Friday, March 23, 2007

'69 Iris Rathbone Followup; other news

In my review of Iris Rathbone's 1969 book, I mentioned a stitch pattern that caught my eye.The purple and red swatches on the left only are the Rathbone stitch pattern in two very different yarns. I can't show more of the swatches because then we get into confidential designing information.... It's basically clusters of chain-3 loops so that they look like a cross between picots and a shell or v-stitch. Works up fast, faster than the picot-laden stitch pattern on the right (also shown in two very different yarns. You can can see the instructions for this one here.)

My left brain says these 2 stitch patterns have nothing in common but my right brain says, "I'll always love the look of the picot one even though it's kind of slow-going. When I want the same picot effect but fast, Rathbone's could do the job." (By the way the lefthand swatches look flatter than they really are. The free ch-3 lps form lacy nubbies.)
In the same review I also mentioned that I might find a photo of my attempt at safely removing previous rows from crocheted fabric. Does this old photo make sense? The stitch pattern is double-treble (dtr) filet. First I threaded a contrasting cord through the feet of the dtr that would become the new bottom row. Wherever the dtr were connected to the dtr below it, I wove the cord. That way, when I cut through the middle of the dtr row below and removed the remnants, the cord gave the dtr's of the next row something to hold onto.
So in the photo you can see that 4 dtr have been freed from the row below it (click on it for a closeup). It was so scary at the time that I took this picture. I suspect it's as terrifying for a crocheter as steeks are for knitters!
Then you just make a new foundation chain for the feet: In the case of this filet pattern, slip stitch into the feet of the first dtr, (chain 1, sl st in the feet of the next dtr) across. It looks 100% like it has always been the foundation chain.
Sorry it's novelty yarn but the open filet pattern helps make the photo informative. If have time someday I'll do this to a swatch of smooth yarn for a better pic.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Two Crochet Books from 1969

I'm only going to mini-review two books first published in 1969 because they lie just outside the stated scope of the '70's crochet read-along: Crochet: A Modern Guide to An Ancient Craft by Iris Rathbone, and Fashion Crochet by Caroline Horne.

The dustjacket of Ms. Rathbone's book looked very promising to me (a stylish and hip young woman wears a crochet dress in a '60's glam shot) but the excitement fizzled out as I actually read the book. It's not a bad book, it's just basic and boring. Thank goodness for the color plates because the majority of the images is pretty poor.

The author wants to get young stylish people crocheting and the book is small and portable. I pity the person who actually tried to learn how to crochet for the first time from this book, though; most of the illustrations of how to make basic stitches are so unclear that they almost look like woodcuts with yarn plies drawn so boldly that you can't make out the stitches! Photos of stitch patterns are so muddy that I had to try one because the instructions sounded unfamiliar. I got lucky: I discovered a little gem of a stitch pattern this way. If this new stitch pattern is the only thing I gained from reading this book, I'm content. I'll post a photo of it and and instructions later.

Ms. Rathbone shows a designer's flare. Her beret and mitten set is strikingly bordered with shells of contrasting colors, she seems to prefer triangular granny squares, and she fearlessly teaches the presumably new crocheter how to make a cocktail dress, a maxi- and mini-length lady's dress, and a blouse top. I was impressed by the section showing how to remove earlier rows of crochet from a piece. I don't remember seeing this explained elsewhere back when I needed to do it, so I figured it out on my own at the time. I'll see if I can rustle up a photo illustrating this also.

The drawings and photos in Ms. Horne's book are a big improvement over Rathbone's, however there are zero photos of finished garments. Like Rathbone, this author assures the reader that crochet is so easy that after learning a few basic things you can now crochet pants, a pair of stockings(!), a tailored suit with raglan sleeves, a coat and dress ensemble, and a blazer. These are illustrated only with shapely drawings so a beginner following her patterns would probably be in for a rude awakening.

I appreciate the range of stitch textures the author featured in her garments and she offers a hat with unusual construction (you crochet a long mini-ruffled strip first, then sew it into a coil shape over a stiffener). Her love of wearing her own crocheted clothes is obvious and she offers four methods for altering the hemlines of crocheted skirts.

Both authors are acutely aware that in 1969, beginning crocheters will want to be able to crochet fashionable clothing and a bit of bold home decor. Both of these books differ from the '70's books I've reviewed so far because neither complain about old-fashioned crochet but instead give it its due. They both have a sophisticated, cosmopolitan sensibility (esp. the Horne book) whereas often the '70's authors set out to show you how to crochet earthy, casual, more guileless-looking stuff. Fashionable folks who lived through the late '50's and then the '60's must have had vertigo by the time they got to the '70's! I wonder what fashion sensibility we're 'hooking' into for 2007?

Next '70's book to be reviewed: Adventures in Crocheting by Barbara Aytes (1972).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Surprise Felting Result

I live in a beach tourism hub where tourists severely outnumber locals during Spring Break month. Maybe you wonder, what does this have to do with felting? Well, at this time of year, it's pointless to casually go out and do errands because traffic is at a standstill both directions. So this weekend I had my own Felting Festival right here. I had everything I needed: wool, crochet hook, hot water, soap, me, and a possibly bored kid/assistant. I rounded up every yarn I could find with a minimum of 50% wool content, to see which ones felt and how. Of course 75% or 100% wool is ideal, so with only 50% wool all bets are off and I doubted that Classic Elite Miracle (50/50 alpaca/tencel) would felt at all. I googled it and found no mention of felting.
As you can see from the pre-and post-felting photos, it THOROUGHLY felts. See how the picots melted away into zero stitch definition? Not only that, I might like the yarn even better felted! It heightens the sheen (which the photo doesn't convey well), I love touching it, and I love the surface--it's a luxuriant kind of boucle. (I love boucle fabric but hate crocheting most boucle yarns.)
This blog entry is dedicated to my felting mentor, Marty Miller!

Monday, March 12, 2007

'70's Read-Along Book #5: New Ways with Crochet

Crochet has lost its stuffy and time-consuming image and is now bold and exciting. There's no great merit in producing large slabs of it unless at the same time you acquire a foreign language from the radio or something equally useful. But to use the the craft intelligently and discriminately can give attractive results without involving a great deal of toil and time.
Dorothy Standing, 1971

Sometimes I worry that I lack a feel for the times and therefore am not doing full justice to '70's-style originality. I mean, look at the cover--was there really a time when that image was the best possible way to convey NEW WAYS WITH CROCHET? Must have been, so after pondering this, I'm thinking that as a home decor item it must have seemed bold and fresh: one jumbo granny square in the hottest '70's colors, NOT little white or ecru lacy bits, not an antimacassar or doily. Ripple afghans must have been appealing for the same reason: a riveting, in-your-face, do-it-yourself home fashion statement. I wonder if this was electrifying for crochet's image if until then it had been stuffy and time-consuming as this author says.

Here again is an author who starts out complaining about old-fashioned crochet but it would help me to get inside a 1971 mind if she (and other authors like her) got more specific. The kinds of items made and the colors used, rather than the style of them, are big factors for her, so I think part of her goal is to get people to crochet new kinds of things, not just in new ways. She also seems to be down on colorless lacy, dainty, painstaking thread crochet. I kept expecting her to denigrate doilies (which occurs in other '70's books) but antimacassars seem to be more loathesome to this British author--she says "positively no antimacassars" and there's a chapter called "No antimacassars, but some useful household things".

She promotes a "new" way to follow crochet patterns. As a teacher she has seen many crocheters have trouble reading patterns so this book teaches the reader to make paper patterns using "basic dressmaker skills." Not only does she show how to modify a paper sewing pattern for crochet, she uses paper patterns for even the most basic shapes, such as a beret. It's taken to a quirky degree in my opinion but I like how visual and tactile the approach is, so I can imagine it really would appeal to certain learners. Still, the way this template approach is overly relied on in this book, it: a) depends on "basic dressmaker skills" which fewer people have today, b) still leaves the the reader without the understanding of how to read a crochet pattern, and c) I wonder how new it really is; I thought crocheting or knitting clothes the way a dressmaker would go about it is very traditional. Maybe what's new about it is how she empowers you to draft your own paper patterns.

I was pleasantly surprised to find some flexibility in the clothing section. The author questions the need for side seams, and for working rows horizontally when there are benefits to working rows vertically in a garment (side-to-side construction). I thought her hats chapter was strong design-wise. I had to pick up the hook when she discussed cords and braids and before I knew it I had 4 bracelets. (All stitches are in UK terminology.)

I'm not raving about this book, am I? I don't know if I'll keep it. I guess much of this kind of book depends upon the projects being exciting and they aren't, they're too dated. I'm fond of the author's voice throughout the book. The author is described on the bookjacket as a skillful, lively, and amusing writer and I agree. I appreciate how concerned she is about crochet dying out in the future; she ends the book by urging readers to teach not just the girls but also the boys in their families how to crochet.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Yikes! It's Nat'l Crochet Month!

It must have sneaked up on me while I was crocheting. We're already 9 days into it so I have some catching up to do! This is a month-long national holiday, people! As a staunch supporter of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA), and crochet also being my chosen profession, you can imagine that I want to make the most of this month. Not only that but it's also Women's History Month which I celebrate. I'm still high from Black History Month (Feb).

Below is my list of Crochet-tivities so far:
  1. Go to Berroco's poll and be counted! [did it]
  2. Crochet in public (CRIP) more than usual [could have in the bookstore yesterday and didn't]
  3. Walk into a yarn shop with a big smile and say, "Happy National Crochet Month to you!"
  4. Pay a designer for a crochet pattern instead of downloading a freebie
  5. Write to a magazine, yarn company, etc. to tell them how much you appreciate their crochet offerings
  6. Buy lots of yarn [Dee lists special celebration sales]
  7. Try a new-to-me stitch pattern [every day would be cool]
  8. Learn a new crochet technique
  9. Finish a WIP (work-in-progress) or possibly even a PIG (a stalled project-in-grocery-bag)
  10. Try crocheting with a new-to-me fiber [I have yet to try qiviut for example.]
  11. Listen to a new crochet podcast
  12. Crochet something for your child or child's teacher to be used in the classroom so that everybody sees some crochet at school [3/23 update: Done! Photo at my other blog]
  13. Join a crochet-along (CAL); besides my own '70's Crochet Read-Along, I know of a new Ripple-Along and an even newer Granny-Along
  14. Plan ahead for Nat'l Crochet Month 2008 so it doesn't catch me unprepared!

In an attempt to get up to speed, I'm kicking off the festivities with a maple latte and here is a portrait titled Latte with Trip Around the World Crochet Dishcloth (see #7 above).