Today, I’m interviewing Juanita Quinones, also known as BoricuaCrochet, a crocheter I met on Ravelry who is also a crochet tech editor. Originally from Puerto Rico, Juanita moved to the mainland U.S. about 20 years ago and now lives in Pennsylvania. Her projects can be found on Ravelry here. All pictures are used with her permission.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet?
Juanita: My journey began by watching a neighbor making doilies when I was about six years old. After that, I picked up a stitch dictionary, Mon Tricot Knitting Dictionary Stitches Patterns Knitting & Crochet, that my mother had and learned each of the stitches. It is my preferred stitch dictionary, and I do still keep that copy. I always wanted to make wearable projects. I remember and still have my first poncho done when I was 13 years old. (UC comment: Wow, that’s impressive! As much as I love stitch dictionaries, I’ve never worked my way entirely through one.)
It is a collection of vintage patterns of stitches, motifs, edgings, insertions, and other patterns both in knit and crochet. We are making the crochet samples. I’ve taken the task of coordinating these efforts and adding the patterns to Ravelry with pictures from several volunteers. We hope to have the samples available for display at one of the future CGOA conferences. We hope they inspire crocheters and designers alike to incorporate in future projects. It is always better when you have a picture of what these patterns look like. It is a big project and we have completed about a third of the samples. (UC comment: Thanks for your work on this great project which has benefits for the entire crochet community!)
UC: You are a crochet tech editor. For my readers who don’t know, can you explain what a tech editor is and tell us how you got started tech editing?
Juanita: In a nutshell, a tech editor revises patterns from designers in an attempt to make them error-free before they are published. The tech editor makes sure the pattern is accurate and complete in how it uses the correct abbreviations, follows standards, and/or provides explanation for new or uncommon stitches used. We don’t need to make the item to know when something is missing, needs more clarification, or needs consistency.
I don’t know why – perhaps because of my mathematical background and/or experience writing technical documents – but it has always been easy to identify when a pattern has an error. Always, I’ve sent the comment(s) to the publisher and/or designer. It was after submitting several corrections that a well-known designer influenced me to pursue the career.
UC: Tell us about the crochet scene in Puerto Rico.
Juanita: There are a lot of artisans in Puerto Rico that work with thread, in what is called “Mundillo” (a bobbin lace). There are only a few yarn stores in Puerto Rico. There are classes offered by different groups for both knit and crochet, but they are scarce. My passion for the craft increased when I moved to the States about 19 years ago as there were more yarns readily available.
I don’t think there is rivalry amongst crocheters and knitters in Puerto Rico. I think most learn to do both even when they prefer one or the other. Like I prefer crochet and my mother prefers knitting, but we know both.
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?
Juanita: I think my cultural background influenced the type of yarn that I prefer to work with. I prefer to crochet with cotton, bamboo, linen, or silk, but not wool (although at times I do use wool for felting). Since we don’t have changes in seasons, I do prefer colorful yarns all the time, and not according to seasons.
UC: What are some of your favorite Spanish or English language craft blogs to share?
This must be my lucky week! Just four days ago, I posted an interview with Ellen Gormley. Today, I’m excited to post an interview with Margaret Hubert. If you have been crocheting or knitting for any length of time, you have probably come in contact with one of Margaret’s books or patterns. This post includes my interview with Margaret and a review of one of her recent books, The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting.
A few years ago, I learned that the New York Public Library allowed card holders to search for and request books from any branch. These books would be delivered to your local branch for pick up. I was surprised to find out that the libraries have a pretty good collection of crochet books. It was about this time that I was first noticing the names of different designers. I was introduced to Margaret through the Hooked series of crochet books that I checked out from the library and had great fun making her bags and hats.
Margaret is also one of the designers featured in Crochet Master Class. According to her bio in that book, her career has spanned various aspects of the needlecrafts industry, including owning a yarn shop, owning a hand knitting business, teaching needlework, writing crochet and knitting books, and teaching at local, regional, and national crochet and knitting events. Her blog bio mentions that she has also published cross word puzzles and is a member of a Shakespeare club which is over 110 years old. You can visit Margaret’s website, blog, or Ravelry designer page for more information.
Underground Crafter (UC): Who first taught you to knit and crochet?
Margaret: My mother taught me to knit at a very young age. I do not even remember learning. According to my Mom, I used to try knitting with 2 pencils, and she decided that she should teach me the proper way. I learned to crochet when I was 19 from the owner of my local yarn shop. I had knitted a sweater that needed a crochet border. My Mom said that she couldn’t help me as she wasn’t a very good crocheter, so I asked for help. Mrs. B. put a crochet hook in my hands, taught me to single crochet, and I haven’t stopped since.
UC: Since you are multi-craftual, what is your favorite “go to” craft these days?
Margaret: I love both knitting and crocheting, which I do constantly. I also do some sewing, quilting, and needlepoint, but do not have a lot of time for much of this any more. My most favorite thing to do, is to combine both knit and crochet in one-of-a kind free form garments. In fact, I do a workshop teaching this method, and it has become my all time most popular class.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Margaret: My garden and the woods surrounding my home have a lot of influence on my creativity. I love flowers and use them a lot in my work. Living in the North East, every season brings its own fabulous array of colors, which are my greatest inspiration. Spring with its pastels and greens in every hue, summer brights, colorful fall leaves in yellows, orange and red, and even winter, all are so beautiful.
UC: I recently retaught myself to knit after about 25 years of avoiding it. I found your The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting to be a really helpful resource. What tips do you have for people returning to knitting or crocheting after a long absence?
Margaret: My tip would be to start with something quite easy, with very little shaping and finishing, perhaps a hat or scarf. I would use a smooth yarn in a medium weight. Once your brain and fingers begin to remember the motions, then you will be ready to tackle something a little more involved.
UC: What are your favorite crochet and knitting books in your collection (besides yours, of course)?
Margaret: Of all the hats that I wear, I love teaching the best. I love the enthusiasm of the students, I love the look on there faces when they “get it”, I love how they like to share and send me photos of their finished projects. Whenever I am at a conference several attendees will come up to me wearing one of my designs, they are so proud and it never fails to excite me. Most of all, I do love sharing my knowledge and doing my bit to keep the needle arts alive.
UC: Do you have any favorite crafting blogs or websites you’d like to share?
Margaret: If you were to ask me what I thought the most important thing that I could teach someone was, it would be how to properly check gauge and to instill in them the importance of checking gauge before starting any new project. It is so important that I can not stress it enough. It makes such a difference in the finished garment/item and there would be so much less frustration and disappointment.
I can’t agree with Margaret enough about the gauge. Most of my students who struggle with patterns have it much easier once they begin to swatch and check their gauge! I know Margaret is a busy woman, between designing, writing, teaching, traveling, and the rest of her life. Thanks for stopping by Margaret! And now on to…
The Book Review
After about 25 years away from knitting, in the last year I decided to conquer my fears (of making enormous trapezoids) and start to knit again. Perhaps my motor skills are better now, or I understand yarn and needlecrafts better, or I’m just more patient, but this time it “stuck.” An invaluable tool that I picked up along the way was Margaret Hubert’s The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting. I recommend it to my beginner knitting students and think it is a great resource for your knitting library for several reasons.
The book is organized into three major sections: Knitting Basics, Stitch Patterns, and Specialty Knitting Methods. As the title suggests, the book is heavy on photographs and light on illustrations. (Sidenote: I personally find it impossible to learn anything new from an illustration, but can use illustrations as reminders for techniques I’m already familiar with.) Margaret opens with a brief history of knitting, and then jumps into the Knitting Basics section. This section includes a review of tools, pattern abbreviations, and provides an explanation of how to read patterns in addition to the abbreviations. At this point, the book jumps into various techniques for casting on (5 options), forming the knit and purl stitches (2 methods each), and binding off (3 options). Each technique includes multiple, large photographs which are clearly lit. Margaret then goes on to display several shaping methods. This is followed by knitting in the round, again including photographs with double-pointed needles, one circular, and then two circular needles. As you might guess from the interview, Margaret also emphasizes gauge! There is also a nice piece on finishing. This section has many photographs, but the text is rather brief. If you are a visual learner, this is probably an ideal reference book for you. If you learn best from reading descriptions of the process, this section is lacking some detail that you might need. For example, there is no discussion about choosing yarn, or how to hold the needles, or the usual debate between the continental and the English knitting methods.
The next section, Stitch Patterns, is like having a stitch guide embedded in the book. There are 185 stitch patterns, arranged by type:
Medium and heavy textures,
Honeycomb and brioche stitches,
Ripples and chevrons,
I love the way the stitch patterns are organized – like most knitters/crocheters, I hate seeing a wonderful stitch and then never being able to find it again. There is also a difficulty rating for each stitch (using the Craft Yarn Council standard skill levels). The swatches are beautifully photographed and are quite large, so you can see the detail. The colors Margaret uses for her yarns are also lovely. There are several project patterns in this section, generally following the type of stitch that is used in the pattern. This section is worth the price of admission alone for me, since it is a great stitch guide. However, if you are looking for stitch symbols, there are very few in this book – most patterns use abbreviations only. (The cable stitches in this section all include symbols though.)
The final section, Specialty Knitting Methods, introduces (or reminds!) the reader to (of) various techniques and includes at least one pattern along with a description of the method. The methods included are:
Freeform Knitting (clearly one of Margaret’s favorite techniques!),
The Crazy Lace, Intarsia, and Twined projects include charts in addition to pattern abbreviations. As with the rest of the book, the projects are beautifully photographed and the colors and layout really bring the projects to life. In the last section, the photographs are of the projects, not the methods for creating the projects.
Overall, I recommend the The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting to a beginner knitter looking for a book to “grow” into an intermediate knitter with. I also recommend it as a stitch guide – it doesn’t have as many stitches as some guides, but the organization, skill levels, photographs, and yarn colors are superior to most on the market. There are also projects included so you can try the stitches on something other than swatches if you aren’t at the stage of designing your own creations yet. The photographs are great for visual learners. On the other hand, there are few stitch symbols in the book, which didn’t bother me since I prefer pattern abbreviations, but I know that many knitters prefer symbols. This is really a comprehensive visual reference rather than a thorough written treatise on knitting. If you are looking for a wordy text, go for the Knitter’s Handbook. Because of the visual cues, it is also a great book for a more advanced knitter who needs a quick photographic reminder (“Oh, right, that’s how to do the provisional cast on!”) before starting or while working a project. I gave the book 5 stars.