I’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!