QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES
As part of the original Around the World in 80 Skeins tour, the Philippines was the 31st stop to visit crochet designer Mimi Alelis.
Hi, Mimi – welcome to the tour! Let’s start with where are you from?
Hello, I live in Quezon City, Philippines where I’ve been most of my life. My parents, both Filipinos, met and married in Spain in 1959, and a few years later settled back here. The 3 of us siblings were born there, and my five other siblings were born here. Being born in Spain didn’t make much difference in our case. Though as Filipinos we do have our share of Spanish influence having had a long history of Spanish colonization.
How did you get started crocheting and why did it turn into designing?
I got interested in crochet when I was about 10 with some influence from my mother and grandmother, who were both into needlework as a stress-reliever from their mother and wife duties – both having a big family. I mostly taught myself to crochet from some old crafting books, but only made a few simple projects, which I can’t even remember. Later in life I had two children and I made them booties, hats and toys. I tried making a few wearables too. I wasn’t so thrilled of my projects then, due to scarcity of appropriate yarns and patterns. Life took an unexpected turn when my husband passed away in Dec. 1999. I also quit my office job after a year when it seemed too much to handle and what really mattered was being there for my two sons. We managed financially from social security and insurance funds and had my parents support too. Fast forward to 2005, I was looking for extra income while staying at home and I found crochet resources on the internet and got excited about it. I improved my skills and jumped in on writing up patterns for my own designs and selling them. I loved the positive feedback I got online, and it encouraged me to pursue it further. I was thrilled when I got published in Interweave Crochet for the first time in 2010 with Moth Wings Shrug.
Is there a big knitting/crochet culture in the Philippines?
I don’t see a definitive knitting/crochet culture here. Without internet access, there’s a slim chance of meeting someone who’s into knitting or crochet. Now with the internet and thanks to Ravelry, I’ve been fortunate to find crochet and knitting buddies from different regions in my country and some near where I live. Several of us met in person and continue to get in touch thru our Ravelry group.
How does where you live influence your designs?
I don’t think I got influenced much from the culture in this city…since I hardly see crochet and knit wearables around, mainly because of the prevailing warm weather. And in the case of needlecrafts, crochet and knitting aren’t picked up as much as cross-stitching. However, in Baguio city – high in the cold mountainous regions up north, I’ve found some inspiration to crochet during the 90’s when we used to go there on vacation. There are knitted and crocheted wearables in the market, as well as color inspiration not just in clothes and accessories, but also in nature adorned with lots of flowers.
Do you have a favorite local yarn store?
There isn’t an accessible yarn store in this city except those found in the malls where the yarns are overpriced. Though there are yarn stores in nearby cities especially at the popular shopping place in Divisoria, Manila – it is difficult to reach with traffic, pollution and crowds getting in the way. Most of us serious crafters order imported yarns at our favorite online stores.
Where is your favorite place to work?
My favorite place to design is my bedroom studio. Its not fancy but, I have everything I need – my working table and computer, shelves for my books and yarns, a comfy couch and radio music to get me into the mood of designing and writing patterns. Inspiration comes and goes at different times, though.
What is your favorite snack/drink while you work?
I love to snack on nuts, dried fruits and dark chocolate. My favorite drinks are fresh coconut juice and lemongrass tea.
What is your design process like?
It seems I can only design something I can wear or use myself. I begin with a little planning, just a rough sketch or a mental plan. I usually have a form and function in mind, so I choose the yarn based on this. As for the stitches, I browse my books and the internet, pick some stitches that would seem to work with my plan and then come up with new ideas as I go work on the project.
Do you have a favorite design in your portfolio that was inspired by your culture/environment?
Usually, my favorite design is the last one that got published. My all-time favorites include the Shells and Flowers Shrug, the Lauren Sweater and the Hibiscus Tunic. And my personal favorite is the Cap-sleeve dress, which I wore on my brother’s wedding last year.
Thank you for being a part of the tour and for sharing your lovely designs with us!