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 Tamara Kelly from Moogly

I can’t believe the last day of March is already here! I had so much fun celebrating National Crochet Month, and I’m happy to end the festivities with an interview with crochet designer and blogger, Tamara Kelly.

You may know Tamara from her blog, Moogly, or from crocheting one of the more than 130 designs she has published since 2008. Besides her blog, you can also find her online on Ravelry (as tamarairene or on her designer page), on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on Twitter as @mooglyblog.

All photos are used with permission and are copyright Tamara Kelly unless otherwise noted.

This post contains affiliate links.

Tamara Bio Photo 2013

Tamara Kelly. Photo (c) RSH Photography.

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

Tamara: I tried to teach myself in my early twenties from a pamphlet I’d picked up at a craft store – what a disaster! And it didn’t help that I’d decided on a super fuzzy chunky boucle and a Tunisian hook (not that I knew the difference). I set it aside, thinking crochet wasn’t for me, until a few years later. At that point I’d gained a baby, as well as a sister-in-law who’d been crocheting for years. She showed me how to chain and single crochet, and in those 5 minutes I was “hooked!” I taught myself the rest from a stitch dictionary, and crochet quickly became my favorite craft!

Rainbow in the Clouds Pillow

Rainbow in the Clouds Pillow.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Tamara: I made many projects from other people’s patterns, but I often found I was making my own changes and improvements. When I started doing commission crochet work, other crocheters asked me to share my patterns – and I found I liked the design side better! With designing, I get to crochet what I want, when I want it, and never have to make the same thing twice if I don’t want to.

Riley Cross Body Bag

Riley Cross Body Bag.

UC: You self-publish all of your work. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing?

Tamara: The advantage is definitely control – I love being my own boss! All my deadlines are ones I set, and if I need to take a week off, or scrap an idea completely, or change directions, there’s no one telling me no. The challenge is not having a team – people to bounce ideas off of, people who are media and promotion experts. Luckily, I’ve been able to join a community of other crochet bloggers, and we support each other and help each other out.

Moroccan Midnight Cowl

Moroccan Midnight Cowl.  (Tamara also designed a matching pair of fingerless mitts and slouch hat.)

UC: You’ve undergone a few transformations online – from a mommy blogger, to a maker, to a designer/blogger. How did you make the decision to focus on designs, and then to offer your patterns free on your blog?

Tamara: I love new challenges, and I love being my own boss. When I tried mommy blogging, I got bored – it just wasn’t for me. When I started taking commission work, I loved getting paid for my hobby, but I didn’t love making the same things over and over again – and suddenly I had a whole bunch of bosses, with their own unique demands! When I design, I design for myself, for my kids, to my own tastes. I always love what I’m doing, and I think that that’s what comes through on the blog! I decided to make most of my patterns free, for several reasons. During the 10 years I spent crocheting as a hobby, free patterns were almost all I could afford. Additionally, I have a husband who works in the advertising field, so that model was familiar to me. By having ads on my blog, I’m able to provide free patterns, and give back to the community, while still earning a much needed income for my family – everybody wins! And that makes me happy.

Easter Lily

Easter Lily (November Lily).

UC: Do you see yourself primarily as a blogger, designer, or publisher, or do you wear all three hats equally?

Tamara: Definitely a blogger and a designer – and blogging and social media certainly take more actual hours of the day… but I’m always designing in the back of my head at the same time. I crochet in my sleep! Publishing is a side effect of running a blog I suppose, but it’s not something I think about too much. I just love putting together a great blog and fun patterns, and sharing them with others!

Circle of Love Afghan

Circle of Love Afghan.

UC: What tips or advice do you have for emerging crochet bloggers?

Tamara: Keep it positive, and be true to yourself and your own voice. Don’t worry too much about what will “sell” – share the things you love, and let that love show. Be generous with your time and talents, and find like-minded bloggers to network with. If you have a question, someone else has likely had it too!

Wavy Baby Blanket

Wavy Baby Blanket.

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

Tamara: Hands down my favorites have to be my stitch dictionaries. I have big ones, little specialized ones, and I hope to get some Japanese ones soon! The Harmony Guides 300 Crochet Stitches Volume 6 is what taught me how to read a pattern, how to read charts, and what amazing things crochet can do! (UC comment: This is one of my favorites, too, because it is so thorough. I’m also a stitch dictionary junkie, and you can see my reviews of this book and 20+ other crochet stitch guides here.) It is sadly out of print, so I had my copy specially spiral bound to preserve it. I still use it regularly!

Magic Spike Mandala Square

Magic Spike Mandala Square.

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

Tamara: So many! Ravelry is a great go-to of course, as well as The Yarn Box and All Free Crochet. I visit dozens of other crochet blogs every week, including Stitch 11, Repeat Crafter Me, Petals to Picots, Fiber Flux, The Crochet Lounge… and so many more!

Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket

Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket.

UC: What plans do you have for the rest of 2014?

Tamara: There’s so many exciting things happening this year – not all of which I can talk about yet! I’m always planning new crochet and yarn related giveaways – and I love promoting small businesses that might be interested in giveaways, including other designers, indie yarn dyers, hook makers, you name it! Also in 2014, I’m leading the Moogly Afghan Crochet-a-Long, where we crochet a different 12″ square every 2 weeks from now until November – that will give us enough for a 4′ x 6′ afghan at the end of the year, and the month of December to put it all together in time for gift giving! It’s not too late to join up, and it’s all free. (UC comment: There’s an unofficial Moogly Afghan CAL 2014 group started by fans on Ravelry, too.)

Thanks for stopping by for an interview, Tamara! 

Interview: Dora Ohrenstein, Crochet Designer and Author

This post contains affiliate links.

Today’s interview is with fellow New Yorker, Dora Ohrenstein.  Dora is the publisher of the Crochet Insider ezine; a designer whose work has appeared in Crochet!, Crochet Today!, Crochet World, Interweave Crochet, and Vogue Knitting Crochet, among other publications; the author of Creating Crochet Fabric, Custom Crocheted Sweaters (reviewed here), and The New Tunisian Crochet (reviewed here); and a crochet teacher.  Along with Gwen Blakley Kinsler, Dora is also the co-editor of Talking Crochet, which recently won Crochet Concupiscence‘s Awesome Crochet Blogger Award for Best Crochet Newsletter.

You can find Dora online at the Crochet Insider website or on Ravelry (as crochetinsider, on her designer page, and in the Crochet Insider group).  All images are used with permission.

Dora Ohrenstein

Dora Ohrenstein.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?

Dora: When I was about 20, I lived in Amsterdam on a tiny little houseboat. It was the Age of Aquarius and everyone was getting crafty. I learned to crochet and since I had no background whatsoever, I just started making clothes without knowing what I was doing. But then I totally stopped for literally decades. I became a professional singer and that consumed all my time. I didn’t pick up the hook again until early in this millenium.

Shawled Collar Tunic

Shawled Collar Tunic from Custom Crochet Sweaters.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Dora: I wasn’t performing much by that time, and needed a creative outlet. I made a few sweaters and went to a CGOA conference, where I met Jean Leinhauser. She and Rita Weiss liked my stuff and bought several sweater designs for their books. Then Jean taught me how to write patterns, since I’d never followed one!  (UC comment: Dora has a wonderful interview with Jean here.)

new tunisian crochet

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Dora: So many places! Sometimes it’s a fashion silhouette, sometimes a yarn or stitch. I keep many swatches lying around and then one day I find the right project for them. I’ve also learned that once you’re a pro, you can’t sit around and wait for inspiration to hit, you have to be generating ideas constantly. I would also say my motivation often comes from wanting to continually grow as a designer, try new techniques and strategies in my work.

Kerala Tank c Crochet Today

Kerala Tank.  Image (c) Crochet Today!

UC: Tell us about your motivation for launching Crochet Insider. What are some of the challenges and joys of publishing an online crochet magazine?

Dora: I haven’t really been publishing Crochet Insider as a magazine for a couple of years, it was just too much work once my design career really got going. But I loved doing it because of meeting and talking to so many interesting people. Challenges: it took huge number of hours and did not earn much, so it couldn’t continue indefinitely. There is still a lot of great content at the site and I wish more aspiring designers would read the interviews, because there is so much to learn.  (UC comment: Besides the Crochet Insider interview with Jean Leinhauser I linked above, two of my other favorites are this one with Vashti Braha and this one with Myra Wood.)

#15 Lace Pullover c Vogue Knitting

#15 Lace Pullover.  Image (c) Vogue Knitting.

UC: Your books place a lot of emphasis on teaching techniques and skills, along with the inclusion of patterns. Tell us about your decision to work this way rather than through pattern collections or historical work, which you’re also known for.

Dora: Many of these decisions are economic. I would love to publish a book on crochet history, but can’t afford to do so without a publisher. But no publishers wants such a book, because it will not sell in the numbers they need to be profitable. It’s sad but true. I try to get as much history into my books as they will tolerate. Hey, I’d love to go around the world and make film about crochet traditions, but again, where’s the funding? Publishers have been interested in my books that combine good designs with educational material, and I love teaching and empowering, so that works for me. In addition to being a designer, I teach singing and have for many years, so teaching comes naturally to me.

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt c Tension Magazine

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt.  Image (c) Tension Magazine.

UC: You design mostly women’s garments and accessories. What appeals to you about designing wearables?

Dora: This comes back to my background in crochet, or the total lack of it! I never was exposed to afghan making, thread crochet, or any of those fine American traditions. My parents were WWII immigrants and craftiness was not their heritage. I live in NYC and never had the chance to shop at big box stores, which didn’t even exist here until a few years ago. I do love fashion and had discovered for myself that crochet could make great wearables. It was shocking to encounter the yarn industry’s negativity about crochet wearables. So I’ve been very motivated to change that viewpoint with my work. And I’m in some very fine company there of course.



UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including designer, writer, teacher, publisher, and social networker/community builder. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?

Dora: I would say to aspiring designers, don’t be naive about this industry – it’s very tough to make money, very competitive, and takes tremendous perseverance and drive. I’ve done all these things to build my career and earn money. And I enjoy all of them too. But I’d be happy to restrict my activities and lead a more sane life if it were possible.

Ariadne Scarf

Ariadne Scarf from Creating Crochet Fabric.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books (besides yours, of course) in your collection?

Dora: The books I bought when I started getting serious, about 10 years ago, are still my favorites. They are “vintage” ’70s and ’80s books by designers like Jacqueline Henderson, Sylvia Cosh, James Walters, Judith Copeland. (UC comment: I love those books, too!  I shared several from my collection in my Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week series.)  I adore Japanese pattern books, and the Ukrainian magazine Duplet — I stocked up on about 100 magazines when I visited the Ukraine! I also use stitch dictionaries, any I can get my hands on, including the huge Linda Schapper book, the old Harmony Guides, and Japanese stitch dictionaries.

UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community?

Dora: Pinterest and Etsy – lots of great inspiration. And Ravelry!

UC: What’s coming next for you?

Dora: I have a crochet reference book coming out in the fall of 2014 by Storey Publishing. The working title is The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Handbook. They are fantastic publishers, I’m very excited about it. A reference book not just for beginners but for intermediate crocheters too, with lots of information on working stitch patterns, shaping, construction, colorwork, and flexible tension. What I mean by the latter is the ability to control tension so you can really sculpt stitches.

Crochet Insider will get a facelift soon and I will be enlarging my indie pattern line and store at the site. I also plan to develop video classes, sort of like Craftsy, but as an indie venture so I can go direct to students.

Thanks for stopping by, Dora!