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Interview with Andrea Sanchez (Hispanic Heritage Month series)

HMM Andrea Sanchez

As part of my Hispanic Heritage Month series, I’m excited to share an interview today with Andrea Sanchez, the (mostly) knitting designer behind Andrea Sanchez Knits. In addition to her self-published patterns, Andrea’s work has been published by Holla Knits, Interweave Knits, Petite Purls, and Interweave Crochet.

Andrea is also a blogger whose work can be found on her own blog, Life on Laffer, as well as on the Craftsy blog. You can also find Andrea online on Ravelry (as peatmoss83 or on her designer page), on Facebook, on Instagram, and as @andrea_knits on Twitter. All images are used with Andrea’s permission. Click the pattern images to be brought to the Ravelry pattern page.

This post contains affiliate links.

Interview with Andrea Sanchez, knitting designer and blogger, on Underground Crafter

Andrea Sanchez, in her Adult Tide Pools knitting pattern. Image (c) Marianne Barta.

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

Andrea: My mom taught me to crochet first. I was about 19 and in college. We were having a lazy winter Saturday and I asked her to teach me to crochet because I had decided I wanted to make my own blanket. She made me promise that If she bought the yarn I’d actually start and finish the blanket. I’ve always had a kind of will o’ the wisp attitude towards learning new crafty things. But I learned and finished that afghan. It turned out to be about a queen size and I still use it every year. The following winter she tried to teach me to knit (with worsted weight yarn on long, metal needles, size US10.5!) and that lasted all of about half an hour. I was really frustrated and gave up.

I moved to Ohio in 2007 and in 2009 I was working for a woman who crocheted. She introduced me to Interweave Crochet magazine. I was looking though it one day and found an ad for Ravelry. I joined up and was amazed at all the crochet and knit projects. I joined a swap and my swap partner sent me a pattern for a bulky knit scarf and 2 skeins of Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande. I was so excited to have my own knit scarf I ran out that same night and bought the correct sized needles (bamboo this time) and spent the rest of the night watching YouTube videos and trying to work the first two inches of that scarf but finally figured it out. A week later I had my first scarf and I never looked back!

Interview with Andrea Sanchez, knitting designer and blogger, on Underground Crafter

Beech Street Vest knitting pattern. Image (c) Holla Knits.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Andrea: Before my son was born I started looking for some sweater patterns to make. I found that there just isn’t a big selection of sweater patterns that are more modern for little boys. I had an idea of what i wanted to knit for him and just couldn’t find the pattern. I realized that I had knit a lot of sweaters and I knew how the construction of one worked so I did a swatch and decided to give it a try. I submitted the idea to Petite Purls, it was accepted and that was the Navajo Pullover. After that, every time I had an idea of a sweater for him I just gave the idea a try on my own and that’s how I got started.

Interview with Andrea Sanchez, knitting designer and blogger, on Underground Crafter

Adult Navajo Pullover knitting pattern. Image (c) Marianne Barta.

UC: You primarily design knit projects, with an emphasis on clothing for children and women. What do you enjoy about this type of project?

Andrea: I am very much a product knitter, meaning I’m in it for the finished products. Plenty of times I have started a sweater already knowing where I plan on wearing it or what I want to wear it with. With designing, I have found myself making things that I want to wear right away. I also really enjoy making sweaters for my son. Knowing my knitting is keeping him warm that makes me feel happy. After the successful design of the first Christmas sweater (Little Fisher Pullover) I told my husband that I would make our son a sweater for Christmas forever. So far he’s only had two Christmas’s to knit for, but I love that this is going to become our tradition. I’m already in the planning and swatching phase of the Christmas Sweater 2014.

Interview with Andrea Sanchez, knitting designer and blogger, on Underground Crafter

Pugsley knitting pattern. Image (c) Andrea Sanchez.

I also tend to design mostly sweaters, because I’m a sweater knitter at heart. I love socks and accessories, but there’s something about seeing all the pieces of a sweater come together and be wearable that just gives me a lot of satisfaction.

UC: In addition to writing your own blog, Life on Laffer, you’re also a blogger for Craftsy. What tips do you have for new and emerging bloggers?

Andrea: Just write about what you enjoy. I started blogging a few months after I started knitting. I was so excited to be learning and making new projects that I wanted to share it with everyone! I try to share my real knitting life because I think that makes me (as a blogger) more relatable, instead of just sharing all my perfect finished pieces. Obviously, I share finished objects, but also the time my dog chewed the toe off my first pair of handknit socks, and when I had to rip and reknit the body of a sweater twice because I chose the wrong size. I didn’t want people to read my blog and think my life was so perfect and I crank out all these knitted things. In reality my kitchen and laundry is often neglected so I can knit instead, and occasionally there are dogs getting tangled in yarn and projects.

Interview with Andrea Sanchez, knitting designer and blogger, on Underground Crafter

Sardines knitting pattern. Image (c) Marianne Barta.

UC: Tell us about your cultural background. What was the yarn crafts scene like in your community when you were growing up? How does that compare with the current scene in Ohio?

Andrea: I am Mexican on my mother’s side. Her father immigrated to California, where I grew up, when he was 16. My father’s family is from Spain and they came to California many generations ago, back during Spanish mission days before California received statehood.

My grandmothers on all sides crocheted while I was growing up (lots of doilies!) but it was never the thing. My mother learned to crochet at school and I don’t remember any of my cousins doing it. I also wasn’t very into to crocheting when I loved there. Other than my starter blanket, I made one other blanket and that was it. In Ohio, I found that “making” made me feel more Midwestern! I joined a Stitch ‘n Bitch group right away and have found a really vibrant group of crafters. I have a good friend who is a true maker, from food to household items, to much more. I love being a part of this group of so many talented women. Our town also hosts many craft fairs and has some great locally handmade shops.

Interview with Andrea Sanchez, knitting designer and blogger, on Underground Crafter

Midwinter Cardigan knitting pattern. Image (c) Marianne Barta.

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

Andrea: As an adult I’ve felt that I kind of missed out on having a strong Hispanic culture. My family is very assimilated to mainstream American culture so I feel like I have to make my own culture resurgence. Learning to cook was one of the things that has helped me feel a connection to my heritage. I grew up eating excellent Mexican food but never really learned to cook on my own. I taught myself to make tamales and now that’s something that I do every winter. I want my son to have a good connection to his cultural heritage and I feel like that’s going to come from my own connection to it.

Interview with Andrea Sanchez, knitting designer and blogger, on Underground Crafter

Mustill knitting pattern. Image (c) Marianne Barta.

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

Andrea: My favorite would have to be Knitting Without Tears. It was one of the first books I received as a new knitter and the one that I have referred to most frequently. That Elizabeth Zimmermann sure knew her stuff!

Heirloom Baby Knits

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

Andrea: I have quite a few blogs in my blog roll that I visit as often as I can but I have been really into knitting podcasts lately. My new favorite is Curious Handmade. She is also a designer and has small children so I often feel like I can relate. I’m also a regular listener of The Knitmore Girls, The Doubleknit Podcast, and Knitting Pipeline. (UC comment: I love podcasts, too, and they let me crochet and knit while listening. And, I’ve recently launched my own podcast, the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show.)

UC: Do you have any upcoming projects to share?

I have a few new patterns that will be released with various companies this fall, as well as some set for late spring publication. It’s amazing how far in advance one can work when designing knitwear! I am also working on a knitwear book which makes me immensely proud, excited, and terrified all at the same time. It’s quite an undertaking and still has quite a way to go before being published.

Thank you for stopping by, Andrea, and best wishes for success with your book project!

Interview with Melissa Martinez (Hispanic Heritage Month Series)

Interview with Melissa Martinez (Acts of Knittery) on Underground Crafter blog.

Today, I’m continuing my Hispanic Heritage Month series with an interview with Melissa Martinez, the knitting and crochet designer and maker behind Acts of Knittery Designs. Like me, Melissa grew up in New York City, but she has since moved to Philadelphia. Melissa’s patterns have been self-published as Acts of Knittery, as well as by Classic Elite and Made in America Yarns.

Melissa can be found online on her website/blog, Ravelry (as ActsofKnittery, on her designer page, or in the Acts of Knittery Designs group), Ebay, FacebookAmazonCraftsyPinterest, and Twitter. All images are copyright Acts of Knittery Designs and are used with permission. Click on pattern images to be brought to the Ravelry page.

This post contains affiliate links.

Interview with Melissa Martinez (Acts of Knittery) on Underground Crafter blog.

Melissa Martinez

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

Melissa: My grandmother first taught me as a young child. I started learning crochet first and then went on to learn knitting shortly after that.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Melissa: I had sold finished knit and crochet accessories on both eBay and Etsy for several years. Customers would often ask me if I had patterns available as well. I figured why not start writing them down and selling the patterns.

Interview with Melissa Martinez (Acts of Knittery) on Underground Crafter blog.

Shrubbery, a knit shawlette pattern by Acts of Knittery Design.

UC: You design a lot of hats and shawls. What do you enjoy about those projects?

Melissa: I love how quick they are and also how most don’t require a lot of yarn (or time) to make. I also love how a relatively small accessory can make such a big impact and really transform a whole outfit and your look.

Interview with Melissa Martinez (Acts of Knittery Design) on Underground Crafter blog.

An Ounce of Flounce, a knit scarf pattern by Acts of Knittery Design.

UC: The photos for your self-published patterns have a very consistent (branded) look. Do you take your own photographs or do you use the same photographer? How did you develop your photographic style?

Melissa: Thanks so much for that compliment! I take all of the photos myself. I guess I’ve had lots of practice with shooting product photos for when I sold on Etsy and Ebay. I just try to make sure there’s adequate light coming in from the window (natural light is definitely the best) and then when I crop my photos I try to not have all of them exactly centered. I think that adds a bit of interest.

Interview with Melissa Martinez (Acts of Knittery Design) on Underground Crafter blog.

Mesh Cowl with Flower, a crochet pattern by Acts of Knittery Design.

UC: You sell your finished objects on Ebay and individual patterns on Amazon. What do you see as the pros and cons of selling on websites that get a lot of traffic but aren’t focused on the needlecrafts?

Melissa: I think that selling on these large marketplaces definitely helps to expose your products to an entirely new audience. There may be a lot of potential customers who are looking for a hand knit item or pattern and have only heard of the major online sites Ebay and Amazon. On the other hand, I find that most of the time these customers may not be fully aware about how long it actually takes to make an item, the quality of yarn used and the great attention to detail that goes into a handmade item. A lot of people on Ebay are just looking for bargains and you can’t really blame them. On Amazon, I find that some of the more classic or generic patterns sell well but not the truly unique. That’s one area where sites devoted exclusively to the needlecrafts such as Ravelry and Craftsy excel, since customers already have more of an appreciation for hand crafted goods and unique patterns.

Interview with Melissa Martinez (Acts of Knittery Design) on Underground Crafter blog.

Wyvern Scarf, a knit pattern by Acts of Knittery Design.

UC: Your parents are Argentinian with Spanish and Italian roots, but you grew up in my hometown of New York City. What was the yarn crafts scene like in your family and community when you were growing up? How does that compare with the current scene in Philadelphia?

Melissa: My grandmother was always knitting something and she made the most amazing knit onesies for babies I had ever seen. She would actually go out and sell them on consignment at a few local stores. My mom is also an avid knitter and crocheter. She is very DIY (do it yourself) and I think that’s where I get it from. She would sew clothes for me and my siblings growing up, bake her own bread, etc. There were a few craft stores and fabric stores that sold yarn in Queens where I grew up but when I had discovered the yarn shops in Manhattan, or “the City” as us native New Yorkers call it, I was completely blown away and my yarn addiction took on a life of its own. I really like the yarn shops in Philly as well.  (UC comment: You can read my yarn shop reviews from my trip to Philly here.) The people are really friendly here and extremely helpful. One of the yarn shops here is actually owned by a New York transplant like myself. I hope to personally get more involved in the local scene soon. Most of the time I feel like I’m the only one I know who knits. I guess I need to get out more, lol.

Interview with Melissa Martinez (Acts of Knittery Design) on Underground Crafter blog.

Chai Beanie, a knitting pattern by Acts of Knittery Design.

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

Melissa: I don’t often think about, this but I guess it does. I think it’s more of the fact that previous generations and other cultures place a greater value on crafts and handmade things. I see it almost as carrying on a tradition in some ways. The only other thing I can think of is that I do adore using vibrant color when I design a piece so maybe my cultural background sneaks in that way.

Interview with Melissa Martinez (Acts of Knittery Design) on Underground Crafter blog.

Northern Belle Cloche, a knitting pattern by Acts of Knittery.

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

I only have three right now. Two were lent to me by my mom and I sort of just kept them with me but she can always have them back if she ever needs them: Big Book of Knitting Stitch Patterns by Sterling Publishing Co. and Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Crochet (UC comment: reviewed here). The third book I purchased myself when I seriously started thinking about designing: The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design by Shannon Okey (UC comment: reviewed here). This last book has really helped shine the light on so many questions I had about becoming a designer. I was truly clueless and this book helped me so much. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to follow a similar path.

Interview with Melissa Martinez (Acts of Knittery Design) on Underground Crafter blog.

Cloche Hat with Two Flowers, a crochet pattern by Acts of Knittery Design.

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

Melissa: I love Design Sponge even though it’s mostly geared toward interior design. Rena Tom has some cool business tips at times, Tara Swiger is absolutely wonderful and really understands what it’s like to be a creative entrepreneur. I also enjoy reading your blog. :) I wish I did follow more blogs, especially Spanish language ones. I’m always open to suggestions.

Thank you so much for taking the time for the interview, Melissa, and for your kind words about my blog!

Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Interview Series Roundup

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.)

 

Karla Sandoval

Karla Sandoval, the Mexican crochet designer behind Cute Little Crafts.

Marisa Munoz al-abrigo

Marisa Munoz, the Spanish knitwear designer behind al abrigo.

Cristina Mershon

Cristina Mershon, a Galician expat crochet designer.

Monica Rodriguez Fuertes

Monica Rodriguez Fuertes, the Spanish crochet, knitting, and sewing designer and co-owner of Hand Made Awards.

Daniela Montelongo

Daniela Montelongo, the Mexican crafter behind Pompon’s Party.

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Ruth Garcia-Alcantud, the Spanish expat knitting designer, teacher, and tech editor, also known as rock+purl.

Karen Abarca

Karen Abarca, the Mexican-American crafter behind Knit By Pearl.

Diana Rivera

Diana Rivera, the Puerto Rican/Colombian-American fiber artist behind Arte y Poemas.

Teresa Alvarez

Spanish crochet designer, Teresa Alvarez.

Cirilia Rose Harpa

Cirilia Rose, a Mexican/Irish/Italian-American knitting designer, author, and creative director, also known as bricoleur knits.

Paula Prado

Paula Prado, the Chilean yarnie behind De Origen Chile.

Celia Abejitas

Celia Diaz, the Spanish crochet designer behind Abejitas.

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.