Monday, May 05, 2008

Freeform Shell Subversion

Welcome to all the freeformers who have subscribed to this blog. Thank you Mel for your warm recommendation! Normally I would have blogged before now but whew, a flu came out of nowhere! (All better now.)

In honor of my freeformin' buddies, here's a "shell game" that I've been playing lately. Like many crocheters I start out enjoying shell (or fan) stitch patterns, but after awhile I get a tad rebellious. I think, "5 double crochets all in this stitch? Let's mix it up a bit." I swatched up two stitch patterns: a widely available one (called "Peacock Fan Stitch" in the Harmony Guides) consisting of stacked shells of 13 double trebles (dtr). The other is less common: offset shells of 7 triple trebles (trtr) each separated by a chain stitch (ch).

In the case of the Peacock Fan Stitch, the shells are dramatically solid, and the fact that they stack up in columns helps direct the eye. In the blue swatch I took out some wedges, asymmetrically. Where I removed 4 dtrs I replaced them with 4 chs. There are many things I did not try, such as linked stitches, piggybacks, and more wedges.

In the white swatch, a shell of 7 trtr and 6 chs means I have a total of 13 stitches (sts) to mess with. This pattern starts out more lacy, so the variety of changes don't show up so well. The swatch will serve as a handy shell menu for me though. I tried a variety of linked st combos, and the 3-trtr/10ch shell catches my eye. I wonder how a fabric would look of linked shells mixed with some 2-trtr/11ch shells!

While swatching I noticed the following:
- the asymmetry is more dramatic and effective when there is a bold contrast between open and solid space. The eye needs to be able to organize all of the details that crochet fabric brings to the table.

- the grid gets smudged out the most if the center stitch of a shell or fan is eliminated; in other words, retaining the center stitch of a shell helps everything look regular and balanced. I think of the center stitch of a shell pattern as the Grid Keeper.

- The thinner and smoother the yarn and the larger the shells, the bigger the effect.

Classic stitch patterns are basically grids with symmetry and predictability as part of their charm, but I like to deconstruct them and see crochet also get subtly asymmetrical and random. Surely others have already done this kind of shell subversion and if so I hope someone will leave a comment and let me know. It has been a fun experiment.