The Adventure of the Fallen Flowers: Part Two
For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.
For the first part of this adventure, click here.
It probably speaks volumes about me that even my freeform crochet adventure had to start with some kind of plan.
The more I thought it over, the more the idea of creating a delicate fabric of scattered blossoms appealed to me. It was, for one thing, the opposite of the crochet I’d known growing up. That crochet came in two flavors: the zigzag afghan and the daisy place mat.
It may be that you recall zigzag afghans and daisy place mats with a fond smile. I’m sorry that I do not.
I recall the former as being worked always in three or more colors of stiff yarn so plastic it smelled like Tupperware. My memory kicks in around 1976, the American Bicentennial; so zigzags in red, white, and blue were the home accessory du jour along with colonial style console televisions and floor lamps in the of shape butter churns. My mother, never a slave to fashion, made our afghan in a range of rusts and browns that didn’t show dirt because they already looked like dirt.
The daisy placemats in vivid white, yellow, and orange thread may sound cheerful; but these were not the sunny, nodding, butterfly-kissed daisies of the open field. These scratchy daisies marched in regimental rows across the Formica dinette with all the charm of an invading army. Their pinched faces and lurid coloring make me think now of women I met years later while living in an unspeakable Boston suburb: identical dead eyes, fake tans, and secret fears that somewhere in Middlesex County someone might be having a good time.
What both specimens had in common, I now realize, is that they were textiles you wouldn’t want to touch. They looked nasty and felt nastier. All they had going for them, really, was that they were easy to clean. You could just throw them in the wash. Hell, you could lay them in the driveway and hose them down. They were impossible to destroy.
I thought for years that this must be the nature of crochet: to be, in a word, unpleasant.
It wasn’t until the very recent past that the work of designers like Cécile Balladino, Sophie Digard, Jenny King, and Kathy Merrick (this is but a partial list) began to open my mind.
That is absolutely crochet, yet it positively begs to be touched. The color mix is masterful. It’s beautiful.
So at last I had learned a funny thing about crochet: if you work it tightly in ugly yarn, it comes out tight and ugly. If you don’t–it doesn’t. Just like knitting.
If I wanted my carpet of flowers to drape, the experts I spoke with all gave pretty much the same advice.
1. Choose yarn that drapes well.
2. Work it at a gentle gauge.
3. Keep your individual freeform units on the small side.
I’d already chosen my yarns–Schoppel Wolle Zauberball® and Hikoo® Tiara–before thinking much about that first point. They seemed drapey enough.
As to numbers two and three, I was only too happy to work with a light touch and a small motif. A small motif, it seemed to me, offered fewer opportunities to screw up. On a quiet afternoon not long ago I set off into the heart of a baroque nineteenth century hexagon full of picots and doubles and half-doubles and double-doubles and double-trebles and layovers and whoopee-doos; and got so lost I had to be airlifted to safety.
I turned to Edie Eckman’s Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs,
which I mentioned in the last column and which had by now become my guidebook for this project.
Edie’s larger motifs are often matched with tiny “fillers” that act as decorative joins. It was one of these–a four-petaled flower–that caught my eye. Cute, simple, and contained no stitches I didn’t already know how to do. Winner!
For those who’d like to play along, Edie has graciously allowed me to share the pattern with you here:
Begin with sliding loop.
Rnd 1. Ch 1, 8 sc in ring, join with slip st to first sc.
Rnd 2. Ch 1, Block Stitch in same st, skip 1 sc, *Block Stitch (see below) in next sc, skip 1 st; rep from * around, join with slip st to first sc.
Block Stitch: Sc in st or space indicated, ch 3, 3 dc inside of sc just made.
Two rounds and done. I can handle that.
Now, some folks will say that if I’m only using one motif, even if I’m attaching pieces at will and changing both colors and yarns, I’m not really creating freeform crochet. To those folks I can only say
The Rules of the Game
With yarn, hooks, sketch, and motif all in order, I still couldn’t jump in.
This was becoming embarrassing.
So I fell back on a tool in my knitting kit that I’ve used almost as much as my tape measure. Here it is.
When I’m at a crossroads in a piece of work and just can’t make a decision, I like to give it up to chance. To make it into a game.
Here are the rules of my game:
Roll 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5: Work the blossom with Zauberball®.
Roll 6: Work the blossom with Tiara.
A new blossom may be attached to any part of the fabric any number of times.
I stacked the odds heavily in favor of Zauberball® since I wanted the Tiara to be an accent sprinkled around the fabric. So, provided my die wasn’t loaded, only 1 in every 6 blossoms would be purple.
Now I was ready.
See you in two weeks…
Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue
Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs by Edie Eckman (Storey Publishing)
Schoppel Wolle Zauberball® (75% Superwash Wool, 25% Nylon), 420m/100g ball. Color: 1993 (Chocolate Cream)
Hikoo® Tiara (10% Kid Mohair, 5% Wool, 49% Acrylic, 22% Nylon, 10% Bead, 4% Sequin), 188 yd/100g hank. Color: 74 (Amethyst)
addi® Olive Wood Crochet Hooks
Six-sided die from, I dunno, must have fallen out of an old Yahtzee set or something