Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Interview Series: Cirilia Rose

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Today’s Hispanic Heritage Month interview is with Cirilia Rose, a Mexican-American (and Italian/Irish-American) knitting designer, author, and creative director.  Cirilia’s work has been published in magazines including Interweave Knitstwist collective, and Vogue Knitting, as well as books such as The Knitter’s Book of Socks, November Knits, and Weekend Hats, and by several yarn companies.

Cirilia can be found online on her blog, as well as on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  She is also on Ravelry (as ciriliarose and on her designer page).  All pictures are used with her permission.  Click on the pictures to link to the pattern pages.
Cirilia Rose, wearing her Harpa scarf pattern. Photo (c) WestKnits.
Cirilia Rose, wearing her Harpa scarf pattern. Photo (c) WestKnits.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to knit?
Cirilia: I definitely learned to crochet first, maybe from my grandmother, Maria Barelas, but I can’t really remember learning. I moved onto knitting when my nana, Irene Rose taught me. I cemented those skills with the Vogue Knitting encyclopedia and later, Stitch ‘n Bitch, so Margery Winter and Debbie Stoller played a part as well.
I’m still learning, though! I’ve never met a knitter who feels like they’ve conquered the craft, and I have met some pretty accomplished knitters. That is what I love about the most about knitting.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Cirilia: I have probably been designing since the moment I was aware of clothing, to be honest! As a young girl, I was always fascinated with costumes and textiles. I would collage and sew and devour every book and magazine I could get my hands onto. The very first sweater I designed was an attempt at a Kurt Cobain style cardigan, knit in black acrylic yarn on straight aluminum needles. Never finished it…
Dolores Camisa. Photo (c) Hill Country Weavers.
Dolores Camisa. Photo (c) Hill Country Weavers.
UC: What is your cultural background?  How important were the yarn crafts in your childhood?
Cirilia: I am Mexican-American on my mother’s side and Italian-Irish on my father’s side. I was born in San Antonio, Texas but, apart from a few years there as a child and a recent visit to Austin, I haven’t spent much time there. The Italian, Boston based part of my background has dominated most of my life.
Now that I am getting older and living on the West Coast, I am exploring the Mexican side of myself. I’ve moved around quite a bit and speak German, but no Spanish at all. I am also quite obsessed with Nordic culture and trying to learn Icelandic. Romance languages and I just don’t get along, I’m afraid!
Sagrada Familia Cardigan, published in Knitting Architecture. Photo (c) Joe Hancock/Interweave.
Sagrada Familia Cardigan, published in Knitting Architecture. Photo (c) Joe Hancock/Interweave.
UC: Does your cultural background influence your knitting? If so, how?
Cirilia: Perhaps. I find myself seeking out artifacts and places that will help connect me to my Mexican heritage. Mexico has an incredible textile tradition and Frida Kahlo persists in being a compelling example of that. I love her irreverence and overt femininity. I sometimes channel that when I’m styling or modeling, or if I just need a boost of badass confidence in my daily life.

I love the sisters behind Rodarte, and they happen to be Mexican, Italian and Irish just like me. I feel a kinship with their cinema and nature obsessed process, and the way they favor artistry and history over trends. They’re true bricoleurs, which is something I strive to be. I love following the crossover success of Mexican filmmakers Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, and Alejandro González Iñárritu. All of these artists and creators share a certain elemental darkness, but also a reverence for quotidian beauty. This is something that reverberates in the Italian and Irish parts of me too, and in the adopted Nordic cultures I study. When I’m in a forest or at a museum, gazing at a tree or a simple folk costume, I feel like I’m in church.

I’ve only referenced my background in my work a handful of times, with my Sarape Shopper, Dolores Camisa, and Sagrada Familia Cardigan, but I can see using more Mexican inspiration in the future, especially if I have a chance to visit one day. I’m a bit obsessed with Oaxaca and the practice of dyeing with purpura pansa, snails that release purple ink.


Sarape Shopper, published by Berroco. Photo (c) Berroco.
Sarape Shopper, published by Berroco. Photo (c) Berroco.
UC: You’ve held a lot of roles in the yarn industry, including designer, author, and Creative Director at Skacel Collection. What advice do you have for aspiring or emerging yarn industry professionals?
Cirilia: People keep asking me where I see the industry heading and it’s a very difficult question to answer, because for most of my time in the industry, sales have been sluggish. Knitting does tend to have peaks and valleys and we’re all waiting for another peak, so I would just say, try to stay positive, and humble. Know your knitting history, and figure out what your contemporaries are doing well now. Try to stay connected to your passion for the field. I will sometimes feel disillusioned with the industry, but then I see something incredible that makes my fingers itchy to knit, and I’m in love with it all over again.
UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language knitting or craft blogs to share?
Cirilia:  I confess I am a bit more into Instagram these days! I really enjoy Beatrice Valenzuela‘s feed. I have a bit of a leather obsession, and she designs gorgeous shoes that are made in Mexico City. I also love Meghan Fernandes‘ magazine, Pom Pom Quarterly.   She’s not a knitter, but there are few people I admire more than Nina Garcia.

Thanks so much for taking time from your schedule for this interview, Cirilia.  I wish you great success with your upcoming book! 

The next interview in the series will be posted on October 13 with Paula Prado/De Origen Chile.

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