Tuesday, April 17, 2007

'70's Read-Along Book #6: Adventures in Crocheting

[W]hen clothing is made from some of the very unusual and interesting pattern stitches herein, the pattern stitch itself becomes the style, and it should not be obscured or belabored by complicated styling known as high fashion, which usually enjoys so short a period of popularity that it is often out of style before it is finished. Most certainly an item lovingly made by hand over a period of weeks or months, and with it a joyous anticipation of the item finished, should be of such simple lines that it will stay in style until it has worn out.
Barbara Aytes, 1972

It is with regret that I return this book to the public library. I hold pretty much the opposite position toward fashion crochet than Ms. Aytes does in the above quote but it won't stop me from adding a copy of this book to my collection when I get a chance. The content is solid, accomplished, and well-rounded. The author certainly met her stated goal: to "strike a happy medium between those books which are full of pattern stitches and nothing to make, and those which are full of items to make and few or no pattern stitches".

Maybe now would be a good time for me to state a personal bias: I'm not interested in making or wearing timeless fashions. I don't shop for them and designing them is not a meaningful career for me. Designers who appreciate timeless fashion are the ones who do it the best and so I'm happy to leave them to it and remain impressed from afar.

The opposite is what I buy, wear, crochet, and design: trendy. I think the world can never have enough trendy crochet patterns and I'd produce far more designs than I do if I humanly could. I even teach a class on designing trendy crochet at the CGOA conferences. Contrary to what timeless crocheters say, I think crochet is well-suited for trendy projects because:
- crochet itself continues to be a trendy look in the larger fashion world (yay)
- the internet offers a whole new opportunity for trendy crochet patterns to reach the widest number of crocheters a.s.a.p.
- you can crochet it with plenty of time to wear it, and make more for your friends and relatives too! The amount of time it would take me to sew a garment is roughly comparable to how long it would take me to crochet it. This is the exact opposite of what Ms. Aytes says--that by the time you put in all that work crocheting something fashionable, it's out of style. This is the amazing versatility of crochet: both Trendy and Timeless crocheters can be right!

Back to the timeless book: Ms. Aytes' designs have the kind of simple lines of good proportion that I admire in timeless designs. This is one reason I want to own the book. She offers a range of slippers, for example, that are great to have on hand as templates if nothing else. Remarkably, I can imagine wearing many of these designs even though:
- they are photographed flat in black and white;
- they are intended to look timeless, and did I mention timeless is not my thing?;
- we're talking 1972. (I think of myself as 1970's-friendly, yet so far as I review these books I often cringe.) Compared to many early '70's crochet books, the photos are high-quality, the projects are well-finished and blocked, and the overall selection of projects is sound.

Viewed within the context of my project of reviewing pioneering 1970's crochet books, the author's goal is not exciting enough to justify having the term "adventures" in its title. I was a little disappointed in this respect, but the book makes up for not delivering a promised adventure in other ways. Besides offering a thoughtful collection of timeless designs, the stitch patterns are thrilling! Each crocheter is probably unique when it comes to what counts as thrilling stitch-wise. For me, it's how uncommon it is, how difficult it is for me to figure out how it's done by looking at it, and if the solid-vs-open shapes the stitches make are distinctive. Out of about 65 stitch patterns provided, only about 5 appear in every crochet book ad nauseum (plus another 5 or so motifs); the rest are unusual somehow. A few are downright alien to me {{said with shiver of delight}}.

When I began this '70's book review project, I envisioned zipping through what I had on hand in Jan-Feb'07 while taking a vacation from design deadlines. As people emailed me titles of books to add to my reading list, and as I immersed myself in reading them, I stopped expecting to skim and gab, and instead, ponder and savor and try to give each book its due. Now it's mid-April and I have design deadlines and then prep for conferences to do. So the bad news is that these '70's book reviews are going to slow to a crawl; but the good news is that I'm in it for the long haul--I'm NOT stopping. It's way too rewarding. Heck, I haven't even gotten past 1973 yet!


  1. Anonymous3:57 PM

    Holy Cannoli. I couldn't agree with you more. I'd rather design trendy. It's what excites me. Timeless is for people who can think in that mindset. Not I! I'm also glad to hear you're continuing these book reviews. It's interesting to me as well.

  2. Hi Amie, together let's blanket the planet with trendy patterns, shall we? Glad you like the reviews!

  3. I love, love, love this series of reviews... Cheers!


  4. Hi Amy, it's comments like yours that keep me going! Yep, an awful lot of crochet books were published in the '70's....

  5. I rushed to Amazon after reading this post and managed to get a pristine copy of Adventures. I recognized right away a variation of Grecian Lattice in the most recent of my favorite crochet magazines on a sweater I planned to make. As you said, this book has some really interesting stitch patterns I've not seen elsewhere, and it got the creative juices flowing.

    This book review was a great idea and I've really enjoyed following along!

  6. Vashti, I also love that you are doing the reviews of 70's books. I have most of these books but you have mentioned some I've never heard of (which is unusual) On your comment about designing trendy, you KNOW that's what I like to do best too! I'd get bored with anything else. It's what keeps me going as a designer :) Remember what Lily said at Professional Development Day? She said something like, "You should not do trendy designs because a publisher doesn't want to publish designs that will not be in style 10 years from nw." I wiggled in my chair and just wanted to jump up and say something. You know what my answer to that would be? What's the difference in selling a certain number of copies of a book within a 10 year period or selling that same number of books in 1-2 years BECAUSE people want trendy?? People and publishers are afraid to do trendy, but I have gone out on a limb to do almost all trendy in a book, and it is a best seller! My publisher went along with it and I think they see now that it was a good move. And look at well Happy Hooker has done. Won't they wake up? Keep up the good work, Vashti!
    Mary Jane


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