A CROCHET CHAT WITH ISA CATEPILLÁN

This August at the Pom Pom studios in London, we’ll be hosting designer Isa Catepillán for a weekend of crochet workshops! We are so excited share our workspace with you and host this talented teacher. Youll know Isa’s beautiful crochet designs from Issue 29, which featured her bag Minton, as well as Water Clover and Davallia from Issue 28.

The weekend comprises of four different classes: Beginner Crochet,  Crochet Relief Stitches, Reading Crochet Charts, and Textured Crochet Stitches. Regardless of which one you choose, Isa has designed each class to give you the tools to start creating your own projects, experiment with new ideas, and ignite creativity through this fascinating ancient technique. If you enjoy yarn, tea, excellent company, and learning new things from an expert, these are the workshops for you!

Isa Catepillán

Photo courtesy of Isa Catepillán

With the heatwave weather in Europe this week, we’ve been thinking how everyone needs some cool crochet skills in their life. Which summer wouldn’t be improved by a Water Clover or Davallia to wear, or a Minton bag to head to the beach with?  We’re therefor offering a flash sale on these classes this weekend! Head to the workshops page here to book your place.

While you’re waiting for August to roll around, why not learn a little more about this queen of modern crochet? Isa kindly took the time to answer our questions and tell us her story as a maker.

Hi Isa! We are curious about how you became immersed in the world of crochet. What are you earliest memories of crochet? When you did you get first get ‘hooked’ as they say?

It was so early in my life that I don’t even remember. My mum is a knitter and since I was very young I played with all her leftover yarn. I taught myself how to knit with a book of hers, and at some point I also learned how to crochet. I knew the basics of knitting and crocheting for many years and with that I created lots of different things. Growing up, I didn’t know about crochet magazines, so the only option for me and my mum was creating our own patterns. It was natural. As a kid, I only made little things like tiny baskets, or ponchos for my dolls, and few scarves for me and friends. I remember designing my first crochet top when I was 16, it made me so proud. 

Only 4 years ago I decided to take my crochet skills to the next level. I taught myself more techniques so I could create pieces as complex as the full length wedding dresses I now make. Long after that, I was commissioned to write a pattern, so first I had to learn how to read them. I still find it easier to write a pattern than to read one, probably because that is how I originally experienced crocheting. 

Water Clover, Pom Pom Issue 28

Water Clover, Pom Pom Issue 28

We’ve read that your ancestors were part of the indigenous Mapuche tribe in Chile, where crochet and weaving are important traditions. Can you tell us a little more about how you found this out and how you feel it informs your work?

I didn’t know I had indigenous heritage. My grandmother grew up in the city and suffered lots of discrimination for her surname and skin colour. Her pain made her deny her own origins and it was taboo to talk about our lineage with my family. After she passed, we started to openly talk about our roots, we all kind of knew we were indigenous but only in an intuitive way. I had the great desire to take my grandmother’s indigenous name, Catepillán, with pride and respect so I could heal that deep wound she lived with, but many years passed until I took action.

After a degree in Economics and few disappointing years in the corporate world, I left Chile (10 years ago today!) to travel the world, practice yoga, and find myself.  I had the best years living in Barcelona, traveling around Europe and the Middle East, living in New Zealand, travelling around Asia and landing in Australia to find the love of my life. That made me stay. 

Life was amazing in paradisiac Byron Bay, but something had changed deep within me: I wasn’t a traveller anymore. There was no reason to keep having temporary ‘travellers jobs’ and I didn’t want to go back to a big company. I had no idea what to do and this confusion led me down a hole. I remembered Catepillán means ‘Fierce Spirit’ so I did a symbolic ceremony and I finally took it as mine. At that time, I was crocheting a lot and that really saved me from depression and it was then I finally decided to take it to the next level. I still can’t explain how this happened but 6 months later and without planning it,  I had my first crocheted wedding dress collection ready. It was so easy, like all my thoughts could be focused, I’d found my purpose and I felt healed. 

On my next trip to Chile to visit family , I took the opportunity to go South to find my roots. When I arrived at Chiloé Island, where my ancestors come from, I couldn’t believe the textile tradition of  my culture. It was in my blood and I am so grateful for my lineage of traditional weavers. That trip was a life changing experience, being received and accepted by my family there and knowing where I come from, it knocked down any doubt about dedicating my life to fibre art.

Photo courtesy of Isa Catepillán

Such a beautiful and moving story about your heritage, thank you. We’re so honoured that you are joining us  at the Pom Pom studios for a weekend of workshops in August and for you to share your skills. What can people expect from your classes?

Yes! In a month I will be heading to London for my first series of workshops in Europe. I have held crochet classes around Australia, South America, and Asia, and it has been a dream come true to be invited to the Pom Pom studio. 

The classes are designed for people who would like to learn basics or more complex crochet stitches to design unique pieces, experiment with their own ideas and feel the freedom of create. I will share different techniques, fun textures and reliefs, which are my personal favourites! 

The years designing my own collections, creating custom design pieces, and creating patterns have taught me a lot. I used to make so many mistakes and would unpick weeks of work until I finally found my way to crochet practically whatever I can imagine. The classes start with the very basic elements and organically move into more complex ones, so you can build on your skills depending on which workshop you attend. I want to share all my hot tips and give advice on what works with each kind of stitch.

I love the perfect geometry of crochet, and in my classes, rather than following instructions, the invitation is to understand the logic of it. Get ready to create new neurological pathways, challenge yourself and ignite your creative fire.

We can’t wait! Maybe some people reading this have only ever knitted and perhaps are nervous about how crochet would work for them. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about learning to crochet.

For knitters it is always easier to learn how to crochet. The process is usually faster and that makes the learning more rewarding, inspiring, and motivating. Knitters already have a relationship with yarn and structure so they feel confident while experimenting with these new movements, because the logic is similar.

I have heard people saying that they are only a ‘knitting person’ and could never crochet, as if they were opposite to each other. In my opinion, this can’t be further from reality. To me, knitting and crocheting belong to the same family and they complement each other so well. When you mix these two techniques your possibilities expand exponentially and so does your creativity. Also, it is good to consider that knitting and crocheting require different muscles and hand movements, so I always think it’s sensible to alternate them. I knit when I need a rest from crocheting, that way I don’t have to stop. 

a pair of hands, crocheting with cream yarn

Photo courtesy of Isa Catepillán

What are your favourite materials and tools for crocheting? 

For summer I love a good organic linen yarn and for winter baby alpaca is the softest fibre on earth. I like crocheting with ergonomic hooks.  I don’t use fancy tools, only little scissors and few markers. The simplicity of needing so little to create a garment is an important reason why I love crocheting.

What is your favourite thing you’ve ever made? Is it also your most worn thing that you’ve made? 

I don’t have much time to crochet pieces for myself, unfortunately! (But I am getting there!)

My favourite pieces to design and make are always crochet wedding dresses; I feel so honoured to create such a special garment and when a bride chooses me to make her dress I give my best to create what she is dreaming. It is rewarding to see photos of the wedding. Making these kinds of dresses require lots of connection with the bride and I love that intimacy we create together.

How do you like to spend your time when you are not crocheting and making?

Making is definitely my thing and I get easily hooked with all kind of textiles, like knitting, weaving, embroidering, and so on.

I also love gardening, cooking, and creating my own recipes with some homegrown herbs and veggies. I love to decorate a beautiful table and gather friends together for lunch or dinner. Yoga and meditation are also an important part of my routine, they keep me focused, centred and allow me to spend many hours crocheting. 

If I’m taking some time off from making, a day well-spent is usually one in nature, where I can hike or swim in the ocean. Or staying cozy at home, making a fire and just reading.

Travelling is definitely another passion and it makes me so happy I can take my work anywhere I go.

Indeed, we’re happy that you can make the journey to London! Thank you again Isa, we look forward to welcoming you in August.

Don’t forget our flash sale of 15% off classes is until midnight Monday 29th June, book your place here!

Photos of Water Clover and Davallia by Carolyn Carter
Photo of Minton by Laura Morsman

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