With the indiesunite month of Instagram prompts just coming to an end, I wanted to continue the indie love so I decided to interview one of my favorite Instagram friends, co-indie Marcela Chang Rojas! She graciously agreed and even threw in a give-a-way to celebrate a her newest release (more on that below). I first met Marcela in the Indie Design Gift-a-long and was captured by her commitment to eco when I saw her interview on TNBT (The Next Beautiful Thing) podcast. I was fascinated to learn about her culture in South America and how she stays true to her ethos while designing in Chile!
Without further ado, please say “hi” to Marcela.
Q1. How did you get started as a knitwear designer? Is it a popular career in Chile?
I studied fashion design and I did lots of fabric garments design before I started knitting. Because I didn’t know ravelry at that time, before I start knitting I used to crochet a lot. Here in Chile crochet is very popular and I used to sale the finished items. Then a friend taught me how to knit (garter with US 50 needles) and we start selling some basic garter cowls to a retail store here (the cowl I used to sale as a finished item is my Knot Infinite Scarf pattern.. free on ravelry), and I get hooked by knitting. Knitting magazines here were very bad in explanations ( they used to have one size only and you had to figure it out how to make your size, kind of beginner hell!) and the garments were very old fashioned. Most of them doesn’t exist now. Because I was super interested in knitting I started to buy patterns on Ravelry. At first I didn’t know what ssk or k3 meant. In Spanish the instructions are very different, and also depended on the country where they were written.. for example the simple Garter st in Spanish has 4 different names, in my country is call Correteado st, but in other countries is call Santa Clara st, Bobo st or Musgo st. So when I figure out the English patterns, I found heaven!!!! The explanations in English are very well written, the garments have all the sizes and you have one name for everything (except for seed st, but nothing is perfect, isn’t it, jajaja)… Love it!!!
After I learn to knit, I started designing as a professional deformation (you can’t ask to designer not to design jajajajaja). I now prefer knitting to crocheting because of the final fabric you can get. I think you can play more with knitting fabric… give more details and better shape. In Chile, knitwear designer is not a popular profession. Most of the knitwear magazines are broke, and they never put the names of the designers in their patterns, yarn brands, or offer some basic knitting classes. It iss not a big industry here. Also most of the people didn’t know Ravelry at all because English is a big barrier to them. (Only a 5% of Chilean speak proper English). Also knitting and crocheting normally is done by older people and they do not spend lots of money on yarn. But I think now it is growing because younger people are interested to learn. So, nobody really understand what I really do but they support me anyways… jajjajajaja.
Q2. What are the fiber options like in Chile? What are some of your favorite eco fibers? Do you have any favorite local yarns? Why is “eco” important to you?
Here in Chile you can find lots of merino yarn from Patagonia and alpaca, llama and vicuña (vicuna) yarn from the Andes. Sadly vicuna yarn is sold only to first world countries, because it is very expensive. And mostly it is used by fashion companies, not to make yarn. Here, I like to buy baby alpaca… a lovely yarn that you can find it everywhere. At my LYS they have lots of colors, hand dyed by them. But in general, I buy yarn at Webs (in USA) for my designs because most of my customers are from USA and they need to find the yarn near them.
More than choose an eco yarn, I care about fair trade companies. I try to buy yarn for companies that paid their suppliers fair. I think this is very important, when you want to be ecologic. You can’t ask to people to care about the environment if they have to struggle with minimum salary! In all kind of things, if you pay to your suppliers what is fair they can earn enough money to invest in better and environmental friendly ways to work. So, for me this is a mantra… From food to clothes.. Buy less Buy better.. I’ve been 2 years without buying any knitting garment. I only wear what I’ve done and has been super fun and great to improve my creativity and knitting skills. I think we all have to make little things every day to help to create a better world for all of us. Be nice, friendly and supportive with each other… Be tolerant with other people beliefs and lifestyles. And take responsibility about how we care about the environment.
Q3. I love your style. How would you define your style? What inspires your designs?
Thanks, glad you like it! This question is kind of tricky, because I don’t like definitions, because I always want to try different styles, eclectic style can be the word. I think I have lots of local influence in my designs, I love colorful garments, statement garments. But always with the mind in the customer, so they can afford to knit them. For inspiration I use Pinterest, books and go to local fairs. I made every month a mood board, stitch samples and sketch a lot…Also check my wardrobe and see what I need… that’s were inspiration comes.
Q4. What pattern are you most proud of?
I don’t know if for you is the same, but I like all of them. My best selling is Carolina Shawl, (I made it for my sister) and I love it.. and people love it too. I’m proud of the garments I’ve made too and it’s always good for the ego being published in a magazine. But my favorite is cat lover hat. I told the story to Carolyn from TNBT when she made designers of GAL series at her podcast. The story is that I used to have a cat, Pilo, she died because some crazy homeless stab her with a nail at her leg, she got complications because she was old (14) and died. I suffer a lot, and I decided to not have another cat again. After a while (almost 2 years since Pilo died) a friend of mine has kittens for adoption.. and I went to her house for another reason and I met Lupe (she is now my cat) and she was identical at Pilo. I couldn’t resist… they looks the same but they have very different personalities. So when I design that pattern I was thinking in my 2 cats love. That design is for the cat lovers like me. (I’m also a dog lover too!)
Q5. Your Instagram feed is gorgeous! Do you have a background in photography?
Love you like it and you ask me about this. Last year I decided to improve my Instagram account, because I like the feedback you can have with people in that platform. You can chat, you can comment to other people, etc. I’m a visual person, so I like so see others people pictures too. But I didn’t know how to do it… because I wanted to show my life there as a knitwear designer… So I took visual social media class from Emily Quinton at makelight.com and it helps me lots. It helps me to look things different and find a style for my Instagram account. I told this to you, because many people ask me what camera did I have or what lights they have to buy for pictures. The funny thing is I have the cheapest reflex sony camera (the one you can’t add lens), the cheapest Samsung phone (series J) and I use the daylight.. and the pictures looks amazing.. I do some photo editing at my phone in VSCO or in Lightroom, but I just adjust exposure and temperature. I try not to manipulate the pictures too much. The clue is practice, practice, practice… and buy some nice props. I try to post everyday and I took 20 to 30 pictures a day, not everything goes on Instagram, but it helps me for practice and is a very creative way to spend time. I hope the people who look at my IG, feel encourage to take pictures of their project and share it… I try to give a little inspiration everyday.
Puddles species to species question – what role do your pets play in your business? What are their names?
Can’t imagine my life without pets. I was raised with lots of pets and local fauna. My father used to work in an environmental government corporation, and our house was always full of animals in transition or they have to stay because they couldn’t come back to wildlife. And we also had normal pets as dogs, cats, chicken, rabbits, ton of hamsters, frogs, fishes.. etc (my parents were very permissive in this respect).
In this days I have a rescue dog (Luli), she is living with my parents cause she is too big (almost like puddles) to live in a flat… And she has her routine, she is known by all my parents neighbors, so she goes out alone at mornings. She has her life in my parents hometown. I live with Lupe (my cat), she 2 years old.. and she is the boss behind the scene.. jajaja I live alone.. so she is a big company for me, because this profession is very lonely, sometimes.
To celebrate her patterns in TheFiberCo.com’s Fall release book, Marcela is offering a giveaway!
To win this awesome skein of yarn be sure your a Knit Eco Chic newsletter subscriber and comment on this interview blog below! Puddles will randomly draw the winner and announce it next week.
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