Tag Archives: hispanic heritage month 2012

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Charles Voth a.k.a. Stitch Stud

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

I’m really excited to interview Charles Voth, also known as Stitch Stud, today.  Charles is a crochet and knitting designer and tech editor.  (If you’re not sure what a tech editor is, you may want to check out this interview with Juanita Quinones.  And if you get really excited about tech editing, you may want to sign up for these upcoming tech editing classes Charles is teaching at online at Crochet Insider.)  Charles is an active participant in several online forums for crochet designers, and over the years I’ve seen him generously sharing his knowledge with more junior designers (including me!).  In the past year, I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to (virtually) meet Charles when he tech edited one of my patterns. You can find Charles online at his website, Charles Voth Designs, on Ravelry (as StitchStud and on his designer page), and on Twitter.  All photos are used with permission.

Charles Voth.

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

Charles: When I was 5, a woman visiting my mother was crocheting a blue hat. I was fascinated with the movement of her hands and that a 3-d object was appearing from a piece of yarn. I asked her to teach me. She taught me to finger chain that day, and came back another time to teach me how to use a hook. What I made after with the basic stitches I learned, I can’t recall.   I remember making a doily in thread following a pattern when I was 8 or 9. I had no-one to help me crack the code of pattern text and abbreviations, but somehow with the photo and the index of stitches I figured it out. When I was 10 or 11, I saw some Guambiano tribesmen knitting and spinning with drop-spindles (in Popayan, Colombia) and I asked my dad what they were doing. He explained what it was and I asked him if I could learn to knit. Fortunately, my grade 5 teacher was a knitter and my dad asked her to teach me. He bought me my first yarn and needles.   I am a “thrower”, and faster at it than at “picking”, but when my Russian-born grandmother saw me throwing upon my visit with her in Canada, she was dismayed, and tried to get me to knit Russian-continental. Which I can now do fairly well, but at that age, I found it hopeless to change over.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Charles: The yarn store I frequented in Medellin, Colombia only had yarn, no pattern booklets. The women would sketch a schematic, do a swatch, and figure out the sweater. They taught me how to do that so I could make my mom a sweater and a vest. But I wanted to knit something for myself. Fortunately, another expat woman lent me an English pattern book with women’s patterns. I analysed the shaping, schematic, gauge, etc, and with the help of my math teacher I designed a men’s sweater based on the woman’s pattern, making it more masculine. I even got a home-ec credit for that. I just kept going from there and only stopped during the first 10 years of my kids’ lives. I was the full-time stay at home parent for half of those years and just didn’t have time.

Joni Kimono by Charles Voth, published in Inside Crochet, Issue 33. Photo (c) Inside Crochet 2012 via Ravelry.com.

UC: Many of your patterns are available in both English and Spanish.  Tell us about your decision to offer your patterns in both languages.  Are Spanish language patterns universally understand by Spanish speakers, or is there a great divide like we see between U.S. & U.K. terminology?  If so, how do you address that in your work.

Charles: I wish I could spend more time writing my patterns in both languages. I know that Spanish-speaking knitters and crocheters don’t cling to patterns the way English-speakers do…and seem to thrive on the “swatch, and follow a schematic” formula, but there are many learners and intermediate crocheters who perhaps haven’t benefited from a relative who could teach them the intricacies of shaping, etc, and they do look for patterns. The many Spanish groups of Ravelry who translate with designers’ permission are a testimony to this growing need.   While there are differences in the names of stitches, for knitting needles, the crochet hook, and even yarn, the labels do seem immaterial to Spanish-speaking crafters. Rather than stigmatizing one set of labels as incorrect or inferior, each geographic region is happy to use what they know and even to borrow from each other. It’s rather refreshing. The other mentality that I enjoy and return to often for a breath of fresh air, is that there is no knit-crochet dichotomy like in North America. In Colombia, as in many other countries, the word “tejer” is universal for “weaving, knitting, and crochet” and the tool that is used is given when the activity is being described.  So I would “weave with a loom,” “weave with 2 needles,” or “weave with a hook,” for example. I use the words that I was taught in Colombia and the terms and abbreviations I first found when I found other Hispanic  bloggers and stitchers online.

UC: In addition to your crochet life, you’re also an ESL teacher.  Does your teaching experience impact your design or pattern writing process, and if so, how?

Charles: Second language learners struggle constantly with accuracy and fluency, and the two aspects of language compete with each other. Either one can talk with native-like speed and tone yet have many embedded grammatical or micro-level pronunciation errors, or one can speak/write accurately, with near perfect grammar and spelling, but it takes forever and the speech is robotic and the writing painfully slow.   Crocheters and knitters, depending on their exposure to patterns and the time they’ve been stitching, and what kind of support they’ve had, and more importantly, what kind of learner they are (visual, aural, kinesthetic, text-biased) often struggle with the same fits and false starts when they encounter pattern instructions and charts until they are more experienced, but if a stitcher works faster than they are ready to, things get missed and frogging is more common.   I have written patterns that bore the experienced knitter/crocheter to tears because they are full of pedagogical text, and I’ve written patterns that are so sparse that a newbie takes up hours of my time on Ravelry giving pattern support. I’m a visual learner, so I’m fine with a chart, a schematic and minimal text, yet I know that if my patterns were only like that I’d loose 75% of stitchers out there, so I now try to find a happy medium.

Crantini Sophisticate by Charles Voth, published on the Annie’s website. Photo (c) Annie’s 2010.

UC: You were born and raised in Colombia.  What was the yarn crafts scene like there when you were growing up?

Charles: From what I recall, different tribes of pre-European Colombians have a vibrant craft movement and the lore is well documented and perpetuated. Colombia is the textile centre of Latin America, and Medellin, where I grew up, has many textile corporations. The tallest sky scraper in the city is actually a stylized sewing needle. When I was there, mostly grandmothers were the knitters and depending on the social class, younger women either learned out of necessity (to make blankets and clothes for themselves and/or for sale) or if they were middle or upper class, they just dabbled in it once in a while. I’m not at all in touch with the current knitting/crochet culture in Colombia. Colombians on Ravelry appear to come from all age groups.   When I lived there, the main yarn purveyors were the French company Pinguoin, and Cisne yarns (from Chile), and I believe Coats had and still has a line of yarn with Spanish labels. These yarns were in the store at the mall near my house. The yarns were mostly acrylic. My favourite store was a different one, 15 blocks from my house and it was frequented mostly by little grandmothers from working class families. The store consisted of a small room with walls made of cinderblock and red-clay brick; it was poorly lit, and had a very sparse non-yarn décor. But it had wall-to-wall cones of what now would be deemed lace-weight acrylic yarn in about 100 colours. I would go there, ask for 15, 23, 60, or any number of grams of yarn, and I could specify the number of strands they would hold together and wind off into cakes. 4 yarns together worked great on my 3.5mm or 4mm needles, so it must have been somewhere been a sport or DK weight.  I’d ask for 3 strands together to make baby booties and 6 strands together to work at a worsted weight gauge. It was VERY splitty, naturally, but I think my getting control of this was what really helped me develop a very even tension.  (UC comment: This sounds like a really fun store!)

Mock Cable Men’s Pullover by Charles Voth.

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

Charles: The deepest influence my cultural heritage gives me is my sense of colour and of proportion. I know it’s nothing unusual now, but when I first arrived in Canada and made things with orange, fuschia, and red right beside each other, I sure got looks. Naturally, when I discovered Kaffe Fasset at 19 and saw that colours transcended culture, I feel liberated.   I don’t know whether I can say this here, but as a teenage boy interested in the local beauties, I was drawn to girls that had curves, naturally, but it was the relative proportion that mattered. The guys and I would comment on how North American models were twiggy and sickly and we were never surprised that Miss Universe was often won by a South American beauty queen. To be beautiful in our eyes, a girl had to have calves and thighs, but it was just as important to have narrow ankles and knees, and so on—proportion was key. This definitely has influenced my design aesthetic, when designing women’s garments, because I like to accentuate curves and relative differences in proportion rather than create the baggy box or the wraith-like sack-on-a-scare-crow look. You could say that my muse for women’s designs is “la belleza latina.”  Of course, for men’s designs, I now consult my 2 teenage sons and what they and their friends would wear.

UC: You’ve held a lot of roles in the yarn industry, including designer, podcaster, tech editor, and magazine editor.  What advice do you have for aspiring professionals? Charles: I would say,

  • “Don’t ever think you’re too young to start, or too old to start.
  • Don’t give up, take small steps, be humble amongst the great talent that’s around you, but don’t hide your skills and art out of sight.
  • Embrace technology.
  • Don’t have a sense of entitlement, accept rejection without tears.  A rejected design only means your creation doesn’t fit in someone else’s big picture creative concept; it doesn’t mean it’s a terrible design.
  • Act professionally, and as much as you can, don’t let emotions cloud business matters, particularly in public.
  • Befriend many, but give to many in return.
  • Find one or two trustworthy and extremely honest (even painfully so, sometimes) mentors to guide you and to listen to your emotional venting privately.
  • Most of all, enjoy creating, have a knitting or crochet project that doesn’t have a deadline, and is just there to be savoured, touched, and to fill the senses.
  • If you have a life-partner, engage in, and support his/her passion without expecting the same in return.
  • Lastly, be a life-long learner.”

All in One Cardi by Charles Voth.

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

UC: What are you working on right now?

Charles: I’m busy tech-editing mostly. A few designs in the works, but nothing I can talk about at the moment.  (UC comment: And if you’re interested in becoming a tech editor, don’t forget to sign up for Charles’s upcoming classes at Crochet Insider!)

Thank you, Charles, for sharing your thoughts with us, and for giving some great advice!

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

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Nuria Pastor a.k.a. Bezencilla

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

Today, I’m interviewing crochet designer and blogger Nuria Pastor, also known as Bezencilla around the web.  Nuria is currently living in the Netherlands but she is originally from Madrid.  You can find Nuria online as Bezencilla on Ravelry, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Etsy, and Flickr, as well as on her website, blog, and Ravelry designer page.  All images are used with her permission.  Nuria has been kind enough to offer a discount in her Ravelry shop for my readers, so continue on for details!

Nuria Pastor, also known as Bezencilla.

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

Nuria: When I was a kid my aunt, Paqui, taught me how to make the “little sticks” – that’s the name she uses for double crochet. She used to sit on her sofa and crochet white tablecloths and beautiful bedspreads for hours and hours.

Nuria’s Yellow Submarine Baby Boots, available on Etsy.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Nuria: A few years ago, during some sleepless nights, I started crocheting little flowers, cases, coasters… any kind of small projects just to relax myself a little bit. By that time some friends and family were expecting babies, and then I started crocheting baby boots and socks with cotton and a 2mm hook! But it was too conventional, classic, boring and a lot of work.  All that lead me to design my own projects inspired by animals and toys, that the parents-to-be would love, like the Yellow Submarine Booties, inspired by a couple of friends that love The Beatles.

Nuria’s Yellow Submarine Baby Boots pattern is available on Ravelry.

UC: Tell us about your heritage and the crochet scene in the Netherlands, where you currently live.

Nuria: I grow up very close to my aunt, she has been crocheting since I remember.  It was very nice and amusing looking at her making enormous pieces of fabric from a little strand of yarn.   I’m originally from Madrid, learnt English at school and a few years ago moved to Ireland to study.  I love their heritage and culture. Then a couple of years back moved to the Netherlands. Currently I’m learning Dutch, and I know it will take me a while. But I belong to this group of crafters, Stitch ‘n Bitch De Pijp.  Most of them are Dutch and they are kindly helping me out with the language. Also, I guess the craft scene here is bigger than in Spain, so I’m very happy with it. Actually, since I joined this group I’m becoming a knitter more than a crocheter.  I’m learning a lot and improving my design skills day by day. It’s really encouraging for me. Sharing knowledge, experience, doubts… is absolutely wonderful.

Nuria’s knitted baby boots with handles. (Pattern forthcoming.)

UC: You are multi-craftual. What is your favorite “go to” craft these days?

Nuria: Knitting, definitely.

UC: Tell us about your blog. Why did you decide on blogging in English and Spanish?

Nuria: I love sharing my experiences and creations with everybody; English language is critical for that. Of course, it’s challenging but very important when you are living abroad.

Nuria’s Dog Hat. (Pattern forthcoming.)

UC: Do you have any tips for aspiring bloggers?

Nuria: Yes, enjoy what you do and be proud of your work; the rest will come slowly, so be patient too.

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

Nuria: Yes, La Maison Bijoux and Madrid Knits!, in Spanish.  In English, I love the Cast-On and Electric Sheep podcasts, which are very useful and inspiring to me.

Nuria’s Luisa Dancing Booties. (Pattern forthcoming.)

UC: What’s next for Bezencilla?

Nuria: I’m planning on releasing a few patterns soon: my new Luisa Dancing Booties, an alien and a dog hat, and my first knitting design of two baby booties with handles, rainy boots style.

Thanks for stopping by, Nuria, and sharing your enthusiasm with us!  And, for sharing a 15% discount in your Ravelry shop from now until Sunday, October 14, 2012 using coupon code under15.

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

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Sara Palacios from Arrorró en Colores

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

Today, I’m interviewing Argentinian crochet designer Sara Palacios, the mind behind Arrorro en Colores (known as Colorful Lullabies in English).  Sara can be found online on her website, Ravelry (as SaraBea and in the Colorful Lullabies store), Etsy, Facebook, and Flickr.  All pictures are used with her permission.

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

Sara: I’ve liked handicrafts since I was a child. My mother was a dressmaker and I grew up watching her as she created new things, being passionate about fabrics, textures, shapes, and colors. When I was 10, she taught me the basics of crochet, knitting and embroidery. I also learned a lot from my aunts, who where always crocheting doilies, and from the craft magazines that they used to give me: they were the best gift I could get!

UC: When did you first become passionate about afghans?

Sara: At age 15, I crocheted a multicolor granny square using yarn remains and made a pillow with it. It was then that I discovered the magic of harmonizing colors and I wanted to crochet a blanket for my bed. This time I made it with new brightly colored wool. Since then, I came up with several ideas that I kept as projects to do some day, such as the illusions of stacked cubes. During the following 27 years, I crocheted some simple blankets and other things, but I did not realize any of these early projects because there was always something missing: time or money.

In 2008, I could make the first of the blankets I had been planning to do for so long. After that I could never stop imagining new things.


Hexagon Spiral pattern.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Sara: To copy other people’s models in an exact way – as beautiful as the model may have been – bored me. For example, I needed to combine the design of a pattern with a different stitch from another, and the colors of a flower in my garden. In other words, I needed to add something personal to it. And so, unexpected things started to come up. Any aspect of life that makes me feel passionate or that suggests beauty or excellence to me can be the source of inspiration for a crochet design: nature, art, dreams, maths, science or everyday experiences.


Flower Rug pattern.

UC: Tell us about crochet in Argentina.

Sara: In general, crochet is picked up within the family as grandmothers, mothers and aunts teach you. However, today it is also learned through the Internet. In some places, they teach courses to learn or perfect crochet techniques. Usually, we learn both knitting and crochet but, as time goes by, we tend to choose crochet.

I believe that in the last years we, crocheters, are becoming more and more well-known, and we have started meeting in groups mostly thanks to social networks. In addition, there are also more young people crocheting nowadays.

This increasing popularity in crochet has to do in part with initiatives for solidarity that consist in getting granny squares of a certain size so as to make blankets to donate to hospitals and retirement homes. In particular the group Tejiendo por un Sueño (Knitting/Crocheting for a Dream) on Facebook gets thousands of knitters and crocheters together, and it also provokes an infectious enthusiasm that is both enriching and motivating. In this way more people want to crochet again which, the way I see it, has to do with the ‘magic’ of the granny squares: The possibility of combining colors, of giving new life and use to the leftovers of other handicrafts, of getting unique products and also of working with and for the community.

UC: Most of your patterns are available in English (both US and UK terms) and in Spanish.  What made you decide to sell bilingual patterns?

Sara: I had always wanted to write patters, but I had never imagined myself doing it in English. I opened my shop on Etsy with the intention of selling blankets, but people started to ask me for the patterns, and so I decided to write them in both languages. I am happy to be able to share them with more people.

Joy: Hexagon and Triangle Blanket pattern.

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

Sara: Crochet soñado by Claudia Daneu is an Argentine blog with many video crochet patterns that explain very nice stitches and interesting variations.  Tejido Crochet is another Argentine crochet blog with original designs and graphics.  Mi Sala de Costura is a Spanish patchwork and craft blog, which also includes beautiful crochet patterns.

In English, I like Fiddlesticks and the crochet techniques of Vashti Braha, among other blogs.  (UC comment: I’m a huge fan of Vashti’s blog and newsletter, and I also interviewed her back in January.)


Wonder, crochet flower blanket pattern.

UC: What’s next for Arroro en Colores?

Sara: I have a lot of projects. Most of my patterns are still in my head or in a draft. I crochet and write when I have free time to do it. I make my living working on computing with computers and crochet is just a hobby.  I would like to be able to spend more hours on it, although I don’t want to hurry: crocheting is precisely about going slowly step by step.


Thanks so much, Sara, for stopping by to share your thoughts with us!

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