The 6th stop is to visit María Isabel (ChabeGS), a crochet designer in Mexico.
Hi, María Isabel! Can you tell us a bit about where you live and where you are from originally?
I live in State of Mexico’s capital city named Toluca, which is 40 minutes away from Mexico City where I was born. My parents decided to move when my sister and I were little. They wanted the family to enjoy a more peaceful lifestyle away from the big city. I don’t think I miss it because it’s so close and I visit quite often. But I do have to say it has the nicest weather all year long, beautiful places and so much history. I really enjoy every time I go, I have great friends and family there.
If someone came to visit your town, where would you take them?
One would definitely be the traditional little town called Metepec which is worldwide known for clay production and its representative piece “Arbol de la Vida” that portrays history of creation. Another is the Xinantécatl volcano, also called Nevado de Toluca, the 4th highest in Mexico. And as almost all the memories from my youth and childhood are spread throughout the city I would also take visitors downtown, around my old school, and to the beautiful parks.
It looks like a really beautiful and interesting place to live. Is there a big fiber arts culture where you live?
Yes, there is, and I would say crochet is more common than knitting. You can see women in buses with their steel crochet hooks and light yarns crocheting at such speed. Tablecloths, napkins, table runners and coasters in lace crochet are very common in many homes. And almost everyone having a baby will receive a very intricately designed baby cardigan made by her mom or grandma. I think that’s such a beautiful tradition.
That is a very sweet tradition. How did you get started crocheting and how did it turn into designing?
My mom taught me how to crochet. She has always been into crafts: sewing, ceramics, jewelry, patchwork, knitting, crocheting, embroidery. She worked as an accountant but these always were her favorite hobbies, and she was always happy to share those great times and knowledge with her two daughters. Fortunately, my sister and I both liked it, we were never forced into it so I always saw it as something pleasant, relaxing.
From a young age I decided my career path would be related to design. I really didn’t know exactly what I would end up doing but I just loved creating. I specialized in Information design but I still kept crafting during my free time, more specifically into yarn. And my interest just started growing little by little as I worked more inside the design profession. I discovered books, magazines, blogs, web pages, crochet and knit designers. One day I decided to design a cowl of my own and then I just couldn’t stop.
What is your design process like? Do you plan it all out before you pick up your hook, or do you let the yarn show you where to go?
I do have an initial idea, a basic shape or size, a specific use for something, always considering to create an easy-to-follow pattern. Sometimes I even draw a little sketch with approximate measurements (specially for the bags) but it can also be all in my head. Then I start thinking the material and the stitch patterns I will use, what would work better according to the design. But it’s something I don’t spend a lot of time into, what I want is to start crocheting and envision my idea a lot more clearly. Then I decide whether to continue in the same way or start making changes along the way. This is the best part for me, when I find myself surprised and excited by new ideas. Then everything starts flowing and I can’t wait to see the final result. Once I finish I observe and I just know if it’s right or not. It’s not uncommon that I finish something and then decide to repeat some parts or even just undo it all. This evaluation is also part of the process, it can be frustrating, but it has worked for me, and I end up being satisfied that I tried every option.
Where is your favorite place to work and what’s your go to beverage/snack for designing?
At home, in a little room dedicated for this purpose. It’s just a simple space with necessary light, some quietness, a chair, a table and some music.
During warm weather (almost all year long) I just drink plain water and when it feels a little cold (late December, January and February) I take large hot teas (green, red, white, chamomile, chai). I’m not used to eating anything while I design or crochet because I tend to make a mess or want to eat more. So I have nice meals before and after my crochet hours to avoid feeling hungry while I’m working and focus.
Do you have a favorite local yarn store?
Oh yes, there was one so close to my home, it’s name was Tejiendo Ideas (Weaving ideas). It had a great variety of yarn and patterns, but above all great knit/crochet teachers. They always showcased yarns through beautiful samples and felt really passionate about this craft. It was a beautiful, clean, illuminated and inspiring space. They recently had to move to pursue some other plans but it was such a nice learning experience sharing with them.
Are there any designers you admire?
It’s difficult for me just naming a few, almost every morning I sail around the web and see new things and people that amaze me, whether it’s knitting, crocheting, illustration, weaving. And it’s just so inspiring to see how many share this kind of passion just as a hobby or as professionals.
What is your favorite design in your portfolio?
One of my favorites is the Tapestry bag-clutch pattern. It’s one example of those projects that were designed while crocheting. My main purpose was to design a bag that wouldn’t need lining so that gave me the opportunity to experiment with tapestry crochet and thread combinations. The result was so much simpler of what I originally envisioned, I actually undid it a couple of times before reaching the final version. I love it.
How does where you live influence your designs?
I think everything in Mexico influences me in many ways. It’s pre-Hispanic background and European influence have created an amazing colorful ambiance that surrounds everything. From a dining table filled with flavor and decoration to the amazing folk dances and indigenous costumes that are typical of every state. All the crafts and imagery that you can find in almost every house that gather millenary traditions. My mind is full of those pictures so it definitely influences my work, especially in my color choices and textures.
Do you have a design inspired by your culture?
I specially created the Crochet Beads Necklace for this project and it can be found on my blog as a free pattern. I got inspired from the clay work of Metepec, Toluca, mostly by the raw color of the material and saturation of elements. And I added a pop of blue to make some contrast.