Today is the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month and also the end of this year’s interview series. Here’s a recap in case you missed some of the interviews. All photos are used with permission. (Click on the photos to link to the interviews.)
I’d like to extend my thanks to each of these twelve talented women. It is very difficult to find time for extra activities when running a small business, so I really appreciate your responsiveness! You can find links to the 9 yarn crafters I interviewed for the 2012 series here.
Today’s interview is with fellow New Yorker, Diana Rivera. Diana is not only a crochet and knitting designer and yarnie, but also a mixed media artist and poet. You may also know her as Craftaholic or Arte y Poemas.
All photos are (c) Diana Rivera/Arte y Poemas and are used with permission. Click the photos to link to patterns or yarn listings.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet and knit?
Diana: I learned to knit through my musician friend, Bliss Blood. She tried to teach me to knit, and I got as far as the knit stitch. I eventually taught myself the purl stitch through the help of KnittingHelp.com.
UC: How did you start dyeing and spinning yarn?
Diana: I started dyeing yarn soon after I learned to crochet. I would buy plain cotton or wool yarn and experiment with Kool Aid and RIT. I started spinning about a year ago, when I got my spinning wheel.
UC: What inspired you to start designing and to launch your own line of art yarns?
Diana: Well, it truly came out of necessity, haha! I had to start selling some of it, since I really am spinning yarn on an almost daily basis. You should see my stash. Yikes!
UC: What’s your cultural background? What was the yarn crafts scene within your family like when you were growing up?
I wasn’t really exposed to very much art or creativity growing up. Actually in my family, I am the only artist. My grandfather was a writer, but that is as creative as they got, aside from the occasional needlepoint that my grandmother did. She taught me embroidery from a young age.
UC: How does that compare with today?
Diana: Well, today, most of the people I know are creative in one way or another. In fact, even men I date are in one way or another, creative. It’s important to me that I surround myself with creative people, as it helps the creative muse inside me to grow and flourish.
UC: You’re currently living in Brooklyn, NY, my home town. Did you grow up there or are you a transplant?
Diana: I was born and raised in Plainfield, NJ. I love Brooklyn. From the time I was a little girl, I wanted to come to the five boroughs, and here I am.
UC: What do you think of the current fiber arts scene in Brooklyn?
Diana: Well, the truth is, there are creative people everywhere in New York. There are crochet and knitting groups anywhere you go, and for almost every Brooklyn neighborhood. I love that the city I live in is surrounded by creative people. My experience with knitting groups is that there is a sort of camaraderie that from the first moment you visit a group, you’ve got best friends for life.
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?
Diana: Not really. As I mentioned, no one in my family is creative at all except me, and my grandparents who have long sinced passed away. Many Latinos I know locally are creative, but I think creativity surrpasses ethnicity. You can’t put art in a box that way.
UC: How can we find your work online?
Diana: I do have a blog, and it’s Arte y Poemas. I blog in both Spanish and English, but mostly English. It’s mostly about my art and poetry, though I do post the occasional craft project.
I have an Etsy store with some art and my hand spun yarns. (I also accept custom work, if anyone wants a specific shade of yarn, etc.). And a society6 store, where people can purchase prints of my work.
Thanks for stopping by, Diana! And I can relate to the overflowing stash problem!
The next interview in the series will be posted on October 7 with Teresa Alvarez.
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?