Ask any knitter what his or her fantasy job might be and watch how quickly their face illuminates with sheer delight. Joji Locatelli is a designer living that dream, after trading in a white coat for the multi-coloured sweaters she now knits, and discovering her creative talents in a virtual candyland emporium where the knitting yarns are the ultimate treats. Joji’s lively demeanor and refreshing enthusiasm catch on like wildfire, as she drops by to chat about designing life and her passion for knitting.
MM: Hi Joji, and thanks so much for stopping by today to share a bit about your work and design. What would you like to drink?
JL: I’ll have a latte, thank you!
MM: Has knitwear design always been your chosen career?
JL: Well as a matter of fact….No! I studied first to be a physician, and I was a great student back then! After I received my degree and license, I worked as a doctor until my first son was born. But I didn’t enjoy my career well enough to continue at it, and dreamt of knitting all the time…so I did whatever I could to leave that profession behind and began looking for a job that was related to knitting. I found my dream job at a local yarn shop (Milana) where I met some incredibly generous people who have helped me to develop in this business. At Milana, I get to play with colour, knit samples, and design lines of yarn. Whatever needs to be done, I am in for it! Designing knitwear just came my way a year ago…I didn’t really expect any of my designs to be popular, but people really liked them, which has encouraged me to keep doing it.
MM: Working with such wildy colourful and exotic yarns from Manos Artesanas must be like playing in a candy store all day long. Is it the design idea that you develop first or does the yarn speak to you?
JL: With Manos Artesanas, the yarn does the trick, it doesn’t speak to me, it shouts at me! I try to keep the designs simple with this line, because the beauty and the colours in the yarn are so incredible, a more intricate pattern just wouldn’t allow the yarn to glow. Yes, working here is unbelievable, all the yarn you can imagine, and at the reach of your hand…
MM: There are so many luxurious soft blends of yarn these days, you must have one special pet fibre that you adore working with?
JL: Well, I haven’t been blessed with the opportunity yet to work with every blend available…but I know I love merino, in any shape. For me, there is nothing like a great soft wool.
MM: What is the knitting ‘vibe’ like in your hometown of Buenos Aires and at your LYS?
JL: Buenos Aires is a wonderful city to live in. I am truly in love with my hometown! But the knitting vibe is very different here from the rest of the world. I am not talking about the knitters that you find in online communities, those are a minority in Buenos Aires, and yes they do have similar knitting styles to others. I am talking about the knitters we see every day at the shop. Argentine knitters love FAST PROJECTS! Big needles! Lots of colour, texture…and loads of embellishments! Lace is not popular here for that reason. Hahaha. Even though we don’t have harsh winters, knitters here choose thick yarns, novelty, and chunky blends. I really love how knitting ‘vibes’ can be so totally different.
MM: I see you belong to a knitting group, how often do you meet, and what source of inspiration do you draw from your fellow knitters?
JL: Yes, I am very lucky to have really good knitting friends. We met in an online community almost four years ago, and they have now become some of my most cherished friends. We share the same passion for yarn and get together for knitting every Saturday. My knitting friends are very supportive of what I do, and usually test my patterns for me (a big thank you!) They even look for new ideas for me to work with.
MM: You refer to your mom as a ‘Sleeve Master’…. there must be a story behind that special nickname??
JL: Hahaha, you heard that?? Yes, she is the best! Well, you know how knitters hate to knit sleeves, right? You are almost done with a sweater, all the shaping is complete, you have passed through the hardest parts of the design, you try it on, it fits…. everything is perfect! Not quite. You still have to make two boring tubes to cover your arms! But my mom loves to work on them (or at least she tells me so) because they are so mindless… and she can watch tv at the same time.
MM: Yay! Teamwork!!
JL: I know, how great is that! After I work out some directions for her, she usually knits all the sleeves for me. The only time I knit them myself is when she is already knitting up the sleeves for another one of my samples.
MM: What’s ‘on your needles’ at the moment Joji?
JL: Well… I am working on two sweater designs right now. One of them is a collared cardigan with ties, and flowers, and leaves on the back. I recently designed a child’s version and it was very popular. I hope the adult version will do the original justice. The other design, I just started it today actually, is a cabled hoodie in a chunky yarn that will be knit in multiple directions…. I hope I can make that work!!
MM: Best of luck with that one, I am sure it will look great. Is there something that you recall as especially inspiring on your travels?
JL: I haven’t had the opportunity to travel very much…so no…but I think travelling must be so inspiring! As a matter of fact, we are going away on a family trip to Europe next April, and I am already thinking of all the ideas I will bring back home.
(images courtesy of Joji Locatelli)