Today, I’m continuing my Hispanic Heritage Month series with an interview with Argentine knitting designer, Joji Locatelli. Joji can be found online on Ravelry (as jojilocat, in the Designs by Joji group, and on her designer page), on the Joji Knits blog, on her Facebook page, and on Instagram. All images are copyright Joji Locatelli and are used with permission. Click on the photo to link to the pattern on Ravelry.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to knit?
Joji: My mom taught me the basics when I was a teenager, but I didn’t really learnt to make anything other than a garter stitch scarf until I was in my 20s. I had just finished University and found myself with a lot of free time and internet… And well, I found lots of knitting blogs and patterns. I taught myself the rest by “guessing” what knit and purl meant.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Joji: In Argentina, most knitters don’t follow patterns, or at least we didn’t. When I learnt to knit, we didn’t have access to pattern books or even special yarns, so we always make the best we can with what we have on hand. Most of the times, we would see a garment that we liked on a store and tried to recreate it. We usually wouldn’t mind if the gauge/texture or color was absolutely different, and that left place for creativity and improvisation.
That’s the way I approached all the patterns when I finally found Ravelry. And one day, I received this very special yarn (it was Malabrigo Worsted), and it was the very first time I had in my hands one of “those” yarns I saw on the internet, you know? I knew I wanted to make something special out of it, but I just couldn’t find a pattern that I really liked. I had a store bought sweater that I loved and said ‘why not? This has to work!’
So I started knitting my own interpretation of that sweater, using a very unusual construction and wondering whether it would turn out to be a wearable garment. Other knitters seemed to be really interested in my process of posting photos and asked if I was planning to write this up. I said ‘No! no… I am not a designer!’ And then I said ‘Why not?’
So there, that’s when my first pattern was born :).
UC: You primarily design garments and women’s accessories. What do you enjoy about these types of projects?
Joji: Well, it’s much easier for me to think of designing things that I can actually wear… and also I have an audience that pays much more attention to those kinds of projects, so it’s easy to be biased and always go in that direction.
UC: Most of your current designs are self-published. What do you see as the challenges and advantages of self-publishing?
Joji: I don’t see any challenges in self-publishing your designs, unless you start designing expecting to make certain money out of what you get out there. Self-publishing can be very exciting, and a pattern can be a total success without you having to share it with anyone, or can be a total failure, and then you’ve worked for nothing.
When I started designing I was working full time somewhere else, so I didn’t have to worry about making money or not from my designs. And I felt that self-publishing allowed me to handle my time frames (and the rights to my patterns!) the way I liked.
When you publish with companies or publishers, you have to adjust your times to their deadlines, and also your style… which might make one a little nervous! But then you get the support from this company, which will probably do their best to get the word out there about you working with them, they will probably do a lot of work with photos and layout, which is also great! Plus, it’s not nice to work always on your own… Sometimes it’s nice to play with others too :).
Joji: Yeah, the group getting that big… that’s a total surprise!
I don’t think there’s anything to be nervous about! A Ravelry group is not a commitment to do anything. It’s just a way to communicate with people who are interested in what you do, and there are no rules about what you need to do there. Like all groups, mine started with just 3 members (me and 2 moderators) and was really small for a very long time! I think it was just as great back then as it is now… and I just treat it as any other social media. Knitters really like to hang out on Ravelry, so if you give them a space to share what they like and chat a little bit, they will enjoy it.
UC: What was the yarn crafts scene like when you were growing up in Argentina? How does that compare with the current scene in Buenos Aires?
I described in a previous question how the knitting scene was like when I learnt to knit. It still hasn’t changed much. Some knitters have started to use Ravelry and learnt to read instructions in English, but this is still a rather small group within a country where A LOT of women knit.
I used to work at a yarn store until recently, so I kept in touch with what knitters here liked, and what the supply and demand of products was…
Argentine knitters tend to like quick projects and heavy weight yarns, even though we barely have a couple of weeks of winter. They still improvise most of their projects, some follow patterns but barely, none of them are scared of adjusting gauge or even the style of the garments, and they all knit with straight needles just like me!
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?
It probably does, but I can’t precise in which way. I learnt to knit from a non-Argentine community, so I think most of the techniques and styles I used do not resemble my cultural background… but I think there is a little something in everything I make that has a little bit of my origins there.
UC: What are your favorite knitting books in your collection?
I don’t own many books! Mailing things to Argentina is quite hard, and we cannot buy imported pattern books here, so I only have a couple. I did enjoy and learn a lot from all Elizabeth Zimmermann’s.
UC: Are there any Spanish- or English-language crafty websites/blogs you visit regularly for inspiration or community?
Not really... Most of the things I read nowadays are in English…
Thank you, Joji, for sharing your thoughts with us!
Today I’m excited to be share an interview with fellow New Yorker, Reba Linker, as part of her blog (and podcast) tour for her latest self-published book, Follow the Yarn. It’s an interesting book that combines genres by including a biography of Reba’s late knitting teacher, tidbits from Reba’s memoir/exploration of herself as an artist, knitting tips and tricks, and some very fun illustrations.
You can find Reba’s website here. You can also follow that link to subscribe to her newsletter, which will enter you into giveaways for her new book and other prizes. You can also get extra chances to win by becoming a fan of her Follow the Yarn and author pages on Facebook. (By the way, one of the giveaway prizes is a free download of any of my self-published ebooks or patterns.) Follow the Yarn is available for purchase on Lulu.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to knit?
Reba: I first learned to knit as a little girl from my mom, but never developed it as an interest at that time. As I later learned, she did a variation on the Continental style. I re-learned as an adult with Ann Sokolowski, the knitting teacher who inspired Follow the Yarn. Ann also advocated using the Continental style, (she felt it makes a more consistent product, but she also understood students that were committed to the ‘English’ style), so I had the long-ago muscle memory from when my mom taught me, which helped a lot.
UC: Your background is in dance, but you’ve worked in many areas of the arts. How did you transition from dancing into the written and visual arts?
Reba: I closed my dance studio at the end of 2007 and gave birth to my son in early 2008. I wanted to find a way to build a career that did not involve a 9-5 job.
UC: How did you get started writing?
Reba: I just started writing! Actually, I started writing and drawing. When I started telling my son a story about a mommy and daddy who wanted a baby, I thought it would make a sweet children’s book, so I wrote and illustrated Welcome Home Baby! Then – since I am a composting enthusiast – I took a Master Composter certification course and for my final project I wrote another children’s book, The Compost Heroes, which I read to children in schools, libraries, etc. Follow the Yarn was a big leap for me, since it was unlike anything I had previously done.
Reba: The whole process has been amazing! As I describe in the book, I literally heard a voice that said “I want to write about Ann!” while I was sitting in my beginner’s knitting class. No one could have been more surprised than me, as I did not consider myself much of a knitter, nor writer! Following that voice and learning to trust where it was leading me has been one of many tremendous gifts I received from the experience.
It started out as a collection of my teacher Ann’s knitting tips and funny quotations – she was such a character – and she had so much technical know-how as well as great practical common sense advice to offer. Then she passed away, and then my father and then my mother after that, so life demanded that it change. While it is still a collection of knitting tips, a kind of knitter’s companion, the book transformed into something much more than that.
There is so much more to knitting than meets the eye. Ann had an uncanny ability to touch people’s lives in an extraordinary way through the everyday act of knitting; Follow the Yarn, too, in part uses knitting as a vehicle to explore life.
Now that the book is finished, the promotion and outreach begins, so the experience just keeps opening new doors.
UC: What advice do you have for new authors?
Reba: Follow YOUR yarn! Trust what wants to come out, see where it leads you. Above all else, do it! Take the plunge! There is so much to learn in the experience. As I write in Follow the Yarn, “The doing and the daring are the keys to unlock the treasure chest!” I didn’t know until I was halfway through what wanted to be said, and I think that may be true of a lot of people. Sometimes we don’t know our story until we start to tell it.
UC: What is your favorite knitting book in your collection?
UC: Do you have any knitting, yarn, craft, or writing blogs or websites that you recommend?
Reba: There is an amazing amount of knitting/crocheting skill and thoughtful, engaging writing out there and I can hardly keep up with it all. I am so honored that the knitting blogs on this tour are some of the best. What is astonishing is the kindness and generosity of the people as well. Of course, a site like Ravelry is a never-ending resource (you are welcome to friend me as Reba9).
UC: What’s next for you?
Reba: Follow the Yarn unleashed a torrent of creativity for me. I am already planning my next book, which will expand on the themes of personal growth that I started to explore in Follow the Yarn. And – I plan on making a small pocket-sized book of just the notable quotes – all the pearls of wisdom – from Follow the Yarn.
Of course, I will keep on knitting!
I am tickled by the idea of creating an array of stuffed animals or puppets to match the characters in my book, The Compost Heroes, to take with me when I read the story to children.
Thanks for stopping by, Reba, and we wish you the best!
Today, I’m interviewing Kathryn Vercillo, one of my favorite crochet bloggers, for the second time. (You can check out the first interview here.) Kathryn recently self published a book, Crochet Saved My Life, about the ways crochet supports physical and mental healing.
Kathryn is a professional writer, and her work has been published in magazines such as Latina and Skope. Kathryn has also written for numerous websites and blogs, including PC Worldand Houzz. And, of course, Kathryn is the mind behind Crochet Concupiscence, and is also known as CrochetBlogger on Ravelry and Twitter. You can also find Kathryn and Crochet Concupiscence online on Facebook, G+, and Pinterest, and you can sign up for her newsletter (which generally features awesome goodies and discounts) here.
Underground Crafter (UC): Your new book, Crochet Saved My Life, shares your personal experience of using crochet to help deal with your depression. Tell us more about your decision to write the book and to share your experience with depression, which is often stigmatized in our society. What were some of the challenges you faced in starting this project?
Kathryn: I have been a writer for as long as I can remember and I knew that there was another book in me, but I wasn’t sure what it would be about or when it would happen. I started writing the Crochet Concupiscence blog shortly after beginning to heal from depression and it was a really great project for me. I enjoy writing about crochet every day and I’ve really been happy with the terrific support I’ve received from the online crochet community. So it began to get clearer and clearer that my next book would be related to this topic that was becoming increasingly important to me – meaning the topic of crochet.
There were actually a few false starts. For example, I had ideas for a crochet pattern book and was thinking at the time that I wanted to get into pattern design. But as I started doing that I just found that it wasn’t really that enjoyable for me for a variety of reasons. I admire and respect the terrific crochet designers that are putting out books, but making my own patterns turned out to not feel right. I like doing a lot of random crochet work and creating my own designs but I don’t enjoy the process of writing that down and translating it all into something that someone else can follow.
I also started writing some short stories about crochet. I enjoyed that but I can’t say that I was passionate about it. In the meantime, I was continuing to post a lot on the blog and I found that one of the topics I was drawn to again and again was how crochet helped in healing people and just improving quality of life. So it began to occur to me that this was really a topic I wanted to explore further and to do that I needed to get at the core of why it was so important to me, which meant confronting my own depression story. As I started to do that, I found myself not only having a lot to say but also feeling really positive while writing the material and that was what told me that yes, this was the right project at the right time.
One of the toughest things for me with this book was deciding how much of myself to share and in what way. I did not want this to be entirely a memoir about my own experience but I did think that it was important to share that story in detail. I wanted to be honest but not self-pitying. Finding that voice was a little bit tough. In the end I decided to write the book much like I write my blog – just casually talking to my reader. I found that it worked for me and I hope it works for the readers!
The other thing is just that the length of a project like this is tough in many ways. You sit there isolated at your computer and even though you’ve written 100 pages you aren’t anywhere near done. There’s no instant gratification. There is a lot of self-doubt. There is a lot of writer’s block to contend with. I’ve been writing long enough to know how to work through that but it’s never easy!
UC: What was the development process like for this book? How did you find the other people you profile and encourage them to share their personal experiences in your book?
Kathryn: In the beginning I just started by creating an outline of topics that I personally thought crochet might help in healing and that I wanted to learn more about. I started with my own story because I think that’s where all good writing begins. Then I began doing basic research (thanks Google) to start getting new ideas about the topics on my outline. So, for example, I knew I wanted to cover the topic of how crochet can help with anxiety so I did a bunch of searches into that to start fleshing out that chapter.
In the meantime, I did a few posts here and there on my blog about health-related topics. The response I received was terrific and really encouraged me to keep going with my research. I put out a few “calls for stories” on the blog. At first I really had no idea how I would use those stories other than just for getting ideas about what else to include in the book or maybe pulling a few quotes for chapters I’d already identified as interesting me. But then the stories I received were so incredibly powerful that I knew that they needed to be told in full.
Women were responding to my calls for stories and telling me really intimate, personal, difficult details about their lives. I felt like it was my responsibility to honor that and find the best way to share their stories in a way that celebrated their strength while conveying the role that crochet played in helping them to heal.
I had about a dozen stories from those calls on my blog but since they were now going to be such a key part of the book I knew I needed more. That was when I started putting out calls for specific topics, to help cover areas of the book that I didn’t have enough material for. So for example I put out messages on Twitter asking if anyone wanted to share their stories about using crochet as a pain management tool.
In a few cases, I actually found specific people who had blogged about a topic and reached out to them individually to see if they wanted to share their stories. Of course, some did and some didn’t. My whole approach to this process was believing that the stories that were meant to be told right now would be the ones that came forth. I made sure everyone had the right to choose how much personal detail to share, whether or not to share their real names, etc. I wanted to respect that everyone is in different stages of healing and should tell their story from that place. I hope I did a good job of that!
UC: This is your second self-published book. Can you tell us about the experience of self-publishing? Do you have any advice for those of us who are considering self-publishing?
Kathryn: Yes! In 2011 I put out my booklet of articles about cool elderly women who crochet. That was mostly a test run to see how I liked self-publishing through Amazon’s CreateSpace tool. At the time I was still really undecided about whether or not to get a traditional publisher but the experience of self-publishing was so positive for me that it clinched it for me that I’d self-publish. I honestly believe it’s the best option for most writers today. You get to retain your rights, make many decisions for yourself about the entire process, collect more in royalties (usually), etc. and as a solopreneur that is all really important to me.
I have two pieces of advice for people who want to self-publish. First is to surround yourself with experts to help you in the process. I worked with a really great photographer for my book cover and she did images that I just never would have gotten on my own. And it’s a bit tangential but I have a really great web/tech guy who helps me keep my blog running right. If I didn’t have him, I would have spent tons and tons of time trying to keep the blog’s problems at bay (he helped in particular with a big issue I had with my web host) and I wouldn’t have had the time/energy to get the book out on schedule. Other professionals that a writer may want to work with include editors, marketing people, and interior layout designers.
The other thing is that you have to be willing to play many different roles to successfully self-publish. I needed to treat this like a creative work, almost a piece of art, as I was making it. And yet, I needed to be my own taskmaster and manager, insisting on maintaining a schedule to keep it on track. And now that it’s out, I can’t think of it as a creative work anymore, because then the critiques would be too emotionally tough to bear, so now I need to switch gears and think of it as a product I’m trying to sell to the right people. But still, it’s my baby and to promote it I need to stay genuine to its creative intent. So you just go back and forth a lot, utilizing different skills. I think if you aren’t prepared to do that then self-publishing can be really, really tough.
Practically speaking I think that the CreateSpace tool is a really good one. It was easy to understand. It affords you a lot of control but there is an online community there to support you with questions and help. There are other options (Lulu, Blurb) and I don’t know a lot about them but my experience with CreateSpace has been really positive.
UC: Your blog has some new features since I last interviewed you. What are some of your current and upcoming Crochet Concupiscence projects?
Kathryn: I am running two regular series right now that I’m really enjoying. And the first is one that I know you enjoy as well – my articles about the crochet designers from the 1970s! Each Wednesday I take a look back at the work of a crochet artist who emerged around the early 1960s. I explore the work they did at the time, the boundaries that they were pushing in the fiber art world, etc. Then I try to find out what they’ve been up to since. A large number of them are still creating art today, although it’s often not crochet art anymore, and it’s fun to see how their careers have gone over time. These people really contributed a lot to the growth of crochet, making it the craft we know today, and I think it’s not only interesting but important to honor them for that. (UC comment: Yes, it’s true, I’m completely addicted to this series since I love vintage crochet!)
The other regular series is my Designer Crochet Series where I take a look at a famous fashion designer each Thursday and see if there is any crochet in their collections. This is a yearlong project and I’m about halfway through it. I actually haven’t gotten a lot of feedback on this one so I don’t know if people are enjoying it as much as I am but it’s something I really love doing. (UC comment: I’m always amazed by all of the pictures you find for each of these posts!)
And finally I’ve recently begun to take a strong interest in crochet blogs published in other languages so I’ve been doing some posts sharing my favorites. People who are interested in that can start by checking out my posts on Spanish Crochet Blogs but I’ve also covered Italian, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Finnish and a few others.
UC: You do a lot to support the crochet community through your blog and other social media outlets. Do you have any suggestions for crocheters who are interested in being more involved in the online crochet community?
Kathryn: Thanks! I love being a part of the crochet community. My best advice is to be available everywhere but active in only your favorite spots. So for example people who want to can find me through Ravelry, Hookey, Etsy, and a whole bunch of other places because I do make myself available there. However, I’m only super active on Twitter and Pinterest, and to a lesser extent G+ and now Facebook. Facebook was a compromise for me because I’ve never really liked the format there but so many people wanted to see a Crochet Concupiscence Facebook page that I felt like it was important to get more active there.
My point here is that you want people to be able to connect with you but you don’t want to burn yourself out by trying to keep up with all of the latest social sites. Find the ones that you really enjoy. (UC comment: I think this is great advice. I try to focus my time on the sites that I enjoy using the most!) I like Twitter because for me it’s a place where it’s easy to have quick conversations with many different people. Plus I like participating in TweetChats, such as Crochet Chat, which is the first Wednesday of every month. I like Pinterest because of the visual beauty of it; I truly enjoy spending time there. And I like the G+ format for finding and sharing information. I enjoy those so I spend time there. I spend less time on the sites I enjoy less because if you’re not having fun with the community then what’s the point! I also want to give a shoutout to Hookey here – I haven’t spent nearly enough time on it myself (only so many hours in a day) but whenever I’m there I find a really great crochet community so anyone who is looking for a new place to start finding some great online connections would do good for themselves to try there.
I also really encourage people to comment on my blog and even to email me. I like the one on one connection of really getting to know people.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Kathryn, and for sharing your tips with us!