Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Interview Series: Daniela Montelongo from Pompon’s Party

Today, I’m pleased to interview Daniela Montelongo.  She’s an architect and crafter that lives between Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas. Her company, Pompon’s Party, is now her full time job.  Daniela sells crochet and knit accessories and kits for a variety of craft projects through her Etsy shop, and also teaches classes.
You can also find Daniela online on the Pompon’s Party blog, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.  All photos are copyright Daniela Montelongo/Pompon’s Party and are used with permission.
Daniela Montelongo.

 

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet, knit, and loom knit?
Daniela: I started crocheting when I was 8 years old.  One day, I told my mom to buy me a crochet hook and a ball of yarn.  Then I asked an aunt to teach me because no one in my family knew [how to crochet]. From there I started to crochet, knit and loom (self-taught).  Recently I traveled to Chile to take weaving courses that helped me understand things better.
The Pompon’s Party table at a craft fair.
UC: What inspired you to start selling your crafts on Etsy?
Daniela: I started with my shop in 2004, selling at fairs in my city, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I decided to open my Etsy shop.  I wanted to branch out and sell my products around the world.  It was certainly one of the best decisions.
A Pompon’s Party crafts workshop.
UC: In addition to your handcrafted items, you sell a lot of kits.  Tell me about your decision to sell kits.
Daniela: Yes, my little shop has grown every year.  When my shop was 8 years old (and two years old on Etsy), I decided to give workshops of things that I love to do.  I found it important to be able to contribute a little with the craft scene and began to teach techniques that I love and I practice for my accessories.
The people outside of my city began to asking me on the blog for the materials that I used in my workshops, so that’s why I decided to also sell the kits online, so they can learn too.
Participants at a Pompon’s Party crafts workshop.
UC: You’ve had success in selling your kits and handmade items on Etsy. What tips do you have for a new Etsy seller?
Daniela: The most important thing is to believe in your product.  The rest just flows.
In terms of design,  I think you need to be very careful about the images you upload to your store.  You must describe and show your product the best you can for the customer to fall in love with it since the moment he sees it on the screen.
A crocheted Peter Pan collar by Pompon’s Party.
UC: Your company started out in Ciudad Juarez and now you’re in El Paso.  What are the yarn crafting scenes like in these two cities?
Daniela: In Mexico, there are very few young creative projects with wool.  Usually in both cities the yarn crafty scene focuses on adults and often their ideas are a little more conservative. However, there is a scene that buys crocheted and knitted projects, and that is a good sign.
It’s about taste.  Definitely in Mexico, people prefer more color than in America, but in America, people prefer more design.
A rectangular loom knitting kit from Pompon’s Party.
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?
Daniela: Definitely.  (The city) I live in is more Americanized.  However, when I came to study architecture in college, I had some teachers who made ​​me love my country. I started to read more about their native culture, customs, etc.
Definitely, I live on the border, and here we don’t have much influence from our roots and our culture. There is no Mexican culture that we all know, and that’s why I try to capture in my accessories all of the color that I would like to come to my city, to bring the beauty of Mexico for people to fall in love with.
Pompon’s Party Best Neckwarmer Ever, also known as an Infinity Bohemian Scarf.
UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet, knitting, or craft blogs to share?
Daniela: Sure, my favorite blogs are:

 

Thanks so much for stopping by, Daniela!  We wish you continued success.

The next interview in the series will be posted on September 30 with Ruth Garcia-Alcantud/rock+purl.

Interview with Virginia Scholomiti from Yellowfarm

While at Vogue Knitting Live in January, I was introduced to a local, New York State Capital region yarn vendor, Yellowfarm.  The Yellowfarm booth had an interesting display featuring “long locks” art yarns.  The display really highlighted the beautiful fiber from Yellowfarm’s longwool Wensleydale and Teeswater sheep.

Dyed long locks on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.
Dyed long locks on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.

Today, I’m interviewing Virginia Scholomiti from Yellowfarm.  You can find Yellowfarm on their website, Etsy, and Facebook.  All farm pictures are (c) Yellowfarm and are used with permission.

 

Yellowfarm, Delanson, NY.
Yellowfarm, Delanson, NY.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you get started with yarn crafts?

Virginia: I started knitting as a child.  My mother and grandmother both knit, and of course I wanted to be just like them. I was never a very good knitter, but always enjoyed the process. Later on I learned to crochet, but just the basics. It wasn’t until I was much older that I really delved into fiber arts.

I love to knit, and somehow seem to go through periods of no knitting, and then I reacquaint myself with my needles, and really enjoy remembering how much I love the process. Right now I am playing with some Wensleydale lace weight yarn and working on a lace shawl. I have done some weaving on a triangle loom, but never attempted the real thing with all its intricacies. That is something that I have on my list of things I want to spend some time learning.

I also find freeform crochet extremely appealing, and hope to be able to concentrate on learning more crochet stitches and techniques to perhaps enable me to play with that too!

Yellowfarm sheep closeup

UC: Tell us about how you became involved with Yellowfarm.

Virginia: Well, our two girls were grown and we decided to look around to see if we could find an older property that would offer us the country lifestyle we have always yearned for.  We saw this farm and fell in love with it.  It has served us well so far. Both our mothers came here to live out their last years on the farm and now we have two granddaughters that relish coming to visit the farm.

Yellowfarm double sheep closeup

UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm.  Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working (the good and the bad)?

Virginia: My husband grew up in the Bronx, and I grew up outside of New York City.  My first career was riding and teaching hunter seat equitation, show hunters and jumpers. I have worked on farms and managed stables just about all of my life, but never owned one.

A kit project on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.
A kit project on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.

You are absolutely right about the plusses and the minuses involved. Once you involve yourself with keeping animals on your property, you assume a responsibility that must never fail. No days off, no skipping work, or heading off on a spur of the moment whim. There are animals that need you to feed, water, check for any health issues, administer medications, treat wounds, give shots, or call a vet if the situation warrants. Not to mention the physical necessities of farm life: the fences that need fixing, the fields that need tending, manure that needs spreading. There is ALWAYS a list of things that you just can’t quite finish that are waiting for you to do.

The flip side is that you get to watch lambs being born and help them to stand and nurse for the first time, see stars that you didn’t know were there, and appreciate the seasons with the amazing changes they bring to the farm.

Yellowfarm Stanley

 

UC: Yellowfarm raises American Wensleydale and Teeswater luster longwool sheep. Can you tell us a bit about the yarn properties from each of these animals?

Virginia: The Wensleydale and Teeswater sheep produce long lustrous ringlets of fiber. The breeds are quite similar and stem from the same long wool lines as the Lester Longwool and Cotswold breeds. What distinguishes their fiber is the silky handle, the intense sheen and the fabulous curl. We are breeding both as we have yet to discern which fiber is superior. If processed in a traditional way, the fiber results in a strong, silky yarn. Worsted yarns have an incredible drape, and a bit of a halo. Hand spinners adore these fleeces as they can be used to create amazing textured art yarns. The longer locks from animals allowed to grow for a longer period are perfect for tailspining. The integrity of the lock is incredibly unique.

Yellowfarm Gunner closeup

UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your “yarn locks” art yarn. Can you tell us about the difference between your standard and art yarn?  What are the processes they go through?

Virginia: More traditional yarns start with raw fiber that is then washed, picked (fluffed to open the locks and allow vegetable matter to drop out), carded (or combed), and spun by hand (or commercially at a mill) into strands which are then plied together to form various weights of yarns. This is what you are used to seeing as a skein of yarn. In this form of processing the fibers have been made smooth, and lie next to each other forming a uniform strand.

Yellowfarm locks closeup

Art yarns and textured yarns are hand spun yarns. They allow the spinner to create unique and individual yarns with all varieties of textures and colors using an array of techniques. The yarn may be spun directly from the lock of wool in a way that retains the characteristics of those amazing fibers. It also can be lightly carded with a wide range of add ins that give special texture and glitz to the finished yarn. Each skein is completely individual and a reflection of the spinners imagination and spinning prowess.  A work of art.

From the Yellowfarm display at Vogue Knitting Live.
From the Yellowfarm display at Vogue Knitting Live.

UC: Where else can people buy your yarns and meet with Yellowfarm?

Virginia: I sell online via Etsy, but to be truthful, don’t get a chance to update very often. We are highlighting the luster long wool sheep, the Teeswater in particular, at STITCHES East this fall. NYS Sheep and Wool is the granddaddy of fiber festivals in the East. We bring sheep to show there, and are unable to also man a booth. We always welcome people to come up to the sheep barn and say hello, and see where their fiber comes from!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Virginia!

Interview with Vivian Osborne from Arctic Qiviut Yarns

Way back in January, I had the pleasure of meeting Vivian Osborne  in real life at Vogue Knitting Live.  As the President of Arctic Qiviut Yarns, she was busy selling in the marketplace, so I contacted her for an email interview later.  (And if you’re new to qiviut, as I was, Vivian’s website tell us that it is pronounced “kiv-ee-ute.”)

Vivian Osborne at the Arctic Qiviut booth at a trade show.

Underground Crafter (UC): What are your personal favorite fiber crafts? How did you get started with these crafts?
Vivian: I admire all fiber crafts. Two of my grandmothers taught me to crochet. As a teenager, I crocheted show horse blankets and braid reins. I set up shop at horse shows and made a bundle. My focus now is to create beautiful luxurious yarn out of the downy underwool of the Arctic Muskox – “qiviut.” It’s such a soft, exotic fiber that’s perfect for heirloom creations.

UC: What inspired you to make yarn out of the underwool of a musk ox?
Vivian: I was running my nonprofit organization, Just For Kids, Inc., as part of the Choosing A Safe Camp For Your Child Program.  Someone donated one pound of raw qiviut fiber, stinky and complete with guard hair and vegetation, and matted in a sheet.  It was an absolute mess.  Some local Boy Scouts helped me, and we spent a year hand cleaning the raw musk ox fiber.  I learned how to use a drop spindle at the local guild.  It just grew from there.  (UC comment: Wow, that is some start!  It makes me want to learn to use my drop spindle even more, just in case I unexpectedly receive some awesome, mystery fiber!)

Vivian cleaning those guard hairs, about 12 years ago.

UC: You’ve had the opportunity to visit various fiber events to promote Arctic Qiviut Yarns. Tell us about some of your favorite experiences at these events.
Vivian: My first event was the NW Needle Market wholesale show in Seattle. Everyone was so excited about what I had to offer. They liked that I’m from North Pole, Alaska; that I use the underwool of the arctic musk ox to make 100% qiviut yarn and 5 exclusive qiviut yarn blends; that my yarn has a beautiful twist; and that it is available in 28 incredible hand dyed and hand painted colors. I have also exhibited my yarn at TNNA wholesale tradeshows in Long Beach and Columbus,  Knitters Connection, and at Vogue Knitting Live in New York. People love learning about qiviut. Vogue Knitting Live was fun because I met the knitters, crocheters, and weavers. They truly enjoy touching the yarn and seeing all the colors. They liked meeting the manufacturer – me! They liked that I manufacture something different not found anywhere else in the world. My qiviut sock yarn was a hit at all the shows.  (UC comment: As one of the crocheters who was visiting Vivian’s booth at Vogue Knitting Live, I can tell you that the yarn is really amazing to feel and that people did respond very well to the colors!)

UC: Not many crocheters and knitters are familiar with qiviut fiber. What are some of the properties of your yarn that you’d like people to know about?
Vivian: Qiviut is truly an amazing fiber. It is the delicate underwool of the Arctic muskox. It is one of the most sought after fibers in the world because of its rarity, softness, and warmth. Qiviut is softer than cashmere and is light as a feather. It’s an insulating fiber and is comfortable to wear in any climate.

Qiviut is the only fiber in the US that is an heirloom fiber that can be treasured for generations. The value goes up over time. Qiviut yarnwear or yarn is a unique gift for yourself or that special person. Only the best delicate underwool of the Arctic muskox is used to produce Arctic Qiviuts’ yarn. We offer 100% qiviut and qiviut blends. We only use the highest grade, finest quality German angora, cashmere, baby alpaca, cultivated Bombay silk, superwash merino, bamboo, and nylon in our blends.

A musk ox.

Muskox is a very old species they have been around since the time of the woolly mammoth. Most live in the Arctic, in Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. Qiviut is not another term for the muskox but refers to the soft, downy undercoat. A mature male produces around 6 to 8 pounds of muskox raw fleece fiber. After processing the raw fleece fiber you will yield about 2 to 3 pounds of cleaned qiviut ready for spinning into yarn. It is one of the lightest and warmest of all the natural fibers. Qiviut feels wonderful next to the skin.

Some of the characteristics and properties of qiviut:

  • It is 8 times warmer than wool,
  • Very light weight,
  • It is comfortable in any climate,
  • It doesn’t shrink, felt, or inch,
  • It is safe for people who suffer from wool allergies,
  • It is softer than cashmere
  • Wild muskox averages from 16.5 microns in yearlings to 18.2 microns in adults,
  • The undyed color is gray-brown, but qiviut dyes easily, and
  • The staple length is 3.5–7 cm (1.5–3 inches).

UC: What are your plans for 2012? Will be you be at any other events?
Vivian: On May 24, I will be meeting and greeting passengers from a knitting cruise ship in Anchorage, Alaska at the Quilted Raven. I’ll be at TNNA from June 21 to 25 in Columbus, Ohio and at the Twisted Thread Knit and Stitch Tradeshow at Alexander Palace in London, England from October 11 to 14.

UC: Is there anything else you’d like to add about Arctic Qiviut?

Vivian: I am the exclusive manufacture of hand dyed and hand painted 100% Qiviut yarn and 5qiviut yarn blends. I only sell my yarns wholesale and at special events like wholesale and retail tradeshows. I also do trunk shows at retail shops that sell my yarns. On my website, you can find a worldwide list of shops that sell my yarn, properties of all fibers used in Arctic Qiviut yarns, more information on qiviut, free patterns including one designed by Alaskan designer, Beverly Shannon, and patterns using 1 skein of Arctic Qiviut yarns that you can purchase directly from the Alaskan designer, Nancy Davidson. On my website you can see all the beautiful hand dyed and hand painted colors of our yarns. Our slogan is “Experience the journey of the qiviut, from the muskox to your fingertips.”

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Vivian, and for sharing so much about the qiviut fiber with us!