Back in the game

First experiment with design.

First experiment with design.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two months since my last post. It did take time to get settled into Taiwan. I have found a couple of yarns stores in Taipei and hope to locate a couple more over the next couple of months. In the meantime, I have started my first cowl design using some inexpensive lace weight yarn that I found at Bear Mama in the wholesale district.

I can see this will be a new adventure. Although my crochet skills are pretty advanced, I have never designed for crochet before. Not to make it too easy, I chose an 18 count repeating lace stitch pattern from one of my Korean stitch dictionaries. At first I wanted just a simple cowl that increased to cover the shoulders. Then I realized I did not know how to increase properly in order to maintain the lace pattern while crocheting in the round.

Nothing is ever a easy as it seems. I did a couple of swatches and could not get a consistent gauge. So, I finally just estimated the circumference I wanted to make it fit over the head without being too drapey. But it expanded as the piece grew. It turned out to be just about right for a smoke ring, framing my face nicely. I decided to make it top down, since it was fitting my head nicely.

I wanted a smooth transition from head to neck, so I started adding short rows to make it turn gradually down the neck. Then I realized I didn’t know how to make all the rows match up. No matter, I ran out of yarn.

It’s a cowl. I can do another one and learn how to make the adjustments properly. Published pattern to be arranged. See my Ravelry page. Any suggestions for tutorials on increasing and decreasing lace in the round?

Kristin Omdahl’s Seamless Crochet

Making crocheted motifs can be a lot of fun. It’s amazing the different geometric designs that can be created from the same motif or pairs of motifs set in different ways with different colors. The problem comes in when it is time to assemble them. You can wait until the end and crochet them all together afterwards; this eliminates working in loose ends easier. But you will still have at least one loose end to hide on each motif, which can be daunting if you want to make something light weight and lacy, like a shawl. If you are doing all of your motifs in the same color scheme, you can simply skip the final row and join them all using the same yarn or thread for the final round. In general, I have found I have trouble with the join showing on motif work and have never found a joining method that gives me the results I want.

Problem solved! Kristin Omdahl has done all the experimentation for us and offers a book that reveals the secret to joining motifs seamlessly in Seamless Crochet from Interweave Press.  All the challenges that may come up have been considered, such as joining half motifs or triangles and  clear and precise instructions are included for all the steps you will need to know to complete a seamless motif project.

This is not a book that teaches you how to crochet, but rather a book for crocheters who want to learn a new method for joining motifs. With this in mind, Kristin has kept the projects simple, so they are useful learning tools for mastering the techniques. Once you have mastered the seamless crochet method, you can then go off on your own and complete any motif project seamlessly whether it is a pattern you purchase or something you design yourself.

There are eighteen projects in the book, so you can find something you will like to make for practicing each of the techiques. It also includes an instructional DVD. Which demonstrates the seamless method with three of the projects from the book. You can crochet along with the DVD or choose a project you like and just watch the part of the DVD that shows the technique you need. If you prefer learning straight out of the book, simply browse the projects in the front and choose whatever you like for a first project. Kristin has planned it so both beginners and advanced crocheters will have projects to please and challenge them.

The join as you go method is presented in the back of the book. So, you will want to study that thoroughly first or watch the explanation on the DVD before beginning your first project. You will need to learn a slightly different method than you are used to for reading the charts, but once you understand the concept it is quite simple. There is, also, a short glossary and stitch dictionary in the back along with a resource guide for all the materials suggested with each pattern.

Overall, I think this book is well worth the price. You get to learn a new crochet technique, you get a large selection of patterns, and you get a DVD. That’s quite a lot of bang for your buck in one book. Of the projects offered, my favorite is the very first pattern: Blue Lagoon. It’s a shawl in a hexagon swirl motif. Although it is done in chunky weight yarn, it has a light and airy look to it and drapes very nicely. The Malabrigo Superwash Merino yarn that Kristin has used appears to have a slight sheen to it and no halo. I like that, it gives it a silky look. The Eden Tile shawl is done in a multicolored yarn and adds some depth to the simple motifs, which might otherwise become boring. I also like the Burges lace edging on this shawl. It’s another bonus that comes with this book. You might not be expecting to learn a Bruges lace stitch. The Ninja Star shawlette also gets my vote because the motif creates such eye catching shapes. There is real motion in the design. The Star Mobius is another nice piece that I would like to make. Here, she has used different colors in rows creating a colorful project that is still joined in one piece. I love the soft sheen of the acrylic and bamboo yarn used in this one.

The stitch pattern of Berry Blossom Market bag was too open for my taste. I like a market bag with smaller holes, otherwise things are always falling out. However I do like the three dimensional flowers in the motif. They could be really interesting in a smaller gauge and using a less stretchy thread or yarn.

The weakest designs were the hats, which were nothing new or interesting; and some of the neck pieces which were either too spindly to hold their shape or done in yarn that was too thick to make a really wearable piece. My one other criticism is that some of the edgings are not really three dimensional. The Bruges lace was nice, but some of the edgings were just a long strig with a motif on the end. This kind of fringe will never hang well and will crumple when washed. I can’t imagine blocking each little piece of fringe after washing. If you don’t want regular fringe or tassles, bobbles or other stitches that hold their shape work best with as fringe.

My rating for this book: It’s a keeper! The method is well explained in both charts and written directions, and visuals on Kristin’s DVD. As always, the photos are immaculate; focus is very sharp and lighting is perfect on detail shots. And there is something for everyone in the generous choice of patterns. Now if only there were a method for doing multicolored motifs with no seams. I can’t wait to see if she does a sequel!

Do you have any tips for motif work? What’s your favorite motif?

Releasing Your Creativity with Free-form Crochet

One of the advantages of crochet can be seen in free form work. With crochet, you can design as you go. You don’t need a pattern, you just start with an idea and then start crocheting. That’s not to say you don’t need a method. Just like in garment design, you have to have the basic shape in mind before you start and it helps to sketch out your idea. If you are interested in trying some free form crochet, a good book to start with is  Learn to Free-form Crochet by Margaret Huber (Annie’s Attic a division of DRG publishing, 2010). This is a short book, only 29 pages, but it has all the essentials to get you started with free-form crochet.

The first section introduces three methods for working free-form crochet: the template method, the lining method, and the mesh method. Part 2 gives you instructions for creating some basic shapes. It’s a ten page stitch dictionary and has plenty to get you started. Once you have mastered a technique, you can add other stitches from any crohcet stitch dictionary.

The stitch dictionary is followed by seven different projects that use the three different techniques. The first one, a bag, uses the lining method. You essentially create the shape of the bag in a muslin fabric and sew you crochet onto the lining. The advantage of this method is you have the finished shape right there. So, you can easily create your own free-form crochet design to cover the same bag because you will be able to see if your design is working up to fit the shape you need. If you just want to try out the lining method, but you don’t care for a bag, the next project is a pillow. Who doesn’t have a place for a pillow?

The next three projects, a cardigan, a vest, and a hat and scarf set; use the mesh method in which you creat a mesh background and sew your freeform motifs onto the mesh afterwards. In the case of the hat and scarf, I think they could both be crocheted in a piece with a little planning. However, you would not have the option to change the design as you go if you chose to create the hat and scarf all in one piece.

The necklace on page 32 creates a chain of leaves and flowers to which you add larger flowers to complete it.  This design, also, offers lots of opportunity to improvise.

The final project is the capelet which is shown on on the front cover. By far the most complex project, it demonstrates the advantage of the template method. You create a template out of paper or muslin as you would for a fabric garment. This allows you to test the size, fullness, and drape of the final shape before you commit yourself to the whole design. The motifs are planned out for you in this project, but once you start designing your own, you might want to create sample motifs and play around with the placement on your pattern. Once you have decided the exact layout of the motifs, you can create them individually or plan to join them as you go, using the pattern to measure and make sure each motif is coming out the proper size.

Learn to Free-form Crochet is a great book to get you started with free form crochet. My favorite projects were the hat and scarf set, and the bag. However, I can see possibilities in the other projects, for learning a technique and then modifing the project as details are worked out. And I think, that is exactly what the author had in mind. It is not necessarily a book you would buy just for the patterns. It’s a book for learning a technique and would be a welcome addition to your crochet library because you would refer to it again and again.

Margaret Hubert, author of Learn to Free-form Crochet, is featured on her personal website at: . There you will find more books, patterns and photos of her work.

Do you have a favorite free form crochet book or author? Do you freeform crochet? Tell us about it in comments.

Drafting Patterns for Crochet and Knit Garments

There are few people who make their crochet ideas come to life without a plan and if your plan is to produce a pattern you will need some experience in pattern drafting. I have a background in theatrical costuming and have had to make many, many garments straight from a sketch. But unless it was a very small show, I had to be able to create a pattern that could be easily followed by cutter and seamstress to make my own design or that of another designer come to life. And it had to look like the picture.

The same holds true when creating a crochet or knit garment. It is unlikely that you will find a tech assistant that can or would be willing to create the first draft of a garment from a sketch. You could make the garment up first, but unless you are making something that is a variation on a standard pattern, you will need to draft the garment pattern first. Right now, I have started swatching for a vest idea, but I quickly realized that I need to draft the pattern in order to determine accurately where the stitch pattern needs to change for the proper fit and overall shape of the garment.

You don’t need to take a dressmakers pattern course to do this, but you do need to be able to draft a basic pattern and work from their. I’ll give you a few hints to get you started here and then give you some references for more in-depth instructions at the end.

You will need:

Large paper – at least half the desired circumference of your finished garment

Source options:

Dressmakers paper with large 1″ squares

Butcher paper  or brown wrapping paper – some art stores have it.

Reel ends of newsprint – used to be easily found at newspaper printing offices. Try calling around to any local publications that may still print their own papers.

Large paper scissors – an old pair of Fiskers works nicely

T square – hardware store or art supply store

Soft pencils and erasers – because you are working with cheap quality paper, the pencils and erasers need to be soft enough not to tear the paper.

Compass: for drawing curves

Let’s use a vest for this example. For a first try, let’s use a garment with a fit you already like. Creating the entire garment from scratch can come later, after you have the hang of how to get the basic shape down on paper.

Take the following measurements:

Largest circumference of garment: __________

Divide by 2: __________ = basic front & back width

Divide by 2 again: __________ = center front and back

Length of center back __________

Add at least 3″ top and bottom __________ = approximate length of front and back

Measure across shoulders __________

Distance across shoulder seam at neck __________

Distance from outer shoulder seam and lower armhole seam


First measure the garment for the largest circumference (the entire measurement across front and back). Divide by half, this is your basic front and back size. You’ll see in a moment why we don’t measure each separately. Divide by half again; this mark is your center front and back.

Using front and back width and length draft two large rectangles with 3-6″ of room on all sides. It’s best to cut these into two separate pieces for ease of working with the sheets. Mark each sheet either front or back and mark the center point of each. All other measurements will start from this center point.

Back: Use the shoulder width measurement and center it over your center back. Mark the outer edges of the shoulders on each side. Draw a horizontal line 1″ above the shoulders. Center your ruler or t square and mark the inner neck measurement on the paper.  Use your compass to create a half circle by placing the point into the center back line and opening the compass to meet one of the inner shoulder seam marks and drawing your half circle to meet the other inner neck point. You should have a gentle curve that mimics the curve on your original garment. Take a visual check and see if this looks about right. You could lay the garment out on the paper and trace it but this leads to inaccurate curves because the fabric is not stable like the paper.

Are you confused, yet? You could trace around the entire garment, but then you would have to spend a lot of time truing up all your lines and you wouldn’t learn how the relationship between each line and curve works.

Front: Try taking similar measurents for one armhole. This time draw a rectangle from the top and bottom of the armhole inward to the deepest point on the armhole. Use this rectangle to round off the curve of the armhole, making the bottom curve close to a quarter circle and gently curving up to the outer shoulder seam. If you are familiar with commercial dresspatterns, you will recognize this type of curve. If you don’t sew, just trust me. It’s not and oval, it will create more of an egg shape when joined with the front.

For the front, save time by lightly tracing off the back. Measure across the widest part of the front (this will cross over the bust points if it fits well). Find the waist (in this case the narrowest point of the front. and mark that on your pattern. Be sure each of these marks are the proper distance vertically from the armhole and lower edge. For now, mark that distance and draw a line from the bottom front to the underarm seam, gently curving inward at the waist and then outward to bust line and underarm. You should have one continuous gentle curve. If you have sharp angles, soften your curve. If this means missing your  marks slightly, that’s ok. We are making a fabric that will have more stretch than a woven fabric, so it will ease over the curves.

This is a very simplified explanation and there are a lot more tricks and details that can be added as you gain confidence and skill. But this will give you a basic pattern to work from. You can then lay out a mock up of the stitch pattern in strategic places and discover where your increases and decreases will best be placed. Lily Chin’s book, Couture Crochet gives some good images of how a flat drafted paper patern looks. She actually works out the pattern on paper with the stitch pattern printed on it full size. In order to do this, you would need to go to an office supply store that has a printer used for printing architectural designs and have it printed there. I think it might be too costly for the beginning designer, but it is good to know it is possible.

Happy crocheting!

It’s Not about the Hook

We’ve considered crochet history and techniques and how they influenced today’s designs. Now we want to consider the process that gets us there. In order to create your own designs, you will need more than skill and great ideas. You’ll have to understand how fiber creates fabric.We say each fabric has a hand; meaning whether it is soft of stiff, smooth or coarse, whether it drapes well and holds a curve or looks better in pleats and tucks. When you knit or crochet, you are creating fabric and you need to take each of these things into consideration when choosing the right fiber for your design. But how do you know? If you are going to make a sewn garment, you go through the fabric store and look at color, sheen, and texture. You feel the fabric in your hand (thus the term hand) and you hold up a length of it to see how it drapes or pleats. In the case of crochet or knit, you are creating the fabric and you will need a good bit of knowledge about fiber to anticipate what kind of fabric you can create with a given fiber.

Reprinted with permission from Creating Crochet Fabric © 2010 by Dora Ohrenstein, Lark Crafts, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

Reprinted with permission from Creating Crochet Fabric © 2010 by Dora Ohrenstein, Lark Crafts, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

Dora Ohrenstein’s book Creating Crochet Fabric: experimenting with hook, yarn & stitch addresses all the procedures you need to follow in order to produce the right fabric for the design or pattern you want to make. She starts with the basics; going over the different types of fibers, their weights and size, and the different types of yarn that can made from them. Each of these elements alone will affect the resulting fabric. A fiber can have a thick or thin strand, it can have more or less twist, can have single or multiple strands, and more. The hook size, too, can affect your fabric but the yarn itself is by far the most important and complex choice you have to make. Dora has laid out all the details in this first chapter and then offered a simple circular motif scarf which can be made by repeating the same stitch pattern with a series of different fibers and gauges. This will give you a fun wearable project to experiment with and get the idea of how fiber weight and hook size affect outcome. You can follow this pattern or create a repeating design of your own as a practice piece.

In the following chapters, you’ll see many examples of swatches depicting definition with different types of fiber, how stitch patterns create geometric designs, colorwork samples, and swatches worked with different size yarns. Each chapter includes patterns you can use to go beyond swatches and make a practical project using the techniques you’ve learned. In the final chapters, Dora gives you suggestions for how to put together what you’ve learned, offers additional patterns and a short stitch dictionary to get you started. If you are serious about design, you’ll want to start collecting stitch dictionaries, too. But Creating Crochet Fabric will also be an excellent reference book that you will return to again and again as you continue to learn more about creating fabric in crochet. Read it cover to cover when you first get it and then keep it handy for future projects.

What’s your favorite crochet reference book?

Vintage Crochet Influences Today’s Designs

Have you ever wondered why some crocheted objects have a neat and professional look, while others have that homemade look as opposed to handmade? Skill with your medium, as well as with the hook, are needed to create a finished object that has all the qualities needed to serve its purpose and highlight its beautiful crocheted stitches. Crocheted garments need particular care in the choice of yarn or thread, as well as hook size. The wrong hook or a too think yarn can turn that gorgeous vest you worked so hard on into something as stiff as a throw rug.

It’s no wonder the choice of yarn and hook are the biggest challenge for crocheters. Historically, crochet was seen in household items, which required just such a stiff fabric. The other way we traditionally found crochet was in crocheted lace garments that were truly elegant, but could only be produced with thousands of hours of work, something most of us don’t have these days. So, the traditions were either very thick, dense, stiff fabric or very fine delicate fabric.

Knit fabric is naturally softer and most wool yarns were developed with knit garments in mind. So, this has been another barrier. Some folks, even think you can’t crochet with yarn, only thread. It’s true, crochet was most often done in cotton thread and thus we have those amazing motif designs which were seen around the house right up to through the 1950s as doilies and antimascars (seen on the backs of chairs as protection from men’s hair oil) which are the basis for many of the lovely exploded lace designs we see today on crocheted garments. A crocheted garment was for the most elegant occasions. So, if you could afford it, a crocheted wedding gown was a treasure, as was wedding gift of a crocheted bedspread.

In the 1960s there was a revival of crochet and other hand crafts. Today, we may remember the ungainly acrylic granny square vests as a testament to the ugly 1960s and 1970s, but this was also a time fo true innovation in the crochet art. As we saw in last week’s post, it was a time when wearable art came to the forefront and many innovative crochet designs remain as attractive and stylish today as they were in the hippie era. And don’t think it was all jeans skirts and granny square vests. I was recently perusing a website of vintage patterns from the ’60s and there were not one, but two, crocheted hoodies! If you made one of these, no one would never know they were designed in the 1960s. And how about all those fashions with ripple stripes we see today? Yep, 1970s styles in that amazing new polyester started the craze. Crochet pattern designers, also, had some lovely interpretations of ripple striped tops. What goes around comes around.

What was happening during that period more than anything else was experimentation. Sure some of the styles didn’t work, or they only worked for that time period, but the experimentation lead to a better understanding of how crochet works. Whether it’s crochet, knit, or woven, it’s the fabric that makes the garment. Fabric has a texture, a hand, and a drape that will determine how the final garment will look and all the experimentation during the mid to late 20th century helped develop the wide variety of patterns and even the influenced the innovative yarns and threads we have available today.

So, the next time you are browsing patterns on the web or stash diving at a garage sale, take a second look at some of the old designs. If a design was a great look back in its day, it is probably still a great design today. Try to imagine the same garment with today’s yarns and colors. With only minor modifications in fit, maybe the same pattern could be given a totally modern look. Women’s garments, especially can go from baggy to body hugging in just a few years. If you are crocheting it yourself, you can adjust that fit to suit your body and today’s fashion look. Bring the shoulders in, and a 1980s look can become a classic. Lengthen a 1950′s cashmere sweater, and you have an updated, yet still elegant look.

The trick is knowing how to get the look you want. Next week, we will take a closer look at creating the fabric. Getting that right is the number one skill you need to get a polished look with your crocheted garments. We’ll take a look at Dora Ohrenstein’s book, Creating Crochet Fabric, and highlight some of the basic skills and top tips she gives you in the next post.

Till then, Happy Crocheting!

The Crocheter’s Art: Nicki Hitz Edson

I am isolated here in a small town with not much of a crochet book collection in the local library. So, I recently requested some crochet books on interlibrary loan, just to see what might be  available. Apparently, here in Tennessee, there is a dearth of books on crochet. But among the few books I was able to obtain was Del Pitt Feldman’s The Crocheter’s Art (Doubleday, 1974). I remember this book from my early research into fiber arts and it is now a classic. A first edition is listed on Amazon for more than $600 dollars! Don’t worry; there is a contemporary paperback available for about $11.00. I daresay, the pictures are not nearly so marvelous as in the original.

This book came at a time when crafts and especially fiber arts were experiencing renewed interest and, for the first time since the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century, fiber arts were being recognized as art and being included in shows in some of the major national galleries. Today, the larger museums still give a nod to crafts with a few select pieces, but major shows are not on the agenda. (Readers, correct me on this one if I am wrong. Are we in a renewal period for textile arts? If you know of any art shows that are currently featuring fiber artists, please post them here. This site is all about making crochet as art more visible and along with that goes any related textile art.)

Some of the artists featured in The Crocheter’s Art are no longer working, but a few are still around and even still actively producing work. I’d like to focus on just one of these artists today. Her name is Nicki Hitz Edson. Some of her best known early work was crocheted masks. She is an artist after my own heart, one of my favorite art forms is maks and my current favorite textile medium is crochet. You can find excellent full color photos of some of these early works at Nicki’s website.( My personal favorite is the Satyr. What’s yours?

These masks look as fresh and inspired as they did back in the day when they were first being shown in Tiffany’s windows and the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City. Her mask work continued to be a major part of her art shows throughout the 1970s and then in the 1980s wearable art became the predominant theme in her work. This is not to say her work is limited only to these two ideas. If you browse through the other pages on her website, you will see she also does tapestries and pet portraits, gives workshops in freeform crochet, and sells patterns for some of her original designs for  knitted vests.

I hope looking at Nicki Hitz Edson’s work has given you some inspiration. Has anyone tried a crocheted mask? Maybe there are some of you out there who’ve done some similar work for theatrical costuming. These are not your typical weekend projects for a Halloween costume, but they could be something for one of the big masked balls held around the major cities during the Halloween season. Post a comment, link, or photo of your work or work of someone you admire who’s done some amazing crochet masks!

Happy crocheting!

Crochet Community

In the previous blog we talked about some of the working artists out there who are using crochet in their artwork. That was only a taste. If you know of others, please put up a post on that page. The crochet community is a small but close-knit group (or should I say close-crocheted?) The best way to get information out about anything crochet is to share what you know and by the same token, that’s the best way to learn more about crochet. That’s what I am hoping to do with this website. There are lots of websites out there that have demos, free patterns, and crochet alongs. But there is not much related to crochet as an artform. If you love crochet and love to see or hear about the most wild and wonderful things being done in crochet, this is the place to come to. I will be posting  stories, links, and as much information as possible.

The way we keep crochet alive as a living craft is to disseminate information among ourselves. Start a local crochet group and meet somewhere other than a yarn shop. Local yarn shops are great and we should support them, but they are often small, hard, to find, and can be intimidating for some people. Right now, people don’t have a lot of money, so meet with others in a home or public place, share what you have, if you can, and most of all encourage others.

Start a local crochet group. Believe me crocheters will welcome it. There are lots of knitting groups, but few crochet groups. Make it friendly and fun. Include time to show some amazing crochet projects that you have seen from others or online. Go beyond just meeting up and doing a little show and tell, then spending the rest of the time with local chit/chat. Start a conversation anyone can contribute to. Talk about upcoming crochet events, websites or blogs that you have seen on line, opinions and ideas about different techniques and styles of crochet. Plan a group trip to see a local artist’s work or travel together to a conference.

If you are in a small town in the middle of the US, like me, you may find it hard to start up a group. Crafts have their niches,. I don’t know why that is, but the most crafty states, seem to be on the east and west coasts, with some of the more northern states having pockets of crafters. This is based strictly on my observations from traveling and living in a lot of different states. Do you live in a crafty place? How many yarn stores are in less than one hour’s drive from you? How many active guilds or craft groups are in or near your town? If there is a craft or fabric store in your area, does it put the craft items right up front or have they stuck a bunch of home decorator items in the front? I’d like to see a WolframAlpha chart comparing the number for fiberarts clubs to number of Walmarts across America. My guess would be, the fewer Walmarts, the more clubs or organizations related to fiber arts or making things in general.

Just a last word about the website. Eventually, I hope to have a lot of images. Right now, that’s not possible because I need permission to use images. The best way to get that permission is through the publishers, artists, and photographers. If you are in this category and would like me to show your crochet related work, please contact me. The more images I have available the more beautiful the website will be. It is hard to write about the visual arts without images, and crochet is definitely a visual art!

Art and Crochet

As you can tell by this website, I am a big proponent of recognizing the so called crafts as art forms. But what about recognition in the formal sense. Can crochet really be a work of art? It all depends on how you define art. I believe that a lot of the argument stems from the fact that many people don’t accept that the word art can have more than one definition. We readily accept that other words, like review have more than one meaning. So why not art? It is mainly a line in the sand. The art aficionados, intelligentsia, and most of all the high end museums and collectors want to be able to have the last word. When asked how the various incarnations of Startrek qualified Gene Roddenberry used to say, “It’s not Startrek until I say it’s Startrek.” In a way, those powers at the top want to be able to say when something can be called art.

But artists are always pushing the envelope, questioning what it is that defines art. Women artists, in particular often approach the question, “What is Art?” by questioning what it has to be made of. Judy Chicago  explored ceramics and embroidery in her feminist installations in the 1960s and continues to do so today in other media. Young artists today are crossing that line, too.

The one line that is most difficult to cross it the monumental element of high art. For centuries, if it wasn’t oil on canvas, then it had to be marble or bronze. And it had to be large. Thus, monumental, large and built to last. Today, we see many other media recognized in art, from acrylic sculptured to video films.

Fiber art is a little more problematic. It can be made large, but it can be very labor intensive. Making a textile last takes a great deal of care, too. A few monumental textile pieces have lasted through the ages. The Bayeux Tapestry (c.1070) is one which has survived, probably because it was in storage for many years and because it was usually displayed only once a year in the Bayeux Cathedral, for which it was named.

Today, young artists are still challenging the definition of art. And crochet is among the textile art forms being used to cross the boundaries and question our cultural and aesthetic values through art. Olek, a New York artist, very active in the Occupy Wall Street movement, has used yarn bombing as an art form.  Particularly notable was her yarn bombing of the Wall Street Bull sculpture, which is so symbolic of New York Stock Market and all it stands for.

Across the Atlantic, Joana Vasconcelos,  a French artist who now lives in Portugal, mixes crochet, hand knitting, manufactured knit fabric, and various other fabrics, even feathers, with steel and ceramics. She has shown her work at Versailles, Lisbon, Venice, London, Budapest, and the list goes on.

In Japan, one of my favorites, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, created large scale crocheted nets for a major art show in Japan. After the art work was taken over by some rambunctious children, with her blessing, she and her husband decided her art work should be for everyone. The developed a company that designs playgrounds, as well as helping to produce Toshiko’s large scale art installations for gallery and museum shows.
Check out the video of the kids playing on the crocheted networks, tunnels, and hanging globes. I’ve never seen so much joy! I loved watching them navigate the tunnels by standing on each others shoulders, seeing how they helped the younger children along to the different levels, and even some parents were letting infants crawl on the lower levels. The children became a part of the art work.

These are just a few of the artists who are showing us how to make our craft into art. It is only a taste. So many other artists are doing, wearable art, toys, and jewelry, as well as gallery art. For an excellent collection of interviews with crochet artists go to Kathryn Vercello’s website: Crochet Concupiscence. Please post links to some of your favorite crochet or textile artist!

PS: I hope the lack of visuals in this blog are not discouraging. Most of the images in the links I have noted are copyrighted. I wanted to respect that. For a magazine or professional article, I would take the time to request permissions. But blogs have to be put out there pretty quickly. So, here are the links again.

Judy Chicago website:

Website for the Bayeux Tapestry museum in Reading, UK (a replica)

Olek’s website:

Joanna Vasconcelos images:

Joana Vasconcelos’ website:

Images: Toshiko Horiuchi

Toshiko Horiuchi Macadam and husband Charles Macadam’s company website:

Colossal Art and Visual Ingenuity, Crochet Playgrounds by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam,

Crochet Artist Interviews by Kathryn Vercillo:

Crochet in Korean

It wasn’t until moving to Korea that I was inspired to take up crochet for making garments. Korea is very hot and humid in the summer, but it is also a conservative place, so wearing revealing clothing in the summer is frowned upon. The rule at the workplace was no exposed shoulders. If you are American, you already know how hard it is in summer to find appropriate clothing for the work place. With this added restriction I had a dilemma. We were expected to dress in business attire, but how could I look as well kept as my Korean counterparts? I noticed that all of my female coworkers wore little crocheted jackets over their summer tops.

I knew I coudn’t just go out and buy something in my size, but I did know that I could crochet beautiful lacy designs if I could just get some basic patterns. That was the beginning of my adventure with crocheted garments.I started scouring the bookstores and online book sites for crochet patterns that might get me started.

That opened up a whole new world for me. I remembered the wonderful selection of crafts books that the Japanese bookstore, Kinokuniya, back in San Francisco had. They always had a good choice of Japanese craft books in English translations available. Not so, in Korea. But what I did discover was that they have Kyobo Bookstores, which are similar to Kinokuniya. Nothing was in English, but I soon found out that Asian patterns were always charted. I could make the patterns following the charts.

But what would I do if I had a problem? I was thousands of miles away and I had no idea. You can probably guess that I did an internet search and discovered hundreds of crochet sites. There were lots of blogs, as well as commercial sites selling all the supplies, including books and even free patterns.

If I could do it while living in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, you can, too.

Here are a few guidelines:

Start with the basics. If you don’t have someone to teach you, find a how-to book that is easy to follow or look at some of the tutorials on YouTube.

Swatch. Make some practice swatches with the most common stitches.

You should learn the chain stitch, single crochet, double crochet, and triple crochet.

You will also need to practice some simple increases and decreases.

Start with a simple pattern, but one you really like. Look for a style you like that uses only one or two different stitches. There should be a list of abbreviations for all the stitches. I recommend getting a book that also has a chart, so you can visualize how the stitches line up.

Choose a good quality yarn in the weight called for in the pattern. If you don’t like the yarn, you won’t like the finished product.

Start with at least three hooks. Get the one called for in the pattern and at least one smaller and one larger hook. Depending on how tightly or loosely you crochet, you may need to use a different hook size.

SWATCH: Remember that yarn that matches the weight called for in the pattern? Well, there is no industry standard, so the yarn size is an estimate. That means the size of your project won’t be right until you play around with the yarn and hooks until you get the gauge called for in the pattern. Make a big swatch, at least 4 inches, preferably larger. Launder it and steam it according to the yarn label, then measure. Keep swatching until you get the right gauge.

What’s gauge: It is an estimate of the number of stitches per inch across a row and the number of rows per inch measuring vertically.

READ: The entire pattern! Try out any confusing parts, like lining up stitches or doing increases and decreases, until you feel confident.

Go for it!

If you get stuck, try finding an answer on an internet blog or an online video. A good place to start is Johnny Vasquez’ video tutorials “New Stitch A Day” There are hundreds of them. Become a member on Ravelry ( and post a question on one of the help boards. Or you can contact me by posting a basic question here. This blog is mainly for information and news, but I will be happy to answer specific questions about the basics of getting started with crochet and most likely, others will be able to offer additional information.

Here are some of my favorite websites, blogs, & podcasts: (Dear readers, please suggest more.)

Kyobo Bookstores online site in Korean only:

There is a store in Duluth, Georgia, but no website.

Happy crocheting,


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