In a world filled with screens and fast-paced digital lives, there exists a unique breed of artists who choose to create something beautiful one stitch at a time. It’s my pleasure to write about Jen Zuniega of Jentsilyo PH. Let’s have a journey through the hands and heart of a crocheter, revealing the magic that happens when yarn meets determination, turning it into an article of beauty, love, and pure artistic expression.
The Start of a Passion
I started doing crochet when I was 11 years old. I remember that it was summer, and I didn’t have anything else to do. Usually, I’m just home watching anime, drawing, or writing anything. My mom, who teaches HE (Home Economics) in school, and my sister at that time were busy crocheting. At first, I didn’t like it, but I saw it every day, and it sparked my curiosity, so I wanted to try it. My sister patiently taught me, and I got it after many tries. It’s challenging at first, but seeing the outcome is very rewarding.
Jen loves doing small and easy projects that can be done in a day or two. This includes coasters, pouches, bucket hats, and tote bags. Among these, she enjoys working with wearables. She creates tops, bottoms, cardigans, and vests.
The most rewarding thing about crochet is that I get to imagine what I want to create, and seeing it come to life is an amazing feat. Imagine it’s just a ball of yarn, and you can create all sorts of things. Your imagination and creativity are your only limits (and they are limitless).
Stitches and Patterns
I enjoy learning new stitches, especially those that have nice textures when you see them or touch them. Some crochet techniques that I like doing are the arrow stitch, puff stitch, alpine stitch, and my newest discovery of long HDC that I can crisscross; it’s similar to cable stitch.
I want to create a pattern design that I would specifically wear. I have that era of Hubadera, LOL! I mostly make bikinis and crop tops, but now I’ve switched to making cardigans, shruggies, and vests that I can definitely casually wear outside. I also check Pinterest; there are a lot of ideas out there. I just type keywords like crochet and clothing. Sometimes I get inspiration from my co-crocheters. I also watch some fashion shows from different brands, especially when they launch their collections for the season.
Many people find relaxation and stress relief in crafting. How has crochet positively impacted your mental well-being, if at all?
I think crocheting for a long time improved my ability to focus and have that quiet time for myself. During the pandemic, I found myself longing to do something, and I picked up my hook again after some time. It helped me cope with the day-to-day struggle of killing time when I was alone and doing something productive for myself aside from my other hobbies. It also helped me connect with my mom, who had passed away at the time. She didn’t get to see my design patterns and wearables, but I know that she’s always proud of me and my creations.
Can you share a particularly challenging crochet project you’ve undertaken? What was it, and how did you overcome the difficulties you encountered?
I think the most challenging crochet project I took on was pattern testing for a haori (kimono), and I had to follow a certain pattern. It was a similar pattern for Draken’s Haori in the Tokyo Revengers anime. I have to switch black and white yarns. Ask any crocheter, and they’ll say that working with black yarn is difficult.
Crochet can be both a solitary and a social activity. Do you prefer crocheting alone or as part of a group? What are the advantages of each for you?
I would say I love crocheting alone, as I am alone with my thoughts and/or just watching something or listening to music or podcasts. But it’s fine with me to be with someone crocheting while maybe talking to each other. It would be fun to do that over a cup of coffee while catching up. I’m also open to teaching my friends to crochet with me, as long as they are determined and I have lots of patience with them!
What tools and materials are essential for your crochet projects, and do you have any recommendations for beginners in terms of supplies?
When I’m teaching how to crochet, I always recommend using a large hook size and thick yarn so they can hold their tension with much more ease than using smaller hooks and thin yarns. In the same way, I love using a 4mm–4.5mm hook size because I get to finish faster. I always use combed cotton and fine cotton yarns, as they are very soft and glide easily when used. I also like my garments to have holes, especially in our weather.
Crochet can be a versatile art form. Have you ever combined crochet with other crafts or mediums, like knitting or sewing, to create unique pieces?
I haven’t done it myself, but I always see my mom do it on a handkerchief with crochet borders. I want to try it very soon! I want to buy a knitting machine and then add some crochet to it.
Are there any crochet designers or artists who inspire your work? What about their style or approach do you find appealing?
I always loved Ms. Aly Gene’s style. Her crochet inspired me to try designing my own patterns and to create what suits me best, especially the wearables. There are a lot of other talented local crochet artists, and I’m inspired by their creativity.
Do you participate in any crochet communities or groups, either online or in person? How has this affected your crochet journey and skills?
This lockdown, I just learned about the concept of pattern testing. It is where a crochet artist designs a pattern and lets other crochet artists test the design. It’s a win-win situation even if it’s just free because the designer gets free photos and videos for marketing promotions plus the feedback on her pattern, while the pattern testers get the pattern design, free mentoring, and of course, a new friend or supporter. I also joined lots of Facebook groups, and I learned a lot from them. We are all supporting each other’s crafts and sharing tips and tricks. It’s fun to be in a community where you all share the same hobby.
How do you balance your crochet projects with other aspects of your life, such as work, family, and social commitments?
You really have to find time for your hobby, especially since I made mine a business, and sometimes I join pattern testing. I also make it a point to squeeze it into my day when I have new designs to write. I love being able to create, and it makes me even more productive.
Crochet has a rich history and cultural significance. Are there any specific cultural or historical crochet traditions that you’re particularly interested in or have explored?
Crochet has been here for a long time, and the fact that I’m doing it makes me a part of its rich culture and history. I have read that there are no machines that can replicate the crochet stitches, unlike knitting.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to learn how to crochet? Are there any common mistakes or challenges they should be aware of?
Starting to crochet as a complete beginner can be daunting and frustrating. Just be patient and trust the process. And of course, enjoy every bit of it! It’s fun and relaxing once you get the hang of it.
Can you share any future goals or projects you have in mind for your crochet work? Are there any techniques or styles you’d like to explore further?
I would like to design more wearable patterns in the future. I want to explore more freehand styles with a grudged look, like a haute couture style that’s really different from what I already did. I’m also looking into having workshops for beginners and intermediate crocheters. I also want to put up a website so I can sell limited pieces, launch free patterns, and feature co-crocheters. I also want to finally upload video tutorials on YouTube. Ahh, the possibilities are endless! I just have to take action and do it.
Can you describe a memorable experience related to crochet, whether it’s a special gift you’ve made for someone or a project that had a significant impact on you?
I started crocheting as a hobby, and I always gift my friends crochet on special occasions. They love it because it’s personalized, and they understand the value I put into it. They are very grateful, and it makes me happy to see them appreciate what I do. It feels like a simple creation, but with handmade, you always put a part of yourself into your creation, and that makes it more valuable than money.
If you love supporting local artists and sustainable fashion, I suggest that you also buy some of her creations:
If you like to know more about Jen Zuniega of Jentsilyo PH, follow her social media accounts:
- Facebook: JENtsilyo_ph
- Instagram: @jentsilyo_ph
- YouTube: JENTSILYO_PH
- TikTok: @jentsilyo_ph
- Ko-Fi Shop: JENtsilyo_ph
- Website: https://msha.ke/jentsilyo_ph
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