Today’s Hispanic Heritage Month interview is with Teresa Alvarez, a Spanish crochet designer.  Teresa primarily self-publishes and last year had her first designs published in magazines.

Teresa can be found online on Ravelry (as teresacompras and on her designer page) and on Twitter.  All pictures are used with her permission and are copyright Teresa Alvarez unless otherwise noted.  Click on the pictures of the designs to link to the pattern pages.

Teresa Alvarez.
Teresa Alvarez.

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

Teresa: I suppose this is a classic answer: I was taught to crochet by my mum. I’d been watching my mum knitting jumpers for my sister and myself for several years and I was intrigued by how to transform a skein of yarn into something so different. Now, let’s relate this to the summer I learnt to crochet…

I’ve always lived in cities where you have all sorts of shops and amenities, but when I was a child, my family used to spend a month in a small (really small) village in Castille. Imagine for a 10 year old girl spending 30 days without friends, playing all day with her younger sister, running out of books and comics and no bike! Let’s say it was exciting to learn how the cereal crop was harvested or looking for ant’s nests, but … there was something missing for me. So, one afternoon we went walking to the neighboring village (even smaller than the one we were holidaying!) to visit one of my mother’s aunts, and there I saw a scene I will never forget: all the old ladies were sitting on chairs outside their houses chatting and knitting … no!!! they were not knitting, they were crocheting!!!

I was intrigued and I said: I want to learn, who can teach me, please? And that’s how it began. My mother taught me the basic stitches: single crochet, double crochet and a new world opened for me. The remaining weeks were spent crocheting dresses for my dolls and for my sister’s dolls and for my aunts’ dolls. In fact, my aunts have kept the dolls with the dresses and when I visit them, they show them to me.

Polka Dot Funky Bear.
Polka Dot Funky Bear.
Then, I stopped crocheting. At the age of 15, I decided I wanted to knit, so I spent the summer knitting, then, guess? I stopped until 11 years ago, when I was pregnant with my son: I decided I wanted a blanket, a very colorful blanket…so I picked up my needles again…and I didn’t finish the blanket before he was born. Two years later, my daughter was born and then I decided that I was going to crochet again. Why? Well, I wanted to make toys for them and bags for me…and a crochet hook is safer than a knitting needle (at least that is what I think!).
The only thing that saddens me is that my mum hasn’t seen what I’m doing now, because she passed away 8 years ago. I would like to let her know, that I would never forget what she taught me. Now that my girl is learning the basic stitches, I feel like I’m continuing with something beautiful, something that bonds generations and people from all ages. I’ve tried out with my boy, but he prefers football (soccer!).
Dotty, the Ladybug full of surprises.
Dotty, the Ladybug full of surprises.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Teresa: My way into the designing world is curious.  I’ve been up in Ravelry for some time. I uploaded my finished projects and I was delighted when someone favorited any of them. One day, I received a message from one guy working at Inside Crochet, asking if they could show one of the finished pieces in the reader’s section.  Of course, I agreed.

When I saw the photo in the printed magazine, I was so delighted that I said to myself: ‘Tere, you have ideas, write them down, upload them to Ravelry and see what happens.’

In my own way, I’m a creative person. I don’t paint or make sculptures, but I’m a computer engineer, I’m used to ‘creating’ programs to solve problems and to writing papers about computers and routers (‘boring stuff’). I think that writing down a pattern is more fun than writing about the Internet.

The next step was to send patterns to magazines. When Inside Crochet accepted the Vintage Granny Clutch, I was jumping like crazy! But it was even better when the Abracadabra Bag was accepted for publication. Call it the luck of the novice! But it was very gratifying.

Vintage Granny Clutch, published in Inside Crochet. Photo (c) All Craft Media.
Vintage Granny Clutch, published in Inside Crochet. Photo (c) All Craft Media.

UC: Most of your patterns are for toys and bags. What appeals to you about crocheting these items?

Teresa: When I re‐entered the world of crochet, my son was almost 3 years old, and his sister was a few months old (a chubby baby!!!). I bought Ana Paula Rimoli’s book of amigurumi and a grey elephant was born. After several toys, I gained enough confidence to make a dress for my daughter, and many projects later I felt it was time to write my own patterns.

It seemed logical to go for toys and bags: the toys had two avid children waiting for them,whereas the bags had a bagaholic wanting to wear them(myself!!!!). Moreover, I usually crochet while my children are doing their homework, so I need something that is not very complex because my abilities of multitasking are quite limited: going through multiplications, sums, orthography, and the water cycle is not very compatible with designing a dress. Moreover, if they see me crocheting a toy, I can blackmail them: finish the homework and then the doll/monster/fish… will be yours!

Abracadabra Bag, published in Interweave Crochet. Photo (c) Interweave Crochet.
Abracadabra Bag, published in Interweave Crochet. Photo (c) Interweave Crochet.
Most of the bags I design were made for me, although my sister usually ‘borrows’ them and I end up without them, which is a good incentive to design a new one. You know! A woman cannot have enough bags!
A flower toy called Rosita.
A flower toy called Rosita.

UC: Most of your current patterns are self-published. What do you enjoy about being a self-published designer? What are some of the challenges?

Teresa: Designing is a hobby for me.  My day job is at the University and I love it. I teach/lecture future Engineers, and research about congestion in Internet.  Although secretly I would like to be a full time designer, I’m not. Truly, I do not know if I should say I’m a designer…I see my patterns as a way of tidying up the ideas I have in my head.

Self‐publishing is faster and I can publish all the weird ideas I have. Some designs are better than others. I wouldn’t even dare to send one of my monsters to amagazine, but I like them and I like to share them. So, when Ravelers send me messages telling me they like this or that toy, it’s rewarding.

My self‐published patterns are free. I think I will go on like this, self‐publishing, and from time to time, publishing in a magazine. However, I have to reckon that a book full of my toys would be a dream come true!

Tunisian Cat Amigurumi.
Tunisian Cat Amigurumi.

UC: You’re originally from Gijon but now you live in Valladolid, Spain.  What was the yarn crafts scene like in Gijon when you were younger?  How does it compare to the current scene in Valladolid? 

Gijon and Valladolid are two middle size cities: there are around 300,000 inhabitants in Gijon and 400,000 in Valladolid. They are 240 km apart. The first is in the coast and the other almost in the center of Spain.  I was raised in Gijon. Thirty years ago, there were quite a few yarn shops in the city. Knitting was more fashionable than crochet. Crochet was made by grannies. The pieces were usually bedspreads and tablecloths in white using a very fine thread. No fantasy there!

However, my mum made some crocheted clothes for my dolls. Knitting was a different matter: scarves, pullovers, coats, jackets,… Maybe, times were different and knitting garments was at the same time fun and a necessity.  Slowly, yarn shops closed. Only those where the owners had a very good knowledge of knitting and crochet resisted the passage of time.  Nevertheless, the variety of yarns decreased. Now, I lived in Valladolid. My mother-in-law has told me that the scene was the same as in Gijon.

Sara the Lovely Security Blanket.
Sara the Lovely Security Blanket.

UC: What about in 2013?

Teresa: I can say that both cities have evolved in the same way. There is a new interest for crochet and for knitting. Maybe, the newcomer is crochet: there is the possibility of attending courses of amigurumi, fabric yarn (trapillo in Spanish), and there are more varieties of yarns, but British and American shops (at least online) have more things to offer.

I think that this new interest has grown exponentially during the last two years.  The first time I used the word amigurumi, no one understood whatI wassaying. If we talk about hairpin crochet or Tunisian crochet, the same story… And, if we talk about tools: soft grip hooks, Tunisian hooks, it was like asking for an impossible mission. Now, some Clover hooks can be bought locally.

Five years ago, if I wanted a good selection of yarns or tools, I had to go online. Now, I can find more things locally. Even, I can buy online in Asturias (Gijon’s county) top‐end yarn brands. The same applies to Valladolid.  We are talking about two medium‐sized cities, they are not Madrid or Barcelona. But I can say we have great expectations!

Smiling Sun.
Smiling Sun.
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?  
Teresa: I think that I’m not a typical Spaniard, let me explain this: Although I’ve lived most of my life in Spain, I’ve spent several short periods living in the UK after finishing my degree. These stays have broadened my mind. So, when I began to crochet again and I couldn’t find what I was looking for in Spanish, I turned to the Internet and Amazon, and searched for patterns and books in English. Funnily enough, I learnt the term Tunisian crochet in English and then found the translation into Spanish: ganchillo con horquilla.  I am more familiar with crochet terms in English (American and British) than in Spanish. A shame!
Scrap Soft Toy.
Scrap Soft Toy.
UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet or craft blogs to share?
Teresa: I do not follow many blogs. I rather prefer to look for designers or patterns in Ravelry.  I really like Amo el Amigurumi, Fresh Stitches (a.k.a. Stacey Trock), and Las Teje y Maneje.
I also visit their pages, follow on Ravelry and buy their books: Ana Paula Rimoli, Stacey Trock, Dora Ohrenstein, Doris Chan, Kristin Omdahl, and Robyn Chachula. Each of them is different: Paula’s designs are beautiful in their simplicity. Stacey’s toys are unique with the blo sc stitch. And what can be said of those dresses without seams by Doris. The designs of Dora, Kristin and Robyn are impressive!  I cannot decide!!!!!

Thanks so much for stopping by Teresa!  (And yes, I do think you can call yourself a designer!)

 

The next interview in the series will be posted on October 10 with Cirilia Rose.

Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Interview Series: Teresa Alvarez

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