Where Arts Can Learn from Each Other

ScannedImageThis last week I had the opportunity to spend some tie at a knitting workshop. The Hangtown Fibers Guild, my local non-denominational Fiber Guild that has to be given credit for all the encouragement and support of my entering the Crochet Industry, was hosting Lucy Neatby for a day long workshop on a variety of knitting techniques. I helped arrange the workshop, and in handling the support I was able to glean some information from the beginning of the day.

The technique that made me smile was the knitters Provisional Cast On. Casting on is how a knit project begins, it is how to add loops to the needle, and there are various ways to do this. The traditional Provisional Cast On, begins with a crochet chain, and then loops are pulled through the chains, much like the beginning of Tunisian Crochet. During this workshop a variation of this technique was taught, essentially it is crocheting over the knitting needle.

I had an ever widening grin, as this is a skill the crocheters use in all sorts of ways. This is a technique that has been used to cover clothes hangers, to create bracelets, to make rugs. It is a simple part of a crocheters skills, and here it has another use in the world of knitting.


Pull the yarn overs around the item you want to crochet over.

The basic of this skill is to simply have a loop on your hook, and with the object you want to crochet over in front of the working yarn, you move your hook to yarn over and pull a loop over the item. At this point you can pull through the loop on your hook (a chain stitch) or yarn over and pull through both loops (a single crochet US, or double crochet UK).


Crocheting over a canning jar ring, I have created a wreath ornament.

Recently I have used this technique to crochet over mason canning rings with green yarn, to create wreath ornaments for the holiday season.

Every skill we learn is an additional tool we have, to grow in all the arts.

My Every Day Valentine

ScannedImageI have been doing more self-reflection then usual lately. Reflecting on my business and personal life, possibly due to the recent interview I gave Crochet World Magazine about how my current career began, and how I approach my designs (you can read it here). Or it could be the 5 day art challenge that was posed to me on Facebook, where I shared 15 different designs over 5 days (you can see them on my Facebook page here). Either way I found myself pondering where I have been and where I would like to go. But mostly, or simply due to the upcoming holiday, it made me put a Valentine spin of things.

This might seem odd, that pondering the past can make for a Valentine, but let me explain. Over several years I have finally began to dissolve the rituals or expectations of many holidays down to what I feel is really important. So for Valentine’s Day this means that for me it does not need to be flowers, chocolates, dinner, or the typical “romantic” gifts. My husband never really believes this, but it is true.th

For me I take the day to remember those that I love, and what I can do to show them this every day as well as actually focus on what they give me every day to show me they care. It is a day of focusing, not overlooking that small things that I routinely take for granted. The hugs and kisses the kids share before saying goodbye before going to school. The nights my son offers to cook dinner, and his sister wants to help, sure it is usually pancakes, eggs and bacon, (occasionally chocolate chip cookie dough)but it is delicious. The moments that they are excited to show me something they have learned. My husband taking the kids to their after school activities (yes, he loves going, but it gives me time to get some work done), when he completely turns is schedule upside down to accommodate my travel plans. How my husband supports my career venture, even though it means the household budget is considerably tighter, and makes coffee on the weekend before I am even out of bed. How each member of my family gives me honest and critical feedback of my work, I know it is their way of supporting me, and showing their love.IMG_5990 - Copy

I guess that instead of looking for the big grand gesture I am using the day to remember that the little things are much more important. I might easily take for granted the little things that happen on a typical Wednesday, but by actually spending some time to focus on them, I realize that I do truly have Valentine’s Day every day.

A Review: The Fine Art of Crochet by Gwen Blakely Kinsler

ScannedImageGwen Blakely Kinsler, has done much for the skill of crochet. Twenty years ago she began the Crochet Guild of America, creating a national, excuse me, international setting for crocheters of every level and area of interest to come together and share the love they have for a hook and the fabrics it creates. She continues bringing new life to crochet by highlighting those utilizing crochet in fine arts with her new book, The Fine Art of Crochet Innovative Works from 20 Contemporary Artists.

So I have an admiration of art, even fine art, but I will admit that contemporary art does not always speak to me. So reading through this new book was a revealing time for me. Just flipping through the pages I would see photos of various pieces of art, things that I would have to be in a different mindset to fully appreciate, but then I began to read. 51LhiyLx5ML

Each artist has a very different approach and message that they are expelling through works that involve crochet and this book allows you to enter the creative process and approach by each artist, as Gwen gives each a personal voice. It gave me a greater appreciation of the work that they do, I could see more in their art then I ever could on my own. It was interesting to see how each artist discovered crochet as a medium, as no one ever set out and imagined using crochet in their art, but came to it for different reasons and spoke different things.

Even days later, the work of some of the artists have remained in my mind. The way Jo Hamilton uses crochet as a form of paint, while “showing the brush strokes” was amazing to me, and I can vastly appreciate the skill involved to accomplish the “painting”. Soonran Youn work has such meaning that I may have over looked without understanding her theory of expression. The work of Carol Hummel feels like home, yet really is revolutionary in its approach and undertaking.  Jerry Bleem has such a message in his work by his materials used that it really is thought provoking. I have had the pleasure of taking a class from Dr. Carol Ventura, so I have appreciated her work up close, but her chapter allowed me to see more about her creative process and growth of her art.

The Fine Art of Crochet is more than just an outline of an artist’s life and how they use crochet in the art that they place in museums. It can speak to you, as it spoke to me, and allow of an awaking in a new approach that my crochet can take, and at very least provoke a new understanding of crochet elevated from a craft, a hobby, to fine art.

Inspiration is Outside my Crochet….but not my Expression

ScannedImageI was asked a question recently, about what my “design inspiration” is. This actually made me think, as my inspiration is not usually crochet, although that is how I express it. My “inspirations” come from some unlikely places.

I actually put together the idea of an afghan while practicing dance steps. My mind would envision visual patterns to help me remember the points in the music and what steps I was to execute.  Things like “the rodeo move”, where the dance would rotate around with an “in & out” movement of the arms….it became a crocheted flower. MB900441798

Other times it is from seeing shapes in nature or art work. Sometimes just a piece of something visually piques my interest and I can see it as something else, like the simple stack of triangles that became a beret.

Conversations lead to many ideas, talking with people, not necessarily crocheters or even crafters for that matter. Usually they ask questions and help me to look at the craft from an angle that I have never thought about before. Like when someone that has never tasted chocolate before (okay, I know this has to be a fictitious person), and asks you if it always has a little salty after taste. It is something that you have taken for granted, and not until someone that doesn’t experience daily asks you a question do you reflect upon it.

I cannot even count how many pictures I have taken of motel/hotel lobby carpets, or brick work of old buildings. There is always something about these repetitions that give me ideas.  Not to mention I love catching the sewing/quilting shows on my local PBS station, it helps open up different ways I can put things together.

MR900441790These ideas only cover the basic stitch; it does not even delve into my color inspiration that can come from even more interesting areas.  But mostly what “inspires” me, takes a little practice, it is being open to accepting inspiration. I find that days when I can smile and the world feels like sunshine, that I can see inspiration everywhere, compared to the more typical day when the kids are fighting, the dog is barking, and dinner is burn. I have to keep that little note book to jot down those times of inspiration, so I can remember those days of “sunshine”.

“Wrong” Crochet?

ScannedImageThe other day I was talking to a lady, which put me back on a soap box. She told me that she crocheted “wrong”. When I asked her what she meant by “wrong” she told me that she had she doesn’t do it like her friends do, so it was wrong.

Wrong is all relative. It really depends on what you are trying to do. Would you ever tell your child that they painted “wrong”, just because they may not do it like the other kids? The answer is probably not, because your kids are enjoying themselves. The same is true with crochet. Granted if you want to make an exact duplicate of a pattern sample, then you will have to follow the directions put forth by the designer, but I know plenty of people that simply cannot follow patterns, and they crochet beautifully. They get inspiration from the pattern, and look at the schematics, and closely examine the photos to see if they can figure out the stitches, and have fun creating their own version.

Crochet, like other art mediums, is a process, there are standard ways in which you complete a stitch, but if you make a mistake, and continue to make the same mistake, it is called a stitch pattern. As long as you are enjoying what you are doing, you are doing it correctly. I think that even if you can execute every stitch with exact precision, no errors and perfect tension, if you hate doing it, you are doing it “wrong”, and need to being that which brings you joy.

You can always improve your skill and technique with practice, talking to others, taking classes, or finding a good book or video, but if it doesn’t bring you joy, why bother. Remember what was “wrong” yesterday, is fashionable today.