Interview with crochet designer, Juan Lopez, and crochet pattern roundup

Interview with #crochet designer, Juan Lopez/Los Hice Yo, and crochet pattern #roundup on Underground Crafter #HispanicHeritageMonth #HHMI’m sharing the seventh interview in this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month series with Juan Lopez, the emerging Spanish crochet designer and maker from Los Hice Yo. I’ll also be including a roundup of my 4 favorite crochet patterns from Juan’s collection!

This post contains affiliate links.

Juan can be found online on his website and blog, as well as on DaWanda, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Ravelry, and Twitter. All images are used with permission and are copyright Juan Lopez.

Interview with #crochet designer, Juan Lopez/Los Hice Yo, and crochet pattern #roundup on Underground Crafter #HispanicHeritageMonth #HHM
Funny Daisy, crochet pattern by Juan Lopez in English and Spanish.

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

Juan: Since I was a child, I’ve seen my grandmother crocheting. My mom crochets and knits as well, but I wasn’t interested inn that until I left my hometown and moved away to study at university. Being there, I needed to find a really original present for a birthday, and surfing on the internet, I found something called amigurumi. That awoke my interest, so I went to a yarn shop and purchased worsted weight yarn and a crochet hook, and I started from there.

Years later, I went into the knitting world. My mother, as I’ve said before, knits a lot (and she’s very talented), so I never needed to knit anything for myself (she always did). But I’m really enthusiastic about exploring new techniques, textures, and materials, so I started knitting as well in order to experiment with the resources that I could find around me.

When I got interested on this kind of hand craft, I started asking my mum how to make few things, but now she and my aunties are the ones asking me.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Juan: I’m not really different from any other crafter: I needed to create things that weren’t created yet, so I started experimenting on my own. Every single person who creates anything, designer or not, owns that kind of curiosity. My mind learns by understanding the process of doing anything, so with crocheting (and knitting), designing was a natural step when I couldn’t find a resource for something I had in mind. Most people just follow patterns, but I think that’s just because they don’t feel confident about taking that next step.

728x90OctoberBannerUC: What do you enjoy about designing amigurumi?

Juan: If you have a creative mind, you enjoy experimenting with shapes, textures, and colors. Being able to create something from a single thread, by using very simple tools, makes me feel great! I’m sure you all have heard about how to create your own amigurumi: you find an idea, draw it, start crocheting (undo your crochet many times), make a thousand photos for instagram during the whole process, and finally, your idea becomes something real.

What I really enjoy the most about designing is the whole process of reaching your target. When you start working on your project and watch how it grows, you feel you are doing it right. Even when I need to undo something that is not accurate, I don’t feel mad about that: it’s the best way of reaching a successful target.

Interview with #crochet designer, Juan Lopez/Los Hice Yo, and crochet pattern #roundup on Underground Crafter #HispanicHeritageMonth #HHM
Funny Cupcake, free crochet pattern by Juan Lopez in English and Spanish.

UC: Some of your patterns are available in both English and Spanish. What do you see as the challenges and benefits of writing bilingual patterns?

UC: To be honest, when I started crocheting, most of the interesting resources where in English (or other languages). That’s why the knowledge I got wasn’t in my native language. Being part of the international community, and sharing my work, made me write my patterns in English, but I also wanted to contribute as a resource in my own language, so that’s why my patterns are also in Spanish. The most challenging part was adapting the patterns to the way people use the patterns in each language, but most of the crucial information could be clarified by attaching photographs of the process, so the instructions are easy to follow. Writing bilingual patterns helps to reach much more people, and inspiring other people is what every designer dreams about.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Juan: Nowadays, information finds you wherever you are. We are 24/7 connected to using a window to the universe through the internet, an inescapable resource. Websites such as Pinterest, Ravelry, etc., are an endless source of inspiration. But I also got inspired by what I see while I travel, what I imagine while I read or what I dream about while I sleep. Inspiration will always find you if you don’t give up trying to find it.

CraftsyUC: What was the crochet and knitting scene like in Spain when you were growing up?

Juan: Knitting and crochet has always been a women thing. Making clothes with yarn, knitted or crocheted, was a cheap resource to get clothes. During my lifetime, knitwear been well seen and frowned upon many times. Crochet was relegated to the leisure of grannies, so they created authentic pieces of art very poorly regarded by contemporary decoration standards. Something flashy I remember is that most of those handmade items were really expensive. Because of new fashion and decoration trends, knitted and crocheted works nearly disappeared from the scene until last few years, when the designers started to include these kind of works in their collections. During that interval, a really huge knowledge has been lost. My grandmother crocheted, my mother knits and crochets, and so do I. I like to believe I keep alive part of that cultural legacy by doing what I do.

Interview with #crochet designer, Juan Lopez/Los Hice Yo, and crochet pattern #roundup on Underground Crafter #HispanicHeritageMonth #HHM
Royal Tulips, crochet pattern by Juan Lopez in English and Spanish.

UC: How does that compare to the yarn crafts scene in Andalucia today?

Juan: Nowadays everyone crafts! You can search  social networks and find millions of crafters everywhere. The same thing happens here in Andalucia. To avoid the massive production of many items, people have started looking for handmade ones. But that reborn interest contrasts a lot with what people prefer to pay for many of those handmade items.

The growing interest of these arts made the suppliers increase the different materials available in their catalogs, and having access to many new materials makes it easier for everyone interested in “becoming a crafter.” That’s why there is an growing amount of new websites related to the craft world.

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

Juan: Of course it does!! And I am really proud of that. When I was a child, I used to visit my grandmother when I went to play outside after school, and during the summer time she was always crocheting at the side of the main door of her house, at the street. That was quite common those days, and many of the yarn movements of today are inspired by those women who live their lives without any kind of complaining. I’m sure that growing up with that kind of spirit made me be a happy guy who is not worried about crocheting or knitting in public. About my designs, every single experience of my life is involved in the way I am now. When I created Royal Tulips, for example, it was for a very close friend who was moving to work in The Netherlands, and after that I designed the proper pattern to sell. I’m that kind of designer who likes to fulfill every single moment with a nice detail.

UC: What is your favorite crochet or knitting book in your collection?

Juan: Wow!! That’s a trap question, for sure! It’s hard to choose just one. Smelling a new book is one of those tiny pleasures I love of life. About crocheting, I have special affection for the Amigurumi Collection Japanese books. They taught me the main points for crocheting amigurumi, and you don’t even notice they are written in Japanese, because they are really clear. I bought some of the books when I traveled to Japan at a very amazing building full of any kind of craft item you could imagine. About knitting, I own many books as well, but I love the stitch guides: I find them so inspiring. At the moment, the one I use the most is Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary, but I’m waiting for the release of another one with nearly all the known stitches!

Interview with #crochet designer, Juan Lopez/Los Hice Yo, and crochet pattern #roundup on Underground Crafter #HispanicHeritageMonth #HHM
Funny Christmas Tree, crochet pattern by Juan Lopez in English and Spanish.

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

Juan: As I said before, I use Pinterest and Ravelry as an inspiration resource a lot. One of the advantages of these kind of websites is you can find many different people there, so it’s easy to get inspired by them without even noticing. Two of my closest friends here in Spain are El Duende de los Hilos and BertoRulez.

UC: Have you noticed any changes in the digital world?

Juan: It has really changed a lot! I started long ago, as I started crocheting, and it was really difficult to find any resources. Nowadays, everything you can imagine is a couple of clicks away. And there are really talented people using the internet, so it became an immeasurable giant, marvelous to get lost in!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Juan, and for sharing your work with us!

What’s your favorite pattern by Los Hice Yo? You can find a full listing of his designs on Ravelry.

Interview with Miren Torrealday from Ardilanak and knitting pattern roundup

Interview with knitting designer and yarnie Miren Torrealday from Ardilanak and knitting pattern roundup on Underground Crafter

I’m sharing the second in interview in this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month series with Miren Torrealday from Ardilanak. Miren is a knitting designer and yarnie who recently opened her own fiber studio (where she also teaches) in the Basque Country (Pais Vasco), Spain. Miren is also a sci fi nerd like me, and a huge fan of Star Wars. I’ll also be including a roundup of my 5 favorite knitting patterns from Miren”s collection!

Miren can be found online on her website, Ardilanak, as well as on Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, Ravelry, and Twitter. All images are used with permission are are copyright Ardilanak.

This post contains affiliate links.

Interview with knitting designer and yarnie Miren Torrealday from Ardilanak and knitting pattern roundup on Underground Crafter

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

Miren: I’m nearly a completely self-taught artisan. I learned the basics of knitting (casting on, kniting and purling) with my grandma, and basic crocheting with mum. Any other thing I can do with knitting needles is self taught vía the Internet.

Knitting led to spinning. I discovered lace knitting vía Ravelry and I needed lace yarn badly but in my small town it was unheard off. Internet was my go to place again and after some investigation and unexpected money income I bought a spindle, and two weeks latter the Kiwi was home.

I think that I started dyeing fiber at the same moment, out of curiosity again. Curiosity has allways been my driving urge.

ILK300x250bAugustBannersUC: What inspired you to start designing?

Miren: I’m not really good at following directions. I am prone to improvisation, to see were something takes me. It wasn’t difficult to start, after learning the basics, to include little lace details in my socks, or cables, or knitting that sweater but with my personal twist… Someday, someone form my knitting group, Euskadi Knits, asked for the pattern of some improvised mittens… and I started to write down what I was doing… and I ended up as an amateur designer.

My designing process can be chaotic. Most times, I’m not sure where I’m going. I do very little planned designing, I just start knitting and start taking notes. If the finished result is good, then it goes into pattern, if not… rip rip rip. I have this perverse love about ripping. Sometime around the middle of the knitting process the name for the garment pops up. I’m quite a bookworm so a great deal of my patterns have book related names.

UC: What inspired you start your own artisan yarn company?

Miren: It was… the next step, I think. I alredy had my studio, my patterns… I tend to design around my handspuns, and I sell them so it was logical. Some of my friends and customers who are on Ravelry wanted to link my yarn to their projects so I did it. The dyed range came a little later and I’m still working on it, it’s newer, although in the fingering sock and super bulky yarn range, it’s quite settled right now.

San Telmo, knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak) in English and Spanish.

UC: Although you also crochet, all of your patterns are for knitting. What do you enjoy about designing on the needles?

Miren: The freestyling that I use in my design process. As I said before, I tend to start not knowing where I’ll end… barring a few exceptions like my San Telmo Cowl. That was completely deliberate.

I also enjoy that uniquenes that designing your own things brings, and seeing how it can appeal to others. I really love seing the projects other people do with my patterns, it’s always thrilling.

UC: In 2014, you started your own fiber studio where you work and teach. What is that experience like for you creatively?

Miren: A blast. It’s a creative work, I have very creative students and my mom, one of the most creative persons I know, works there with me, so all in all we create a very creative enviroment and we do some crazy things now and again, but we enjoy it greatly. Now I spend nearly all my days thinking about yarn in some way or another.

Bolingua, free knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak) in English and Spanish.
Bolingua, free knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak) in English and Spanish. This design uses Ardilanak’s Superchunky yarn (available here on Etsy).

UC: What was the yarn crafts scene like in Pais Vasco when you were growing up?

Miren: I can’t tell for sure. From my perspective, knitting was something grandmas did when a little child was on it’s way. I only used to see these wee little baby things that didn’t appeal to me at all. I’ve learned to love to knit baby things a lot, but when I was young, it just didn’t click with me.

Expand Your Knitting SkillsColors were discreet and subdued and there were certain patterns and colors that were considered “how it was done.” You casted on this way, you binded off this other way, and knitting heterodoxy was frowned upon. This, I repeat, from my experiences and some looks and coments I received when I picked up knitting beyond my straight scarves. Some of the old generation still say that knitting with circulars is “cheating” (I’m still trying to figure out what kind of cheating).

I know that knitting has been a traditional craft in Euskadi, and the itchy big and rustic socks, Ardilanak, are part of the traditional clothing, but that was… rare when I was growing up, due to living in a city.

Dominika, free knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak).
Dominika, free knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak) in English and Spanish.

UC: How does that compare to the yarn crafts scene in Pais Vasco today?

MirenI think that there are layers. There is still the “traditional” scene, making a come back with some spinners and yarnies working with ardi latxa fiber. (UC comment: This fiber is from a breed of sheep native to the Basque region.)  There are still the grandmas making traditional baby things. And there are those who, thanks to the Internet, have discovered the enormously wide world that there is out there. Knitting is becoming trendy and more and more of the younger generation want to learn. There’s a growing interest and awareness of the traditional yarn process and some people like to buy exclusive yarns.

I think that there’s more to come. And it will be good. The crafting movement is strong around here.

Cuadricula, knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak).
Cuadricula, knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak) in English and Spanish.

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

Miren: Yes, and no. I have an artistic background in my family, and I’m a proud Basque, but I don’t have any spinners in my family and the knitters are more of the casual kind. I’m in love with soft and airy yarns and our traditional sheep breed. It’s just not soft — the name, latxa, is said to mean rough after all. I love to learn about traditional techniques, tools and things, but I don’t usually use them outside demonstrations. My outlook is not on revival. I’m more keen on innovation. I think that there are others more suited for this safekeeping of the tradition than myself.

Bag End's Door, knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak).
Bag End’s Door, knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak).

UC: What is your favorite yarn-related book in your collection?

Miren: I can get lost in The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius. I just love it and how comprehensive it is. I also use the Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson a lot, along with Wild Color and Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece. And I think I owe Abby Franquemont and her Respect the Spindle all the love in the world for the introduction in this amazing world of fiber and spinning things.

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

I really just lurk around Ravelry, and the Fiber Artists and Yarn Spinners Facebook group.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Miren, and sharing your work with us! What’s your favorite yarn by Miren? You can find the Ardilanak shop here on Etsy.

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!