Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to knit?
Ruth: My grandmother taught me when I was little. It’s the usual way, isn’t it?? I actually started with crochet first, I made a VERY long chain. I learnt to single crochet, double crochet, etc, on that chain. My grandmother cast on some stitches and I made a scarf with a lot of holes. I believe she still has it.Her tools now live with me – I got all her needles and her small table-top swift (about the size of a coffee tumbler when folded up!).
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Ruth: It was a synergy of sorts. I was about to become unemployed and I was disillusioned with the corporate world I’d been working in for 8 years. I had also cultivated great friendships with some dyers, LYS owners and spinners, which fed my creativity.When it came time to choose how I’d move on with my life, I thought I’d try my hand at designing, since my father has worked in fashion forever and I was always very art-inclined, mixed a bit of my mathematical skills and love for creation, et voila. I’m a full-time self-employed designer now. Not so bad!
UC: In addition to designing, you are also a tech editor and teacher. Can you talk more about how you got started and what you enjoy about these aspects of your work in the yarn industry?
Ruth: I started teaching on a small one-on-one scale in my town, as a way to boost up my income when I started designing. I love the “a-ha” moments when teaching people a special technique, or one of the tricks I’ve accumulated since I started knitting (like how I don’t twist my sts when casting on in the round!). I no longer take individual students, my timetable doesn’t allow it, but I’m teaching at shows and that proves very rewarding since the people are brand new every single time.
Tech editing started once I knew a lot more about pattern-writing and sizing. It needs a special set of skills – proof-reading, print-correcting, spelling and flow are just as important as accurate numbers. You need the spatial ability to “flip” things in your head, visualise the way things are constructed, and be able to anticipate how things can/may change. The eye for detail is crucial: one single number off can destroy an entire pattern.
UC: Your designs have been published by yarn companies, in books, in U.S. and U.K. magazines, and through rock+purl. Are you intentionally diversifying your publication venues, or has this just been happenstance?
Ruth: Oh, it’s absolutely intentional. I like to pick and mix, so to speak. The more publishers you try, the more you figure out whose style “gels” better with yours, while adapting to certain needs the publisher may try. I also like the thrill of trying to prepare a submission that I know in my heart will be selected. Rock & Purl is the avenue where anything goes, it’s my style, 100%.
UC: You’re originally from Spain. What was the yarn crafts scene like when you were growing up? How does that compare with today?
Ruth: Oh gosh, it’s SO different!!! I remember going to shops with my grandmother and the only thing they had was acrylic yarn and #5 crochet, coupled with intarsia-cowboy sweater patterns!! If you wanted to learn you were taught at home, and nobody “wanted” to learn, it was a “this is what you do in the summer” thing. Nowadays there’s small shops with oodles of European and American yarns, interesting blends, fashion-forward designs and classes to teach students from scratch. It’s a lot different.
UC: You’re currently living in West Sussex, UK. How would you compare the yarn crafting scene there with the current scene in Spain?
Ruth: I recently took some time to write an article for Yarn Market News, the industry-only magazine. I wrote about Valencia, my hometown. It’s a very cosmopolitan city with fantastic tucked-away corners and lots to discover. It’s the complete opposite of where I live now :).
West Sussex is a mostly-suburban county, with lots of green spaces, and small towns. Don’t get me wrong, I love it very much, the peace and quiet are fantastic for a job like mine, but sometimes I need the buzz of a city to kickstart some projects in my head. Craft-wise, Valencia has more shops and craft groups in the city centre than West Sussex has in its entire expansion.
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?
Ruth: I think so. There are certain “flavours” of Spanish culture and fashion that I apply to my designs. From fitting and styling to colour choice. I do, however, need to go for thicker garments in winter ;). Coming from a place which is decidedly almost-tropical to a place where summer lasts all of 2 weeks was a bit of a shock!
UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language knitting or craft blogs to share?
Ruth: Oh wow, let’s see.
I like reading Knitting Kninja. Her take on knitwear photography turned me into an analytical-eye kind of person!
Wasel Wasel is my friend Gemma and she’s super crafty, I love seeing her projects.
UC: What are you working on now?
Ruth: I’ve been so busy recently! My tech editing business has boomed, and my book is slowly but surely making progress. The pieces I’m creating for it are so special and carefully designed, I couldn’t even think I’d be able to make something like it.
I’ve also tried to keep steady releases so my customers and fans are kept happy: I released a Mystery Shawl with 2 different versions (Fallen Petals), a summer wrap-around top in a luxe blend (Mediterranean), a Fall-is-just-around-the-corner cowl (Chopped) and I’m working on a special holiday-themed sock ebook and KAL with my BFF Joeli where we will each show you Halloween and Christmas colourway socks, as well as a relaxing vanilla sock.
I’d strongly recommend you follow both of us on Instagram and Twitter for sneak previews of the colours and the looks of the socks :). (UC comment: Ruth’s Twitter and Instagram links are at the top of this post. You can find Joeli on Twitter here.)
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Ruth!
The next interview in the series will be posted on October 3 with Karen Abarca/knitbypearl.
Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Interview Series: Ruth Garcia-Alcantud from rock+purl