etsy shop and just see if these little things I make might be of interest to other people.  Although I’ve only just started, I’ve already had some success and I imagine more is to come.

A unisex, crocheted sweater and hat set, featuring moon and star buttons. (Size 3-9 months)

A unisex, crocheted sweater and hat set, featuring moon and star buttons. (Size 3-9 months.)

UC: Your shop focuses on crochet for baby. What do you enjoy about baby projects?

Letty: I really do enjoy all kind of projects for babies, but I’m more focused on sweaters, hats, and dresses that I combine with fabric, because I love prints – specifically floral, animals, and galaxy print – but really all kinds in general.

UC: What was the yarn craft scene like in your community when you where growing up?

Letty: I grew up in a small town outside of the city in Guatemala, and as a child I can remember my maternal grandma baking all kind of bread and cakes and different kind of food. She really enjoyed her kitchen.

Since she used a lot of eggs for her baking, I remember when she broke the eggs she did it very carefully, breaking them only on one side because she used to decorate the shells with so many different colors and fill them up with confetti. Then all the kids in our neighborhood used them for a celebration that we call Carnaval and also for Easter time which in Spanish we call Semana Santa. It was a great activity for the children to be involved in the creative process of decorating them.

We didn’t have so much yarn around in my family before my mother began her crochet classes, though my maternal grandma often sewed shirts for all the boys in the family.

A crocheted brown and pink set including a hat, booties, and a cardigan. (Size 3-9 months.)

A crocheted brown and pink set including a hat, booties, and a cardigan. (Size 3-9 months.)

UC: How does that compare with the current scene in your neighborhood in New York?

Letty: When I came to New York at age 21, I knew very little English. I was interested in continuing my crochet skills but could not find any magazines in Spanish so I started to buy in English and with a dictionary in hand I could read and translate all the abbreviation into Spanish and that is how I managed to continue doing it. Similarly, in the beginning I did not know where to find yarn. Now it is possible and easy to find stores with many magazines, yarn brands, fibers, and some of them even offer courses for sewing, crochet, and knitting.

Additionally, the internet makes the whole community much wider and easier to find.  Today the scope and reach of crafters is truly global – I have followers on Instagram from all over and we share our projects and tips. 

A crocheted hat and sweater set. (Size 3-9 months.)

A crocheted hat and sweater set. (Size 3-9 months.)

UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so how?

Letty: Yes, as when I was young I had an aunt who had a sewing machine, a very old machine.  I used to sit on her chair and pretend to sew. But mostly I think I was influence by my maternal grandma, she really had very good hands – baking all kinds of goods, sewing by hand, and also embroidering. And of course, by my mom and my sister.  As crafting and working with one’s hands was such a large part of my heritage, I have continued that relationship with physical objects.  We didn’t buy new things and continuously throw them away – we made our treasured items, put our time and effort into them, so they were special and unique.  It meant that we took care of them as they have a history.  Family is so important to me and my community so we also pass on objects that were important to one family member – we cherish these things as reminders of them – so we like to make things that will last.


As time passed by I have learn to crochet so many things, like scarf, hats, for adult and young ones.  Then I started to crochet blankets, sweater, hats, booties, to give as a gift. By now I can crochet all kind of items and I don’t have to follow a magazine but design it myself.
Knitting I know very little, but what I most love and enjoy is doing crochet and work with fabric. All handmade, special items.

Crochet receiving blanket.

Crochet receiving blanket.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books and magazines in your collection?

Letty:

Crocheted striped sweater set. (Size: 3 to 9 months.)

Crocheted striped sweater set. (Size: 3 to 9 months.)

UC: Are there any Spanish or English language crafty website/blogs you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Letty: I mostly like to check Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration, and I also like to watch the cooking channels, particularly the baking shows – the colors and the softness of the confectionary items seem so much like a pile of soft yarn.

Dover Books

UC: What are you working on now?

Letty: I’m currently working on adding new items to my Etsy shop and experimenting with different shapes – I’ve done a lot of narrow sleeves for the baby sweaters but I’d like to try some variations.  I’m also adding new receiving blankets as these are great baby shower gifts.  All of my items are customizable, so someone could add a special fabric, color or print to the back of any of the blankets.

Thank you for sharing your time, Letty! Good luck with your Etsy shop!

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Ana BC from Lanas & Hilos

This post is part of my 2012 Hispanic Heritage Month interview series.

Today, I’m interviewing Guatemalan crocheter Ana Contreras, the bilingual blogger behind Lanas & Hilos.  I’m a big fan of Ana’s blog and the great pictures she shares of her projects.  Ana, also known online as AnaBC on Ravelry, is also a crochet (and, occasionally, knitting) designer.    Her patterns can be found online here.  All pictures are used with Ana’s permission.

Ana BC.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet?

Ana: My mom taught me how to crochet and knit when I was a teenager. I continued learning through books and magazines.  The funny thing is that now my mom calls me “teacher,” because I am sharing with her new techniques that I have been learning through my reading and internet research, which is mostly in English (and my mom is not so fluent in it).

Lately I have been crocheting more than knitting, maybe because I find it easier and faster.  But I actually love both.  Each has its own charm.

 

Ana’s Circles and Stripes Blanket. (Click for blog post.)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Ana: I would define my inspiration in two words: easy and modern.

EASY.  I confess I don’t like “difficult” when it comes my yarn crafts.  It has to pleasurable for me…it is a hobby, not torture.  Therefore, I am always looking for ways to make things easier and likable.

MODERN.  I am always looking for modern options of classic or old-fashioned styles.  Yarn pieces don’t have to be boring.

Both goals have kept my mind in a creative mode.

 

Ana’s Wave Blanket pattern. (Click for free download.)

UC: Tell us about the crochet scene in Guatemala. 

Ana: In general, here in Guatemala, crocheting and knitting are considered crafts for grandmothers and older people.  But I think things are changing.  Younger people are wanting to learn to knit or crochet, because nowadays there are more modern patterns and options in the yarn crafts.  The yarn stores are now offering classes.

The problem that we have here in my country is that there are not many yarn stores; and the variety of yarn available is very poor.  But we learn to work with what we have, and make the most of it.  Personally, when I have the chance to travel, I love to make a stop at a yarn store and buy something special.  (But, how much yarn can you bring in a suitcase?  Not much!)   (UC comment: I love visiting yarn shops when I travel, too!  You can find shop reviews from my last trip here and here, and my Visitor’s Guide to New York City Yarn Shops here.)

 

Detail from Ana’s Circle in a Granny project, along with her inspiration. (Click for blog post.)

UC: Tell us about your blog. Why did you decide on blogging in English and Spanish, and what are some of the challenges associated with bilingual blogging?

Ana: I started my blog a few years ago.  I named it “Lanas & Hilos” which is Spanish for “Yarn and Thread.”  I started blogging in Spanish, my native language. But later I started to connect and follow other bloggers in the world (from England, Germany, Holland, U.S., Canada, Israel, and Greece).  Then I thought of adding an English version to connect and share with them.

I kept the Spanish version because I know many of my Latin friends don´t speak English.  But adding English opened up the world for me.

 

Ana’s Plaid Granny pattern. (Click for blog post with pattern & tutorial.)

UC: You have some great photos on your blog, and your own style of watermarking them that doesn’t look tacky. Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers, especially on photography for those who struggle with capturing those perfect pictures?

Ana: From experience, I have a few tips for new bloggers:

  1. Keep it clean and simple.
  2. Show big pictures and keep the text short.  Most people don’t have the time to read long posts.
  3. Take your photos with lots of light, but not direct light.  Later, you can always PhotoShop them.  If you don´t have a computer program, there are a few free photo editors online, such as FotoFlexer, LunaPic, and PicMonkey (this last one is the one I usually use, and I love it).   (UC comment: I use PicMonkey a lot too, and it is really fun!)
  4. Watermark your photos (with the photo editor), preferably with a fading effect in order not to spoil the picture.  Believe it or not, people “steal” photos in the internet, and the watermarks is a deterrent.
  5. Share details of the pieces you are showing that might be interesting to readers, such as the pattern you used, and where you can get it, as well as yarn type, hook number, colors, etc.

 

Ana’s Baby Boy Booties project. (Click for blog post.)

UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet or craft blogs to share?

Ana: There are too many to even mention.  Among my favorites are the ones I have on the sidebar of my blog.

I highly recommend searching blogs beyond “your circle of friends,” because there are a lot of new and interesting blogs opening every day.  Side bars are very useful in this way.  When you visit blogs, leave a comment.  Many of them will visit your blog in turn, and that is a great way to meet new bloggers and make new friends.  (UC comment: I completely agree.  It’s actually through a German blogger, Barbara from Made in K-Town, that I discovered Ana’s blog.  Barbara hosts a great monthly link party on The Crochet Boulevard and it is a great way to find crochet bloggers from all over the world.)

 

Ana’s Baby Blanket Nina knit pattern. (Click for free download.)

UC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Ana: Probably most people think of me as a crocheter, but I love knitting as well.  Actually I have been working on a knit scarf pattern, and I will share it with all of you soon!

Thanks for stopping by, Ana, and we’re looking forward to seeing that new knitting pattern soon!

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Interview with Crochet Master, Carol Ventura

This post contains affiliate links.

This post is part of my Year of ProjectsCrochet Master Class series.  You can find my other posts in this series here.

I’m really excited today to share an interview with Dr. Carol Ventura, the tapestry crochet master featured in Crochet Master Class.  I can’t think of another crocheter who is as associated with a particular technique as Carol is with tapestry crochet.  Carol first learned about tapestry crochet as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala.  While there, she purchased several bags, and after returning to the U.S., she unraveled one to learn about its design.  Since that time, she has been hooked on tapestry crochet!  (You can read more about Carol’s introduction to tapestry crochet in these interviews.)

Carol can be found on the internet at her website, her blog, and her Ravelry designer page.  In addition to being a prolific crochet artist, teacher, and designer, Dr. Ventura is a Professor of Art in the Department of Music and Art and the Appalachian Center for Craft at the Tennessee Tech University.  Dr. Ventura received her Ph.D. in Art, Theory, and Criticism and her MFA in Book Arts, Papermaking, and Printmaking from the University of Georgia, her MA in Ceramics from Montclair State University, her BA in Art from The College of New Jersey, and her AA in Art from Ocean County College.

All photos are used with Carol’s permission.

Carol Ventura, crocheting the Beaded Tapestry Crochet Bag featured in Crochet Master Class.

UC: What originally inspired you to begin designing your own patterns and writing crochet books?

Carol: It was/is the best way to share tapestry crochet with others. (UC comment:  Carol shares a lot of great information about tapestry crochet on her website and blog, including this post about the design of the bag featured in Crochet Master Class, and this recent post about creating tapestry crochet graphs from photos.)

Wall hanging from a photographic image, from the Tapestry Crochet book.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Carol: Please see this video from Creative Living with Sheryl Borden.

UC: What do you enjoy about working with the tapestry crochet technique?

Carol: I love that it’s portable and doesn’t require lots of expensive tools or a lot of space.

Beaded Tapestry Crochet Bag, from Crochet Master Class.

UC: Your tapestry crochet books include not just patterns and tutorials, but also detailed information about the historical and cultural significance of the technique. What was the development process like for these books – was it similar for all three or did it change over time?

Carol: I’m an art historian by trade, so it was logical for me to include a little bit about tapestry crochet history in my Tapestry Crochet and More Tapestry Crochet books. Each book stands alone and compliments one another. I didn’t include any history in my Bead & Felted Tapestry Crochet book because I had already covered that topic in the first two books.

Carol’s tapestry crochet graph papers for lefties (above) or righties are available through her books and as free Ravelry downloads.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your library (besides your own, of course)?

Carol: I have a huge library of thousands of books about many topics – but no favorites. I love them all!  (UC comment: I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to sneak a peak into the crochet section in Carol’s library!)

Purrfect Kitties Go Round in Tapestry Crochet, from Leisure Arts’ Afghans for All Reasons and All Seasons.

(Edited to add: UC comment: You can read more about this afghan and Carol’s experiment with felting it here.)

UC: Do you have any favorite craft or design blogs or websites to share?

Carol:

Tapestry Crochet Star Hat, available for sale on Patternfish.

UC: If this isn’t too personal, can you talk a bit about your insulating concrete form (ICF) house?  It seems like a fascinating project and I’d be interested in learning more about your decision to design and build this style of eco-friendly housing.

Carol: I was inspired by houses in Central America and Europe that are built to last for many generations from stone, brick, and concrete. I was also inspired by reading Mother Earth News articles about earth sheltered homes during the late 1970s when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. I couldn’t afford to have the concrete walls poured in the usual manner, though. While watching TV, I found out about ICFs – the perfect, affordable solution.

The house is still not finished, although we’re living in it. We started construction 10 years ago – before “earth friendly” and “green building” became popular – and people back then would look at us like we were nuts for building such a different type of house! The response is better now. I created several web pages about its construction to help others avoid some of the problems we encountered.

It is still difficult to find basic information about some of the various steps involved and my ignorance cost us tens of thousands of dollars! I understood that we had to plan ahead because it was difficult to install the utilities, but there were other things that I didn’t anticipate. If only I knew then what I know now!

 

Thank you so much for taking time from your busy schedule for an interview, Carol!

For more Year of Projects posts, visit When Did I Become a Knitter.