Archive for the ‘Tapestry Crochet, Asia’ Category

History in the Making

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

In case you haven’t already found them, I thought I’d tip you off about two very informative articles that appeared yesterday and today on the internet.

For a look at tapestry crochet in the Himalayas, you will enjoy reading Larisa Vilensky’s From Carpets to Jourabs in Issue 11 Spring 2010 Crochet Insider.

Pamir socks from Crochet Insider
These Pamir socks are featured in the recent issue of Crochet Insider.

You might remember Barbro Heikinmatti from my earlier blog. She first wrote about Bosnian crochet in Swedish, then today posted another version in English. As you can see below, Barbro experimented with a number of techniques – all of which are discussed in her blog.

Barbro’s Purses
Barbro Heikinmatti ‘s experimental purses.

I’m an art and craft historian by trade, and you know how much I love tapestry crochet. Can you tell that I’m excited?

I had no idea tapestry crochet was so widespread, but new information about long standing traditions are slowly coming to light, thanks to people like Larisa and Barbro. A BIG THANK YOU to each of you for sharing your research with us!!!

Harry Khan in Pakistan

Monday, June 29th, 2009

The internet has helped me meet so many interesting people, including Harry Khan (aka Usman Ali Khan), who is  from Abbottabad, Pakistan. We’ve been corresponding online about backstrap weaving and tapestry crochet for several years. Then, as now, he’s adventurous, creative, and very enthusiastic about life and fiber art. He explains his introduction to crochet best, so I’ll let him tell you in his own words:

“I was first introduced to crochet at a very young age when I saw my grandmother crocheting. As time went on, I forgot about crochet altogether as crochet is not considered a man’s forte here. It’s mainly considered a woman’s hobby and even with them, crochet is not as popular as it used to be in the past.”

“Crochet items continued to fascinate me but I was still not provoked enough to learn it, until I came across The Blandford Book of Traditional Handicrafts, that had a chapter on crochet and a gallery full of projects that could be made with various handicrafts. This was also my introduction to macrame and a lot of other crafts. But although I wanted to learn crochet, I found it difficult to follow the book’s instructions.”

“Then finally I decided that I should learn from a person and who else was more experienced than Grandma? So I finally learned the basic stitches from her. She taught me how to make a chain and then got me started on single and double crochet.”

“After making small samplers for practice, I came back home and searched online for crochet and saw many different patterns and instructions and started making granny squares and doilies. My internet searches for crochet finally led me to and for the first time I was introduced to tapestry crochet. It looked easy but as I started to make a sample I was very confused as how to turn back after completing one row in flat tapestry crochet, but after much contemplating and help from Dr.Carol Ventura, I was finally able to make the rows from left to right and right to left.”

“The first tapestry crochet I made was the Wrist Warmer in 2003. I always take this wrist warmer with me whenever I go for hiking in the Northern areas. Somehow they seem to belong among the high mountains.”

Wrist Warmers by Harry Khan
Harry’s acrylic Wrist Warmers, 2003.

“After experimenting with flat tapestry crochet, I was hooked onto round TC after seeing the very beautiful potholders on the Splynda crochet site, which is no longer online.”

“I liked the idea and tried my hand at making pot holders. I made the rocky mountain pattern from her site.”

Harry’s Rocky Mountain
Harry’s Rocky Mountain from a Splynda pattern.

“After that I tried my hand at making a pattern. So I made the dogs facing each other graph, all the while preparing for my annual exams 🙂 I liked the idea of making a net in the centre, surrounded with solid tapestry crochet.”

Mats by Harry Khan
Harry’s cotton pot holders.

“The Llama came as an inspiration and while experimenting with designing the graph, it changed into somewhat of a mythological animal.”

Harry’s Tapestry Crochet Llama
Harry’s acrylic

“In 2004 I made my first tapestry crochet cap. The pattern of the triangles on the side came from Indian caps which have multi colored sides, too. I first made a flat tapestry crochet strip long enough to go around the head. Then for the upper portion I tapestry crocheted in rounds and made it large enough to cover the head. After that, I joined the two pieces with single crochet and sewed a lining on the inside of the cap.”

Harry Khan’s first Tapestry Crochet Cap
Harry’s first tapestry crochet Cap, 2004.

“After that I grew bold and started making another cap with a more detailed motif on the sides using flat TC. I used the flower motif from the Afghani cross stitch cushion in the center for the other piece.”

Tapestry Crochet Hats by Harry Khan
More of Harry’s Caps.

“It was in May 2004 that I started my TC pillow. I was inspired by the Afghani cross stitch pillows (below) and their variety of colors and motifs and planned in my mind how to convert them into TC.

Afghani Embroidery
Cross stitch pillow covers from Afghanistan.

“I started it at my hostel, while the summer was at it’s peak and the temperature was above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees F). The wool was tough to handle and it wasn’t easy as the pillow grew in size. It took about two weeks working in the afternoons to finish it.”

Pillows by Harry Khan
Harry’s acrylic Pillows, based on the Afghani designs.

“In the end, I would like to Thank Dr. Carol who encouraged me at every step to learn tapestry crochet (and backstrap weaving as well) and helped me with her advice and books all these years.”

“I would like to say that with patience and practice everyone can learn tapestry crochet but the important thing is to learn the art of making lives as colorful as the colorful tapestry crochet.”

Harry’s Crafty Threads blog and his Flickr pages showcase more of his eclectic fiber art. And for you Ravelers out there, he’s Harrykhan. He has been away from tapestry crochet for a while, but says, “I intend to finish this piece (below) now which is again based on the same Afghani cross stitch motifs.”

Harry Khan and his unfinished tapestry crochet piece.
Harry and his WIP tapestry crochet pillow cover.

So what else does Harry do? Well, he’s only one test away from being Dr. Harry. When I told my young daughter years ago that I was studying for my doctorate, she asked if that meant I could take care of her when she was sick. I explained that I was going to be a different kind of doctor – but that I could still take care of her. Harry, on the other hand,  will be the type of doctor that takes care of sick people. Based on what I’ve learned about Harry, I suspect his waiting room will be a real visual treat!

Tapestry Crochet in Bali

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

I found a hint of tapestry crochet in Bali while researching Indonesian crafts last summer with my husband. I didn’t see anyone doing it, but found the hat below in the Ubud market.

Tapestry Crochet Hat in Bali 
This is the only tapestry crochet that I saw in Bali. I bought it, even though it’s much too small for my head!

I did find LOTS of venders all over Bali crocheting beautiful lace-like tablecloths and garments with white and colored thread, though.

Crocheters in Bali
These industrious ladies crochet while waiting for customers.

Crocheters in Bali
More industrious vendors! The tops in the background on the left are crocheted.

I emailed Jean Howe, one of the founders of the Threads of Life (an organization that promotes traditional Indonesian spinning, dyeing, and weaving) to arrange for a guide and a room in Ubud ahead of time and to see if I could teach a tapestry crochet class there.  She said that the staff would probably be interested in learning, so I brought along thread, hooks, and my books.

Weti Tapestry Crocheting
Weti really caught on fast! She’s crocheting the handle on the right.

Tapestry Crochet, Bali
And so did Vita – also working on a handle. Vita was very excited to learn tapestry crochet because now she has something to do when there are no customers!

We ate most of our meals at the Rumah Roda Restaurant, located above the Threads of Life showroom, and stayed at the Rumah Roda Homestay. Rudi, our excellent Rumah Roda guide / driver, introduced us to weavers, carvers, ceramists, jewelers, etc. all over Bali. I haven’t finished my web pages about the crafts of Bali and Java, but the batik and filigree pages are done, if you would like to take a look.

The Roda family and the town of Ubud offered us a fantastic look at traditional Balinese culture. Over a 3 week period we witnessed a royal cremation and wedding, and helped Rudi and his family celebrate their son’s important first birthday. It was enlightening to see the important role that crafts played during these rituals. The Roda family is featured in the book, A Little Bit One O’Clock, written by William Ingram, another Threads of Life founder. I didn’t realize the fact until I began reading it in Bali. What a pleasant surprise when I realized that the family in the book was the same one that welcomed us into their home!

Most people go to Bali for the surfing, beaches, and night life. Not me! The crafts and traditional culture lured me there. I’m still organizing my 3,000+ photos and the information I gathered last May. What an experience!

Tapestry Crochet in China

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

In 2004 I participated in a Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad Program that was designed to help social science and humanities teachers better understand non-western cultures. For five weeks we visited famous sites and schools in Shanghai, Chengdu, Xian, and Beijing. And of course, I brought along my tapestry crochet – with a motif that advertised my nationality (which was OK in China).

One of the first things we did in Shanghai was to pair off and spend the day with a “typical” family. Our hostess was Fei, an English teacher who had just returned from the US. After a very interesting visit to her school, we were invited to her condo, where she lives with Gu Tao (her husband) and their young daughter. I wasn’t sure what they would think of tapestry crochet, but I brought along my More Tapestry Crochet book, some thread, and several crochet hooks in the hopes that they would be interested. They were actually very excited to learn how to do tapestry crochet, especially Gu Tao and one of his relatives! Gu Tao, who was an engineer, had learned how to crochet in primary school. He was fortunate because crochet is no longer taught there.

Learning tapestry crochet in Shanghai
Gu Tao, Fei, and a relative begin a tapestry crochet bag.

People in China enjoy spending time with each other in public. In fact, parks are informally divided into areas where groups of dancers, singers, musicians, game players, knitters, crocheters, etc. gather.

A popular game is played there with a crochet-covered ball. The idea is to gently toss the ball underhanded to your partner, not out of reach (as with Western games). The ball gracefully flows back and forth.

Beijing game ball

Unlike other countries where crochet is done in the privacy of one’s home, Chinese crocheters can be found enjoying the outdoors with their friends, often congregating in the same place every day. We had very little free time, but while the rest of our group was shopping, I usually looked for crocheters.

Crocheters in Beijing
I found these women crocheting sandals at the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing.

Although I don’t speak Chinese, and their crochet hook was double-ended, the stitches were the same, so we had no trouble understanding each other! To introduce myself, I showed them my tapestry crocheted camera case, pointed to their work, then asked them (in pantomime) to lend me two colors of thread so that I could show them the tapestry crochet technique. They were so enthusiastic! They called their friends over and pretty soon, there was a small group huddled around me. This scenario happened over and over on our journey.

Double crochet hook in Beijing
International symbols in action (notice the double ended hook).

Crocheted animals in Beijing
These crocheted animal purses are wonderful, don’t you think? Yes, I bought one!

Crochet in China
Although I did not find tapestry crochet in China, crochet was well integrated into the culture – from Buddhist cushions to Muslim head coverings.

I did my best to introduce China to tapestry crochet. Hopefully, it made a lasting impression.

Carol on the Great Wall of China
On the Great Wall with the first tapestry crochet purse “made in China”.

I’m really looking forward to returning to China some day. The people are so friendly, enthusiastic, and innovative – and they like Americans!

An earlier version of this blog was published in the January 2006 CGOA Chain Link Newsletter as Ambassador of Tapestry Crochet Goes to China.