Today, I’m continuing my Hispanic Heritage Month series with an interview with Argentine knitting designer, Joji Locatelli. Joji can be found online on Ravelry (as jojilocat, in the Designs by Joji group, and on her designer page), on the Joji Knits blog, on her Facebook page, and on Instagram. All images are copyright Joji Locatelli and are used with permission. Click on the photo to link to the pattern on Ravelry.
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Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to knit?
Joji: My mom taught me the basics when I was a teenager, but I didn’t really learnt to make anything other than a garter stitch scarf until I was in my 20s. I had just finished University and found myself with a lot of free time and internet… And well, I found lots of knitting blogs and patterns. I taught myself the rest by “guessing” what knit and purl meant.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Joji: In Argentina, most knitters don’t follow patterns, or at least we didn’t. When I learnt to knit, we didn’t have access to pattern books or even special yarns, so we always make the best we can with what we have on hand. Most of the times, we would see a garment that we liked on a store and tried to recreate it. We usually wouldn’t mind if the gauge/texture or color was absolutely different, and that left place for creativity and improvisation.
That’s the way I approached all the patterns when I finally found Ravelry. And one day, I received this very special yarn (it was Malabrigo Worsted), and it was the very first time I had in my hands one of “those” yarns I saw on the internet, you know? I knew I wanted to make something special out of it, but I just couldn’t find a pattern that I really liked. I had a store bought sweater that I loved and said ‘why not? This has to work!’
So I started knitting my own interpretation of that sweater, using a very unusual construction and wondering whether it would turn out to be a wearable garment. Other knitters seemed to be really interested in my process of posting photos and asked if I was planning to write this up. I said ‘No! no… I am not a designer!’ And then I said ‘Why not?’
So there, that’s when my first pattern was born :).
UC: You primarily design garments and women’s accessories. What do you enjoy about these types of projects?
Joji: Well, it’s much easier for me to think of designing things that I can actually wear… and also I have an audience that pays much more attention to those kinds of projects, so it’s easy to be biased and always go in that direction.
UC: Most of your current designs are self-published. What do you see as the challenges and advantages of self-publishing?
Joji: I don’t see any challenges in self-publishing your designs, unless you start designing expecting to make certain money out of what you get out there. Self-publishing can be very exciting, and a pattern can be a total success without you having to share it with anyone, or can be a total failure, and then you’ve worked for nothing.
When I started designing I was working full time somewhere else, so I didn’t have to worry about making money or not from my designs. And I felt that self-publishing allowed me to handle my time frames (and the rights to my patterns!) the way I liked.
When you publish with companies or publishers, you have to adjust your times to their deadlines, and also your style… which might make one a little nervous! But then you get the support from this company, which will probably do their best to get the word out there about you working with them, they will probably do a lot of work with photos and layout, which is also great! Plus, it’s not nice to work always on your own… Sometimes it’s nice to play with others too :).
UC: You have a large group on Ravelry with over 4,000 members. What tips do you have for designers who are nervous about starting a Ravelry group?
Joji: Yeah, the group getting that big… that’s a total surprise!
I don’t think there’s anything to be nervous about! A Ravelry group is not a commitment to do anything. It’s just a way to communicate with people who are interested in what you do, and there are no rules about what you need to do there. Like all groups, mine started with just 3 members (me and 2 moderators) and was really small for a very long time! I think it was just as great back then as it is now… and I just treat it as any other social media. Knitters really like to hang out on Ravelry, so if you give them a space to share what they like and chat a little bit, they will enjoy it.
UC: What was the yarn crafts scene like when you were growing up in Argentina? How does that compare with the current scene in Buenos Aires?
I described in a previous question how the knitting scene was like when I learnt to knit. It still hasn’t changed much. Some knitters have started to use Ravelry and learnt to read instructions in English, but this is still a rather small group within a country where A LOT of women knit.
I used to work at a yarn store until recently, so I kept in touch with what knitters here liked, and what the supply and demand of products was…
Argentine knitters tend to like quick projects and heavy weight yarns, even though we barely have a couple of weeks of winter. They still improvise most of their projects, some follow patterns but barely, none of them are scared of adjusting gauge or even the style of the garments, and they all knit with straight needles just like me!
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?
It probably does, but I can’t precise in which way. I learnt to knit from a non-Argentine community, so I think most of the techniques and styles I used do not resemble my cultural background… but I think there is a little something in everything I make that has a little bit of my origins there.
UC: What are your favorite knitting books in your collection?
I don’t own many books! Mailing things to Argentina is quite hard, and we cannot buy imported pattern books here, so I only have a couple. I did enjoy and learn a lot from all Elizabeth Zimmermann’s.
UC: Are there any Spanish- or English-language crafty websites/blogs you visit regularly for inspiration or community?
Not really... Most of the things I read nowadays are in English…
Thank you, Joji, for sharing your thoughts with us!