Showing posts with label crocheting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crocheting. Show all posts

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Initially It Might Have Seemed Like a Good Idea

The bag in the picture above is the "Initial Knitting Bag" pattern, published circa 1942. As you can see, it's the perfect accessory for your beautifully tailored gray flannel suit and silk blouse. Since you may not have such items in your closet, it'll probably just have to be your knitting bag. A crocheted knitting bag, which will be a daily reminder of you why you are knitting and not crocheting, and which will also double as a dust mop. Who could ask for more?

Coming up: Look for the review of Knitter's Magazine issue K111 tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A Case for Crochet

On May 8th, this little Franklin Habit essay, "Play Nice", in which he implored knitters and crocheters to give each other's crafts a chance, appeared on the Lion Brand site. It was widely shared on Facebook and generally and emphatically agreed with.

I agree with Habit. Although I don't take the schism between the Needles and the Hooks (which I've written about before) very seriously myself. As anyone who follows this blog, and especially this blog's Facebook page will know, I often take swipes at crochet, but I hope everyone realizes my potshots are tongue-in-cheek, a little harmless indulgence in geeky rivalry between camps (see also: Mac vs. PC; Star Wars vs. Star Trek; the Addams Family vs. the Munsters). That is, mostly.

I can crochet quite well, but don't much like to. I remember with gritted teeth the time my sister begged me to crochet her an afghan in a particular pattern she loved. She'd helpfully bought and insisted on loaning the pattern to me, and also supplied me with colour samples of the three colours she wanted me to choose among for the project: dusty rose, sage green, and eggplant purple. I finally gave in and made the afghan for her. Crocheting that damn afghan took me seven of the longest weeks of my life; it went in its own plastic bag and travelled with me everywhere I went. Finally it was done and I gave it to her for Christmas. And then about four months later my sister redecorated her room at my parents' place in reds and browns, which meant that the now discordant dusty rose afghan got put away out of sight for years. I wanted to throttle her.

But although I don't especially care to crochet, although I make fun of the many ugly granny square afghans and bikinis out there, I don't hesitate to pick up a crochet hook if there is a particular crochet pattern or hybrid knitting and crochet pattern I really want to make. And I'm astounded by those who love the one craft and simply won't even attempt the other. In one internet conversation I had on the subject, I was taken aback when one commenter said she'd actually thrown out a pattern she had paid for and very much wanted to make because it called for some crocheted edgings. I mean, what the hell?! It would take just a few minutes to learn to do that edging! Would she have thrown out a pattern because it called for some knitting technique she'd never previously done?

When you're doing creative and/or skilled work, it's never a good idea to arbitrarily decide you don't like or can't learn to do something without having given it a real try. Be bistitchual. Actually, be trystitchual: try anything once, twice if you like it, and after that, hey, who's counting? Knitting and crocheting both have their different limitations, and if you understand how to do both you'll always have one to turn to when the other craft isn't up to the job at hand. Knitting generally drapes better than crochet, which tends to be stiff, but that very stiffness can turn into an asset when you want to stabilize a knitted piece with a firm crocheted picot edging. Crocheting also lends itself to free form or purely decorative pieces such as flowers better than knitting does. Case in point: this post of mine about handmade yarn bouquets, the best examples of which were all crocheted. And as a bonus, if you have crochet hooks in the house they do a killer job of cleaning hair out of drains.

Although there may be a lot of ugly crocheted things out there, there are wonderful crochet designs too. On this blog's Facebook page, I frequently post crocheted items from my newsfeed because although I like to keep my blog focused on knitting most of the time, they are simply too stunning not to share with my readers. Irish crochet especially awes me. I intend to learn it at some point, as I have an idea for a lace-trimmed top I'd like to make.

I know many if not most readers of this blog do know how to both knit and crochet so I'm preaching to the choir, but for those hold outs who need to be convinced, I've said my piece and sprinkled it with some illustrations of just how wonderful crochet can be. I mean, if Gustav Klimt had been a crocheter, he would have crocheted the afghan above. And now let's all join forces and beat up on the scrapbookers, who richly deserve it!

I'm kidding. That is, mostly.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Now Your Off-the-Wall Knitted Efforts Can Go on the Wall

It can require some doing to find some attractive art work to hang on your walls. Original art is very expensive, and inexpensive prints and posters can look chintzy. It's one of those Martha Stewart-type decorating rules that framed personal photos should not go on the walls but should sit on the furniture, and I agree it's a rule that upgrades one's décor, because family photos almost never look really artistic.

But your walls needn't remain bare until you can afford original artwork. One way to go is to expand your ideas as to what constitutes art, because you can hang up anything you like so long as you find it interesting and attractive. The question to ask yourself is, simply, "Do I really enjoy looking at this?" In my front entrance way, I've hung up a wooden checkerboard that my father (a very talented and award-winning woodworker) made for me. A friend of mine has an antique post office window hanging over the couch in her living room, and I've heard of people mounting a large tree branch over their dining room table (they decorate it with lights at Christmas), or mounting and framing collections of small items such as buttons, or making collages out of personal momentoes.

Another option is to make your own art, and don't think that you have to be an accomplished painter, sketch artist, or photographer for this to be an option. If you can make anything beautiful that can conceivably be hung on the wall, go for it. I have a little stained glass butterfly hanging over the doorway in my bathroom, and I'm always surprised by the number of my guests who come out of the bathroom and immediately comment on it. In my front hallway, across from the checkerboard, I have hanging a framed counted cross-stitch of a magnolia that I made. It has approximately 29,000 stitches in it and took me two and a half years to stitch, so I had it professionally framed and hung it by the front door so I could see it every damn day of my life and think, "That's right. TWENTY-NINE THOUSAND STITCHES."

People have been framing needlework such as embroidery and needlepoint for many years, and now crocheting and knitting are getting into the picture. I ran across the picture above on the net a few weeks ago, and was very impressed. Finally, someone found a contemporary use for doilies! The collection looked so sharp I made a mental note to myself to find some comparable shots of framed knitting and write a post about it.

There were fewer examples of framed knitting on the net. Knitting tends to be less purely decorative than doilies are, so it might take a little more imagination to produce a decorative knitting piece, but it can be done. The blogger at Crafty Yuppie made this piece for an art show at work (and had a bit of time convincing her co-workers that knitting could be art), and I thought it quite lovely.

I found this piece, which is about contrasting the colour and texture of the knitting, in the My Mountain Studio shop on Art Fire, and it's striking.

This is a new direction to explore, and I'm sure most knitters could make a beautiful collection of knitted pieces that would suit their homes and become the admiration of all their house guests. You might even have swatches on hand you could hang up by the end of today, or say, a lace scarf that you can't finish because you ran out of yarn, that would be a perfect candidate for framing.

One important factor in knitted art's success is that the pieces should be framed to a professional standard, because a good quality framing job really adds to the aesthetic viability of a piece. I can't do framing myself and professional framing is one of my few extravagances in decorating, but so worth it. Especially when it comes to a piece of needlework that has TWENTY-NINE THOUSAND STITCHES in it.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Queen Victoria's Royal Example

Queen Victoria was a lifelong avid knitter and crocheter, and she also spun. Though she probably only did handiwork because she enjoyed it, her taste for it had far-reaching effects. Prior to the early nineteenth century, knitting was a folk art and a cottage industry, something the poor did from necessity and to earn a living. Queen Elizabeth I bought handknitted stockings, but wasn't herself a knitter. In the nineteenth century knitting became something all socioeconomic classes did, partly because of the rise of the popular press and the subsequent availability of printed knitting patterns, partly because of technical advances in the production of knitting needles and the introduction of standardized size needles, but also and in no small part because Queen Victoria elevated the status of knitting by setting a royal example. By the end of Queen Victoria's life every properly brought-up young girl in Western society was taught to knit as a matter of course, regardless of her family's economic status. Queen Victoria probably had a very salutary effect on crocheting as well, as crocheting did not even exist long before 1800, but became a common craft in less than a century. In the picture above, Queen Victoria is show knitting in the Queen's sitting room at Windsor Castle while her daughter Princess Beatrice reads the newspaper aloud.

This crocheted scarf is one of eight Queen Victoria made to be awarded to some members of the British military who had served with distinction in the Boer War in South Africa. The scarves had no significance as a military decoration, but must have had their own very special cachet. Not to mention that I find the whole idea of Queen Victoria crocheting these special scarves for her soldiers hilariously maternal and loving-hands-at-home. Can you picture any modern head of state doing such a thing for members of his or her national military? Would Stephen Harper knit bow ties for members of the Canadian military? Would Barack Obama cross-stitch medallions for his soldiers? But then it's my understanding that this sort of thing was typical of Queen Victoria's character. She did live in a bubble of extreme privilege and could be appallingly out of touch with what life was like for her subjects (she was middle-aged before she realized there was such a thing as train tickets, as she'd always simply walked on board herself), but her tastes and mindset could be very middle class. Queen Victoria enjoyed the circus and a nip of whiskey.

In this photo, Queen Victoria is photographed crocheting. I have read that Victoria, as much as she liked to knit, was not all that skilled in the art. There's a story told that on one occasion, Victoria was visiting a Scottish household near Balmoral Castle and presented her hostess with a pair of socks that she had knitted herself. There was an elderly woman also present who was hard of hearing and hadn't grasped the visitor's identity, and who loudly remarked, "If her man gets no better made socks than that, I pity him." Fortunately, Her Majesty was amused.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Needles vs. Hooks

Crafters may look like a close-knit group, but the reality is that there are armed camps within crafting, that knitting and crocheting especially have a Sharks vs. Jets-style rivalry. Knitters and crocheters brandish their respective tools and claim their craft is easier to learn or more versatile, while those who are bistitchual remain determinedly on the fence. The mockumentary Wooly Bullies, which appears above, explores the animus between the Needles and the Hooks. Part of the problem seems to be that while knitters contend with the "old lady’s pastime" stereotype, crocheters are up against the even more negative "old lady's pastime of making granny square and toilet paper cosies" stigma.

Kim Werker, founder of Crochet Me, expounds on some interesting theories in this 2006 interview in which she's asked about the conflict between knitting and crochet. Crochet is much younger than knitting. Knitting is believed to have been invented circa the eighth century, but crochet doesn't seem to have existed much before 1800. Werker says crocheting first came to North America as an easy and affordable way for poor and working class women to make lace, while knitting was the established craft. Moreover, knitting machines were invented over 200 years ago, but to this day crocheted items can only be produced by hand. Knitting's advantage of mass production may have resulted in knitting becoming a respected and staple means of clothing production, while crocheting repeatedly goes in and out of fashion, with corresponding fluctuations in its popularity. It’s surprising and thought-provoking to speculate that this half-joking, half-real schism between knitters and crocheters may have its roots in classist attitudes from 200 years ago.

My own guess is that the schism between knitters and crocheters has a fairly simple explanation. Which may be that most people who knit and/or crochet love the one craft and don't care much for the other (and it seems that generally they prefer the one they learned first), and it's easy for them to get adamant about it, especially on the internet, where everybody tends to get adamant about everything.