Thursday, January 24, 2008

Crochet Ruts, Blocks, Slumps

Periodically the question comes up in a crochet forum: "What do you do when you find yourself in a crochet slump?" It just came up today in the Crochet Partners Yahoo group. It reminded me of the answer I gave when a similar question came up in the same group back in June '07. I refer back to this post myself occasionally so I thought I'd post it here, with additional tips and links:

- I flip through my favorite stitch dictionaries, like the Harmony Guides. I always see a stitch pattern that I want to try. Sometimes it's one I've tried but this time I try adding beads to some of the stitches, or I change colors where I never have before.

- I take a familiar pattern and try it with a very different material and hook size. For example, Doris Chan says she "exploded doilies" by doing them in drapey yarn and larger hook. Others have taken doily patterns and with 3 strands of Red Heart held together, they made beautiful porch doilies. I made a doily with colored wire and beads once--the pattern is simple but the materials made it look fancy. If there's an afghan square that has beautiful colorwork, I try it with embroidery floss and a small steel hook instead--with floss you can have all the colors of the rainbow for just $1 each or so and it makes a beautiful piece of jewelry, headband, etc.

- I try to crochet "badly" or the wrong way or as if I don't even know how. If I yarn over one way, I try the other way. Or I try going into the "wrong" part of a stitch. You can invent new stitches this way or understand how stitches came to be.

- I make up games like I roll the dice and put that many stitches in the next stitch and roll again. Or do a bobble in that many stitches, etc. Or I try some other "code" like turning someone's birthday into stripes.

- I start a swatch some weird way. Kind of like freeforming. Instead starting with a foundation chain then working rows, maybe I work both sides of the chain but in a "U" shape (not in the round), or maybe a figure-8 of bobbles or something.

- I go through my box of swatches and see if there's one that I can turn into something right away for an instant FO (finished object). Like the time I glued a fancy swatch to the cover of a small spiral notebook: I love everything about it! I love the swatch and yarn so now I get to SEE and USE it; the notepad was old and now it looks like new; the crochet makes the notepad soft to hold; it was easy to add a strap for carrying; and best of all I have an instant FO. Add a tail to a flower and you have an instant luggage identifier. I have found swatches that can become instant coffee cozies or wrist cuffs or short neckscarves or throw pillows with just 1 seam or decorative edge!

- When I go through my swatches, I use them for experimenting with new techniques. I stay focused on that liberating word "experiment". The crochet part is already done, now I can try felting the swatch if it's animal fiber; or I can try embellishing with surface crochet, or cross stitch, or beads, fabric paint, weaving, etc.

- I pick up an unusual material to crochet with, for example, rag or tshirt strips, Jelly Yarn, macrame jute, covered elastic cord, leather lacing, waxed linen cord, and yes, even the aerial roots of strangler fig trees.

- Crocheting something for a child really renews my crochet fun and often gives me new design ideas, especially when I let the child suggest a color scheme or type of toy. (Some of these are/will be on my other blog or my Ravelry page). Yesterday at lunch my son's friend imagined a sweater with 3 sleeves. It would be easy and quick to crochet a tiny version and then see a child's face light up--there's nothing like it. One time my son kept stretching a Jelly Yarn swatch then watching it spring back into a curled up shape, and it gave me this worm idea.
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This list is from a designing perspective. Some of the other responses to this topic, by non-designers, are sometimes very different from the above; for example, many people get past a slump by crocheting for a charity, or they go yarn shopping :-)