As part of the original Around the World in 80 Skeins tour, stop 14 was to visit Tamara Lazaridou, a crochet designer living in Nicosia Cyprus.
Hi, Tamara! Where do you live and where are you from originally? What do you miss most about your home country?
I’m currently living in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, a small island in the Mediterranean sea with population of less than one million. Originally I come from Moscow, Russia. Big change from a huge country like Russia to end up in Cyprus; a small island surrounded by the sea. 🙂 I came to Cyprus when I was only 9 – that was 21 years ago. Due to the political and economic instability during the nineties in Russia, my mother decided that it was better to come to Cyprus and raise me here. I can’t complain – the beaches are lovely, warm to super hot weather all around the year, and a minimum of 300 sunny days per year.
But I have to say I miss my homeland a lot. The main thing I miss is the amazing countryside. Even being from Moscow all my relatives live in rural areas, and I’ve been exposed to the village lifestyle, swimming in the rivers, going to forests for mushroom picking, simply taking walks around the villages, and even milking cows. I also miss the vast parks of Moscow and using efficient public transport, especially the metro which I consider a masterpiece. But if I need to pick up one thing and one thing only it would be Russian nature.
What’s the best thing about where you live?
The best thing about Cyprus is the sun. With lots of sunny days, there is no way you can have a vitamin D deficiency, which has a very positive effect on the people’s mood. Since Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean Sea the beaches and the sea water are beautiful – a lovely choice for summer holidays.
I would definitely take a visitor for a swim and a walk to Polis Chrysochous, it is a small town-village which is very quiet and peaceful and recently it started becoming a healthy lifestyle and yoga retreat destination. Also, in Nicosia I would visit the old town which is the centre of the capital and it is full of mini cafes, restaurants, bars and beautiful old style architecture. And if he/she is a cinema lover I would take him/her to Constantia Open-air Cinema which is a great place for watching movies from around the world under the stars with a glass of wine or beer. Also if she/he is a Latin dancer there are lots of gigs going on, almost every day of the week (it is obvious I’m a movies and dance lover). There are lots of places to go and things to try down here, from quiet and simple enjoyments like a walk by the beach watching the sunrise with an ice cream to party hard from morning to night beside the sea or even on a night boat. My only suggestion is to come over from May to September, during this period you can experience the best of Cyprus.
It sounds like paradise! Does the environment of Cyprus influence your designs?
Not much – unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to crochet the sea, beaches, and warm weather, yet – lol. But I do get inspired to paint. Everywhere I look my mind turns into watercolour.
How did you get started crocheting and how did it turn into designing?
I used to be into beadwork 12 years ago. I had reached a stage where I was designing my own jewelry and knew almost all the techniques that existed at that point. I felt that I wanted to progress and one thing that I did not know yet was crocheting with beads. It was during the period of my last exams for getting my degree in finance and in order to relax my mind and release the stress I decided that it was the best time to learn something new. I bought a book Start Crochet by Jan Eaton and made my first scarf within 2 weeks. Then I learned granny blocks and finally how to crochet with beads. I wasn’t passionate about it, I was kinda indifferent to crochet up until few years later when I saw an online free pattern of an amigurumi bear. I decided to try and got addicted.
I continued creating mini creatures based on online patterns and the book. The first appearance of designing was quite early, due to small range of yarns available in yarn shops in Cyprus I started adjusting the pattern to match the yarn I had available and taking notes just in case I ever needed to refer to it again. Adjusting here and there, at some point I started developing my own patterns, also being a mathematical mind and loving numbers I realised how amigurumi and crochet works. Realising how versatile crochet is and that possibilities are endless, ideas start pouring into my mind. My goal became to realise my ideas through what I already knew or by searching for new stitches and techniques and as always adjusting them to what I have in my hands and my in mind. My mother also crochets, ever since I can remember, but she had no luck teaching me because I’m a leftie and teaching someone the exact opposite is quite hard. I’ve experienced that myself and ended up sending how-to YouTube videos to my rightie-friends since I could not show it myself, lol.
I know how you feel – I helped my left-handed sister learn to knit and it almost made me forget how to do it right handed! =) Do you have a favorite local yarn store?
Not really. The yarn stores in Nicosia are few and have a small variety of yarns to choose from. I know that my patterns would look much better if made them out of cotton or bamboo yarn but unfortunately there are not enough colours to choose from. I’m actually thinking of ordering online in future.
Is there a big fiber arts culture in Cyprus?
Yes, we have groups and classes that get together simply to crochet and share knowledge. Unfortunately knitting in general is considered an old fashion hobby and not many young people are into it, amigurumi is very new and still not that well explored down here.
Cyprus is famous for ‘lefkaritiko” (Λευκαρίτικο) a form of needlework brought by Venetian occupation (approximately fifteenth century) and survived up until now. It is one of the main souvenirs to get if you like handmade items. There is a very beautiful village called ‘Lefkara’ famous for lefkaritika creations and where you can see old ladies sitting in their yards, or even outside their houses and practicing this needlework.
Where is your favorite place to crochet and design?
I love crocheting at home on the couch in our living room, with our two cats close to me and one of them laying on my lap; only one fits and as a result they take turns. 🙂 To make it an “ultimate crocheting experience” it will be an endless Sunday afternoon and there will be an old school Russian or Greek movie on TV.
What is your design process like?
First comes the idea. The idea most of the times comes from my trips abroad, the seasons, forthcoming holidays, an occasion (e.g. someone’s birthday, wedding), items that I feel are not colorful enough or too plain and also empty spaces, where I just try to figure out how I can fill them with something crafty.
Once the idea comes, I do a simple sketch in my notebook. I have a notebook and ‘post it’ notes in my bag so I can de-clutter my mind from all the things my mind comes up with. When I find the time I will check my notebook, go through a brainstorming phase and will start crocheting. During the process I might search the internet and books for stitches or techniques I do not know yet or create my own just to implement the idea. If I plan or would like to share the ‘how-to’ someday I will redesign it in order to simplify it to basic stitches and make it more crochet-newbie friendly. The process described above might take 5-15 trials/attempts in order to reach the final desired project for publishing. Once I’m there I write the instructions and test them again but after a couple of weeks with a fresh mind. The final step is for the pattern to be tested by my super creative tester in Greece, Chloe, and once this is done the pattern is ready to go online.
Who are your favorite designers?
Unfortunately, I do not follow what is going on in crochet-amigurumi world; I simply do not have the time. My mind is already full of ideas that I have trouble to cope with and I have approximately 15 projects in progress at any point in time. They are worked on slowly, picked up, left again, some might take even a year to reach the publishing stage. If a had no day job or other activities (I also paint, dance, DIYing) for sure I would have been more into it but since it is one of the many hobbies I have, being able to design my own patterns and share them is very satisfying but also time consuming. I do have favorite painters e.g. Frida, Diego Rivera, Klimt, Viorel Marginean, Eyvind Earle, Dali.
What are your favorite designs from your portfolio?
My favourites are too many, the first on the list are Amigurumi Regular and Mini Matryoshka, my childhood’s traditional dolls and also the Bears as they were the second pattern that went public. Another one of my favourite pattern is Amigurumi Mini Princess Dolls, I still make them every now and then (as presents), I love the ability to combine so many colours and hair styles, the possibilities are endless and never boring. Another one is Amigurumi Cat Family – a dedication to our adorable cats and the last but not least is the Wedding Cake Top which was made for our wedding cake.
I love that you had a crocheted cake topper at your wedding – and the cake looks delicious! What is your favorite snack while working?
Dark chocolate, 70% and higher – but Snickers does the job well too. Usually I eat healthy but during the brainstorming time, where my mind is overwhelmed with all the stitches and techniques I already know or do not know and trying to figure out how, something sweet is needed and sugar (glucose actually) is the power food for the brain :).
I do not cook much, salads or even plain vegetables and bread are my favorite food so the recipe I can share is quite simple and of course made out of chocolate.
-100% Cocoa Bar (Peruvian chocolate is amazing)
-Carob Syrup (this is a Cyprus local product, very yummy). If you have hard time finding it, liquid stevia, maple syrup, grape syrup, powdered sugar or even liquid glucose can do the job
-Dried Goji Berries or Cranberries
I can not specify the exact quantities as it all depends on someone’s taste. Generally I love bitter chocolate so for a 200gr cocoa bar, I start with 5 tbsp of syrup and then add gradually.
Melt cocoa over low heat. Once melted reduce the heat even lower, just to keep it warm, and start adding your sweetener. Taste the mix every now and then for the sweetness level. Once you have reached the desired sweetness level remove from the stove, pour into a container and sprinkle with berries, let it cool and that’s it. Avoid eating it in the afternoon or at night, hyperactivity is a common symptom. 🙂
Fantastic – I’m totally going to make this! Thank you so much for sharing your home, inspirations, and designs with us!
Check out Tamara’s website: TomaCreations and find her on Ravelry: TomaCreations