Friday, February 09, 2007

'70's Read-Along Book #3: Crochet Discovery and Design

"In the Middle Ages a person's wealth was judged by the amount of taste, toil, love, and craftsmanship put into every article of clothing. I think today we are having a revival of this kind of thinking. Nobility is in your hands." Del Pitt Feldman (1972)

Del Pitt Feldman's Crochet Discovery and Design (1972) does not take long to read nor is it difficult to review, but I've been delayed by a birthday, wedding anniversary, and sick kid! So I thank you for your patience. Ah, it's good to be reviewing again.

First of all, Del's book is quite a contrast to Annette's. They complement each other nicely, in fact I see very little overlap among all 3 books reviewed so far. This one is short on text but larger-than-life in visual aids!! The text is so concise that I experience crochet differently every time I re-read it, so sip this one slowly and savor. By my third time through I'm a bit in awe of how much is here.

Having looked over many '70's crochet books lately, I'm starting to appreciate the book's cover blurb, "An innovative craftswoman shows you how to design and create new fashion artistically--without pattern" because it distinguishes the book accurately and succinctly from others available in its time. I'm seeing these categories: some guides to crocheting clothing using patterns similar to the way dressmakers and knitters traditionally go about it; and some guides to freeing you up to see crochet as an art form with infinite possibilities for sculpture, wall hangings, or new home decor statements. Then I'd say there's a 3rd category that merges these two: guides to crocheting wearable art. (These may end up being clumsy categories, we'll see.)

Not only are the projects designed well, they display an impressive array of materials such as suede, rayon braid, linen, rattail, raw fleece, silk ribbon, silk chenille, and rayon-wrapped cord ("Corde'" - Judi & Co. currently supplies this; I bought some from Dreamweaver and I love it). It's important to me that when crocheters come up with a great design concept, that they also consider what would be an original/ideal/fresh/adventurous material to use other than smooth worsted weight acrylic or wool. I also appreciate that Del spares no expense for her crochet. Very inspiring. Timeless.

A favorite chapter, "Forms and Building", has some of the most helpful, down to earth info for anyone building the shapes they want with a freeform approach, whether the shapes are wearable or not. Valuable tips and very clear symbol diagrams are provided. "Forms, Background, and Discovery" takes the freeform approach further toward amorphous shapes, filling in spaces, and setting shapes into a background.

"Working with Hard and Semi-hard Objects" is also remarkable. I wish I'd read it before I tried to edge a tote bag with suede lacing! This chapter covers how to incorporate beads, cabochons, mirrors, metal pieces, leather, and woven pieces.

Itchy Fingers Effect? Yes, throughout, though more of an itch to build out stitches and shapes with uncommon materials (uh, freeforming), rather than the itch to swatch up unfamiliar stitches that I got from Annette's book. In Del's brief stitch dictionary she provides closeups of familiar stitches done with unusual materials straight from her finished projects.

Deja vu Effect? Yes--It's common to hear nowadays that it's no wonder we have so many new and resuming crocheters and knitters, after all, look at the exciting new yarn choices out there! I've thought this myself because the only yarn I remember buying in the '70's as a young kid was acrylic worsted, as if that's all that was available to buy (or the baby yarn versions). Many resuming baby boomer crocheters seemed to recall the same thing when I helped them in a local yarn shop--as if they (and I) had never seriously tried crocheting with anything but the most conservative plastic yarns. I learned to card, spin, and dye wool with marigolds in '79 or so, and crocheted up a pair of mittens with it, but I don't remember doing so with the '70's adventurous art spirit or thinking seriously about any creative possibilities this opened up. (Sure wish I still had those mittens!) Gee, if Del was crocheting up SILK CHENILLE in 1972, and she had both twisted and untwisted rayon corde', yarn choices really weren't so limited back then were they? People have always done specialty handspinning and dyeing too. Maybe it's about cost (and still tends to be among many crocheters). I'm told that all else being equal, you actually get more yarn for your money nowadays.

At the same time, I can see that there have been some recently invented yarns such as the fake furs and microfibers. Also maybe some of the fancy novelty textures such as railroad, flag, and knotted are 21st century inventions. Hopefully someone who's been in the yarn industry for a long time could tell me. Yes, the 21st century now has soy and bamboo fiber yarns, but surely there were some less mainstream plant and animal fibers available in the '70's too, like qiviut, baby camel, possum, alpaca and llama, though maybe you had to meet tropical natives to find out about banana leaf, ramie, manila, sanseveria, etc. I wonder if the internet has helped inform people about uncommon fiber choices?

I am so glad to finally have this book in my library; I've searched for it sporadically in the past and eventually got one at a good price. A keeper!
Here's a copy for $5. Alibris has one for $20.