Archive for the ‘Tapestry Crochet History’ Category

Bob’s Tapestry Crochet

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

I was going to post this next week, but was inspired by this beautiful New Year’s morning to share it with you today.

How did I hear about Bob’s love of tapestry crochet? You guessed it – the internet. I thought you might enjoy learning how he recently discovered the technique, has adapted some of my patterns, and is designing his own! Let me step aside and let Bob tell you about his tapestry crochet adventures [most of this was first posted at HappyHookers]:

“SilverStarShadow introduced the technique to me and I’ve been HOOKED ever since! I’ve made several stocking caps that had tapestry work done in the brim (just really simple patterns . . . like stripes for example). The people who received them were totally amazed. They thought they were woven. The hats I make are also pretty thick. I live in Michigan and can’t stand thin, wimpy hats . . . my balding head needs more padding . . . Now I’m ready to move onto something a bit more challenging. I tried to make one stocking cap that was supposed to have snowflakes going around the brim, but it just wouldn’t come out right. Then my sis (SilverStarShadow) sent me to Dr. Ventura’s website. The site has some YouTube files on it that made it much more clear to me as to the reason why my patterns were failing. It all has to do with the Graph Paper used [these papers are available in my tapestry crochet books and some papers are online Files in my Yahoo Tapestry Crochet Group]. Earlier this week, I ordered Dr. Ventura’s book More Tapestry Crochet. I’m eagerly waiting for it to arrive. Maybe it will make it to my mailbox today.”

“I started on this hat [below right] at noon and was done around 5 PM. It’s not complicated. All of the stitches are single crochets . . . It was just like magic appearing before my eyes.”

Tapestry Crochet Hats
My Handspun Hats and Bobs hats.

“If I had to pick my worst made project, I would say that it was the Cat’s Meow bag [below]. The length vs. width just wasn’t a good combo. The bag looked too “tubish”.

Tapestry Crochet Cat’s Meow Purses
My Cat’s Meow Purses from More Tapesty Crochet and Bob’s bottle carrier.

“I found a 2005 issue of Annies Favorite Crochet that has a beach bag tapestry crochet project in it. It’s called Patriotic Stars [see below]. The original is a dark navy background with white 5 pointed stars and trim. I’m using teal and orange. The colors reminded me of a beach ball.  The image with the yarn pieces sticking out is the inside of the bag (the knotted side). This bag is turning out better than the Cat’s Meow Bag I made several weeks ago. This time I’m using a smaller hook. I’ve also learned to keep a snug tension on the yarn and to keep the stitches tight. I’m not a tight crocheter so this time I’m using an F hook (I used a G on the other bag).”

“Yes . . . it is RHSS [Red Heart Super Saver] yarn. The colors used were Teal and Vibrant Orange. I always think of those 2 colors when I think of the beach. And this pattern is a beach bag tote. ”

Tapestry Crochet Stars Bags
My Patriotic Stars Bag and Bob’s Patriotic Stars Bag.

“It’s REALLY strong. It took me a bit longer than I thought it would take to get it finished. I got SO lost when it came time to create the strap. I got totally frustrated and walked away from it for 2 days. Then I finally figured out what the pattern was telling me. As you can see, everything is made as one entire piece. There is a chain of 150 that makes the beginning of the strap. The pattern just said “with blue, chain 150 and sc in the 72nd stitch around the bag”. I was making the chain and wasn’t carrying the orange along with it. That’s what kept messing me up. I had the strand of orange way over on the opposite side of the bag. Once I got myself back on track, I had it done in just a few days.”

“I’m tellin’ ya. . . You could put bricks in this bag, knock a mugger upside his head and STILL not break a single thread! LOLOLOL [Laugh Out Loud]. I’m very pleased with the final result. My tapestry skills have improved a LOT just since the last bag I made. SilverStar has that bag now. I was talking with her on the phone and telling her how nice the strap on the bag was turning out. And when the star bag was finally done, I told her that she needed to throw that trashy Cat’s Meow bag out! The strap on that bag wasn’t very good at all. I could see a lot of the carried yarn showing through. I think she’s going to use it as a “catch all” bag for her car. That bag has a strap that pulls through a slit on the opposite side of the bag so the bag stays shut. I actually like the strap that I just finished making a little better.”

“Originally, this bag [below] is done with a size Q hook and wool is used. Then the bag is to be felted. I used RHSS and switched my hook size to an F. The bag came out to be just under 6″ at the base. The bag is round at the bottom… I just squished it down so the picture would show the diameter at the bottom and the decreases at the top. I also changed the length of the strap.”

Tapestry Crochet Hip Hop Bags
My felted Hip Hop and Bob’s Hip Hop bag.

“This [below] is another one of Carol Ventura’s designs. She named this pattern For The Birds! She got her inspiration for this bag from pre-Columbian interlocking designs from Peru and 20th century artist M. C Escher. Originally, this bag is supposed to have a diameter of 192 stitches. But because she uses thread type yarns and I don’t, I had to decrease the size of the pattern to keep from making a tote rather than something that’s handbag size. My bag is 96 stitches in diameter. Her pattern tells you how many stitches make up the motif so that you are able to increase/decrease the stitches to make a bag in the size you want.”

“This bag is being gifted to one of my good friends, Brian, in Arizona. He recently bought a very nice dig cam with extra memory cards and other accessories that can be used with it. He wanted a small bag to keep everything in so that nothing got misplaced. I think that this bag should be the perfect fit. The base of my bag is 7.5 inches long and 3 inches deep. I think that the finished height will be 11 inches once the strap is put on. Here’s some pics of my progress so far. The bags progress has been one of the main topics of discussion while talking to him on the phone. He hasn’t seen the pictures that are being shown in this post. The only thing he knows is that it is an interlocking mosaic/bird design. When I told him that the background color of the bag is actually another bird, I could hear the confusion in his voice. I’ll have a huge grin when I get the “I got the bag” phone call from him. He’s gonna be amazed when he see this.”

Tapestry Crocheted Bird Bags
My For the Birds from More Tapestry Crochet and Bob’s For the Birds Bag.

“The strap is taking a very long time to finish. It’s 298 stitches each time I make another round for the strap. I did 2 yellow, 2 green and 2 red. That equals 1,788 for one half of the strap. I’m on the last round of red for the first half.”

“This bag was a lot of fun to make. All of the constant color changing kept it from becoming a boring project. The strap took a very long time to complete. The straps design was for a larger bag . . . 2 rounds of each color on each side of the strap (4 yellow rounds in the center – then 2 green and 2 red rounds on each side). I also made the length of the strap much much longer than the original pattern called for. Because of the smaller bag size, I was going to rip back and do only one round of each color on each side of the strap, but the guy that this bag was made for wanted a comfortable “across the chest” strap. The bag was made smaller than the average tote because it’s going to be used for his dig cam and all of the other accessories that he uses. The finished look is VERY different. When I look at it, I see a large strap that seems to just belly out at the bottom creating a “bag”. Pretty cool result. I feel that the wide strap gave the bag a more masculine feel. I’m really happy with the way this bag turned out and he’s gonna have saucer sized eyes when he sees it. He’s seen some of the progress pics, but he will not get to see the pics that are posted here in this message. Besides . . . pictures don’t do tapestry bags justice. The picture can’t capture all of the texture in the bag. And the feel of a tapestry bag is different from any other handmade project I’ve had my hands on.”

Bob has also designed some fabulous pieces, including the stocking hats below. He described the 66″ long black and white hat and showed it’s progress in several HappyHookers postings:
“I did this hat’s [below right] brim a bit different than all of the other hats I’ve made. This brim is not made in the round. It was made from rows of back loop only. Then the beginning row was attached to the final row of the ribbing. Then I began crocheting stitches into the end of the tube shape I created. From that point, it’s done as tapestry crochet. There are a total of 6 stripes on this hat, 3 white and 3 black. The stripes will get thinner as the hat increases in length.”

Bob’s Tapestry Crochet Stocking Hats
Some of Bob’s tapestry crocheted stocking hats.

Bob describes his latest tapestry crochet pieces below, first the hat: “I . . . went down to a Size I hook and double stranded the 3 colors that were used. The finished result is a very thick hat that’s a perfect fit. It’s fit for a King!”

Bob’s Tapestry Crochet
Bob’s latest pieces are a hat and his very own Fleur-de-Lis.

“I had been working on this graph project [above right] since before Thanksgiving. I really like the Fleur-De-Lis design and wanted to incorporate it into a tapestry project. Working from Tapestry Graph paper for right handed in the round, I began to graph out my design using PhotoShop. The paint bucket tool allowed me to color in the holes of the graph. This saves me a TON of money on ink. I can’t even begin to think of all graph paper that I have printed out so I could use a pencil to scribble in the idea that’s floating around in my head. I managed to get an overall design graphed up and then started to work on it.”

“I had to rip back a few times, but finally got the result I wanted . . . I had been working on for quite sometime so I got it all finished up . . . I’m thinking that this could be worked into a pair of mittens. Maybe even a hat/mitten set. I have lots of thoughts . . . it just gets complicated trying to get all those thoughts into a usable pattern.”

“If my math is correct, I’m pretty sure that I can put the design into a small sized handbag and still have everything come out evenly spaced. And I’m still thinking of mittens too . . . although I’ve never made a pair from a pattern, much less figuring out how to write down my own pattern . . . hhhmmmmmmmmm there goes my brain again LOL.”

Bob’s enthusiasm, generosity, and encouragement are inspiring others to appreciate and even try their hand at tapestry crochet. I hope you will be able to do the same! Wouldn’t this be a great New Year’s Resolution?

New Zealand’s Doe

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Doe Arnot is from Oamaru, New Zealand, on the East Coast of the South Island. After seeing the fabulous pictures that she posted of her masterpieces in my Yahoo Tapestry Crochet group, I had to know more. What follows are excerpts of doespins’ posts and emails that we exchanged:

“I’ve been crocheting since I was very young and have always loved working with lots of color. Here in NZ the light is so bright and clear and our low population density makes for really dark, starry nights. So my palette of colors reflects the countryside and seascape around me.”

“I learnt to do Tapestry Crochet by accident when I was a child 40 years ago and learning to crochet. My mum told me off for working over all my spare threads, but I’ve been doing it ever since. I discovered I really liked the fabric created by fair-isle style crochet working over the carried yarn.”

Does Tapestry Crocheted Vests
Doe tapestry crocheted the Tulips Vest (34″ chest) and Seahorse Vest (28″ chest) with hand dyed wool in 2003.

“I’m a crochet tutor and tapestry crochet is one of my favourite classes to teach. I hand dye (and sometimes handspin) practically all of my yarns, out of necessity, the colours sold here are too limited and its much easier to buy coned yarn in natural colours. I mostly keep an inventory of yarns in cream, light greys, white, etc. and dye the colours I need. These are much easier to buy here as they appear on the market in all types and sizes of yarn.”

“All the articles shown are hand dyed using synthetic dyes apart from the Birds Blanket. I have used natural dyestuff such as indigo, madder, and other plants for many years mostly for my own entertainment and fascination. Because this form of dyeing is so time consuming the articles I make usually go as gifts to the people I know would appreciate the time spent on them or remain in my personal collection.”

“I dye cotton, wool, silk, alpaca etc, but haven’t got into dyeing synthetic yarns as the process and chemicals are more complicated. I also keep a stash of undyed fibre ready to spin and dye. I also like the shaded look in both the yarns and the effects by for example dyeing one colour such as blue in a whole range of tones and shades. I do occassionally buy a commercially dyed yarn if its just the colour I’m looking for, but mostly I like to create my own colour choices and sometimes that includes happy accidents, where the colour wasn’t quite what I intended but actually really makes the piece come alive. Hand dyed colours have much more depth and life because the colour can be applied in a painterly fashion, and is not flat colour. I was an art teacher and art therapist originally so I tend to have the belief that spontaneity is desirable.”

Doe’s Tapestry Crochet
Doe tapestry crocheted this Flap Hat with hand dyed alpaca in 2005. She tapestry crocheted most of the Black Oystercatcher Bag (2007, 13″ x 14″ hand dyed yarn) with alpaca and wool, but she used red silk for the beaks.

Kaffe Fassett inspires me with his joyous use of colour on the blank canvas of stocking stitch knitting. Tapestry crochet is like that too, a very simple, repetitive stitch takes the supporting role for a free expression of colour, shape and design.”

Crossbag by doe
Doe tapestry crocheted this woolen 12″ x 6″ Cross Bag in 2003.

“I started making circular designs by making mug coasters initially, which were quick to do and didn’t waste much yarn.”

Does’s Porthole
This 20″ diameter woolen Porthole Mat dates to 2001.

Porthole Detail

“I have two of Carol’s books on tapestry crochet and I really appreciate her special graphs for working out my designs. I’ve been making bags with my own NZ bird designs. In teaching tapestry crochet here in NZ, I find Carol’s books really helpful. I encourage people to learn the basics and not be afraid of using the graphs or of making simple design decisions for themselves right in the beginning.”

Does’s Pukeko Bag
Doe tapestry crocheted this 18″ x 8″ Pukeko Bag with alpaca in 2007.

“Graphing circular motifs isn’t too hard. I mentally divide a circle into 6 or twelve segments depending on the size motif(s) I want and draw one segment. The segment is drawn on squared paper (although you could use Carol’s paper too). I start with one square which represents the first round of 6 single crochet (or second round if its 12 segments). Then when I’ve charted the number of rounds to match the size of the mat I fill in the motifs with coloured pencils. Now the chart is a guide for my six or 12 segments but I don’t do the increases exactly where the chart shows them because as you know this makes straight edges on the tops of the segment stitches so I move my increase stitches on the rounds to a random pattern wherever I can without affecting the patterns to get a good curve to my finished circle. Charts are only a guide so I don’t get too bothered if I can’t increase on round 6 for example because the circle is flaring slightly, or need to make an increase round where the chart says no increase.”

“The Birds Blanket (below) worked in half double crochet plays with the forms and shapes of man and bird in primitive art. Dyed entirely with natural dyes, indigo, madder, onion skins, gorse, cochineal etc. I folded my daughter (as a baby) into its handspun, earthy warmth. The colors and yarn have withstood the test of time as it is now over 15 years old.”

Birds Blanket by Doe
Doe tapestry crocheted this 28″ x 40″ Birds Blanket in 1993 with her own natural dyed, handspun wool.

Detail of Birds by Doe

“I enjoy visiting art galleries and the fabric of woven tapestries is very inspirational.”

Blue Woman by Doe
The wool (hand dyed and some handspun) of Blue Woman is not carried, but floats on the back of the 21″ x 32″ hanging that dates to 2004.

“In 1998 I began making tapestry crochet hats and bags and selling them through 3 galleries here in NZ. I priced them according to the materials cost, time they took, and this included dyeing and reskeining/balling the yarn, adding on taxes and the commission that the galleries would charge. I had to charge a low wage for my time because tapestry crochet is time consuming and no-one would buy the article if I even charged at even a minimum wage, so I discounted for enjoyment at making and designing the articles, etc. but picked an amount that I would be happy to receive for making these items.”

“It was very enjoyable whilst I could choose the amount of items I would supply and had control of what designs I made. However, when I started getting larger orders for the same two designs (i.e. mini-mass production) the pleasure diminished rapidly. There is still a lot of misunderstanding about one-off and each one is an original. Plus only making firm fabric for tapestry crochet for hats and bags was wrecking my shoulder. Now I’ve compromised and sell woven items, other forms of crochet and a little tapestry crochet.”

“I share a workshop in an old stone building promoting historic textile crafts in the Victorian precinct. I don’t sell or feature any of my work via the web at present although our textile co-operative (which is relatively new) is planning to do a website for our work. One of my exhibition pieces appears on the Creative Fibre website (it is not tapestry crochet but a mixed media piece with predominantly crochet in alpaca). I like the one to one contact of personal sales with my customer being able to physically handle the goods and my output is limited. I also supplement my income by teaching others to make their own crochet pieces.”

“I hope the many articles I have made over the years using this technique are still telling their stories in other people’s homes. For the future, I plan to make more fluid wearable items in this technique, mixing it with other styles of crochet and playing with felting (or fulling) techniques.”

I can’t decide which is best about Doe’s unique tapestry crochet – her wonderful designs or her fantastic color palette. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter – because together they make her work outstanding!

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.

Tapestry Crochet in Turkey

Friday, October 26th, 2007

My love of tapestry crochet and the internet have really expanded my world. Thanks to people like Marketta Luutonen, who teaches in the Master´s Program in Craft Design at the University of Joensuu in Helsinki and is the Managing Director of the Finnish Craft Organization, I learned that tapestry crochet is also done in southern Europe! Marketta has shared many of her tapestry crochet pictures with me, including the ones below from Turkey. You might recognize her name from some of her publications, including Decorative Crocheting (ISBN 951-96888-4-6).

Bags in Costume Museum, Turkey
Tapestry crocheted cotton bags that date to the 1800’s in the Costume Museum in Bursa.

Purse in Turkey
These crocheted bags are for sale in the Antique Market in Turkey.

Bag from Istanbul
Marketta bought this tapestry crocheted cotton bag in Istanbul.

You guessed it, I just added Turkey to the list of places that I MUST VISIT SOON!

A Tapestry Crochet Thesis

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Maarit Aalto and I first met online when she was a Craft Science student at the Savonlinna Department of Teacher Education in Finland. At the time, she was working on samples for her Master’s Thesis, “Similarity of a Square-Ruled Graph and a Tapestry Crochet Motif Made with a Single Crochet Stitch.” Maarit graduated in 2004 and meeting her at the 2005 Crochet Days was quite a thrill! Maarit was both an instructor and one of my students there.

Maarit teaching and her bag
Maarit (left) helps one of her students with a project that she taught at Crochet Days, a woolen bag tapestry crocheted in rounds.

Maarit’s Bead Tapestry Crochet Cell Phone Bag
Maarit’s cotton bead tapestry crochet cell phone bag is a variation of the project that I taught her at Crochet Days.

As you can see from her thesis abstract, Maarit took a very scientific approach:

     “Tapestry crocheted textiles can be made in a variety of ways. The technique varies according to which crochet stitches are used, which part of the stitch on the previous row the hook is inserted into, whether the crocheter is right-handed or left-handed, whether the textile is crocheted one way or back and forth, how many colours are used and how the yarns are carried and switched.
     This study focused on the similarity of a square-ruled graph and a tapestry crochet motif made with a single crochet stitch. The chosen motif was the consecration cross, which is a circle with a cross inside it. Sixty samples were crocheted using different versions of the tapestry crochet technique. The samples were compared to the motif in the square-ruled graph. The aim of the study was to find out which tapestry crochet techniques produce a motif similar to a square-ruled graph to the right side, wrong side and both sides of the textile. This was studied with the sensory evaluation method. A group of ten people evaluated the samples. The group of techniques that produces motifs similar to the square-ruled graph were formed on the basis of the average grades of the evaluation. Another aim of the study was to analyze the visual differences caused by the tapestry crochet technique. This was done using the qualitative content analysis method.
     The study showed that a tapestry crochet motif similar to a square-ruled graph can be made in a variety of ways, so that the motif is either on the right or wrong side of the textile. In both cases the textile can be crocheted one way or back and forth. A motif similar to a square-ruled graph can appear on both sides of the textile with three different techniques, but none of them are practical. According to the content analysis there are no techniques that would produce a perfect motif.
     According to the study, a tapestry crochet motif similar to a square-ruled graph can be made with traditional tapestry crochet techniques or new versions of the technique. An improved version of reverse single crochet stitch was developed during the study, which makes it possible to make good looking tapestry crocheted textiles when crocheted back and forth.”

Maarit kept the samples, but a copy of her thesis (with photos of the samples) is at the Library of the Savonlinna Department of Teacher Education. She said, “I did 60 variations, but theoretically there are hundreds!” Maarit showed me the samples and some of her other tapestry crochet work and was kind enough to give me the pieces below.

Tapestry crochet sample
Front and back of a cotton sample that Maarit tapestry crocheted back and forth, turning the piece at the end of every row, with alternating rows of the front and the back of the stitches.

Maarit’s sample
Front and back of a cotton sample that Maarit tapestry crocheted from right to left with all the front of the stitches on one side of the fabric and all of the back of the stitches on the other side of the fabric.

Maarit’s wool sample
Front and back of a pot holder that Maarit crocheted back and forth with wool, with all the front of the stitches on one side of the fabric and all of the back of the stitches on the other side of the fabric.

Maarit’s pot holder
Front and back of a similar pot holder with a border.

Detail of Maarit’s cotton bag
Detail of a cotton bag that Maarit tapestry crocheted around 10 years ago when she was first experimenting with the technique.

Maarit Tapestry Crochet Hat
Sisko Tynkkynen tapestry crocheted this cotton hat with the Finnish flag for one of Maarit’s children. It was tapestry crocheted from bottom to top, decreasing at the top.

Like most of us, just when you think you have something down, it surprises you! Maarit describes her experience with the mittens pictured below, “These tapestry crochet mittens are an example of “Woops, did I do something wrong?” I forgot to try the second mitten on while I was making it. I didn’t realize my tension was tighter so the second mitten turned out too small. The fine black woolen yarn is very difficult to work with and ripping out stitches is even more difficult. The mittens are still waiting for me to have more patience and time. I’m hoping to wear the mitten at Christmas. Hopefully this year! Someone once said that making mistakes is an efficient way of learning but unfortunately it’s also a bitter way.”

Maarit’s Tapestry Crochet Mittens
Maarit crocheted these mittens from the cuff up.

Maarit’s new job as an elementary school English teacher, and her 3 children and husband keep her quite busy. The Nordic Knitting Symposium she attended over the summer inspired her to try more new things. She says, “I feel like trying out ALL new techniques, yarns, colours etc. I do wish to live to be a hundred years old so I’ll have the time for all these lovely ideas.”

Maarit’s Woolen Mittens
Maarit will give these knit mittens to a Member of Parliament in November. It’s a teacher’s campaign to remind the Finnish government about the importance of craft skills. 

I can relate to Maarit’s lack of time and eclectic interests because I love diversity and variety, too. May we all live to be at least a hundred!

Tapestry Crochet in Morocco

Friday, September 21st, 2007

The Internet and tapestry crochet did it again! This time they introduced me to Bronwyn Menton from Australia! What a happy surprise to receive an email from her with the picture of the young man (below) tapestry crocheting in Essaouira, Morocco.

Crocheter in Morocco
This hip fellow listens to music while he sells and tapestry crochets hats like the one below (Bronwyn 2006).

Slip stitched hat from Morocco
He tapestry crochets with slip stitches.  It is impossible to carry the other yarn with the slip stitch, so . . .

Inside view of Morocco hat
. . . the other yarn runs along the back of the stitches.

Bronwyn explained, “The hats that the young lad was making I think were for the beanie wearing fashion conscious adolescents, fishermen and tourists – or maybe just for people to keep their heads warm rather than for cultural reasons.  Essaouira has a very hip culture musically (Jimmi Hendrix, Cat Stevens and Leonard Cohen all spent a lot of time there) and is a centre for African music festivals.  It also has a surfing culture – even saw a surf shop with its own brand of clothing to rival our Aussie brands.  But the main thing that happens in Essaouira is fishing and I reckon it would be mighty cold out on the Atlantic in those little blue boats!  Hence my opinion about who buys the woollen hats. The wool used in this beanie, and many others is often what the Moroccans call ‘dead wool’.  This means that it is wool that has been taken from sheep already slaughtered for meat.  The wool is of a poorer quality than ‘live wool’ and usually has a very unpleasant smell.  I had to wash the beanies several times to get rid of the smell!”

Wool in Morocco
Bronwyn saw both natural and synthetic dyes being used to color wool (used primarily for carpet weaving) in large ceramic vats at Djemaa el-Fna, the huge market in the heart of Marrakesh.

Market in Morocco
The market she visited sells both raw materials and the finished products.

All of the hats that Bronwyn saw for sale in Marrakesh were tapestry crocheted with acrylic yarn and often included gold or silver thread.

Bronwyn buying hats in Morocco
So many choices! Bronwyn met the challenge with flying colors in Marrakesh.

Tapestry crochet hat from Morocco
This is the icing on the cake! Bronwyn gave me this Moroccan hat!

Detail of a hat from Morocco
This hat was double crocheted with fine acrylic yarn and metallic thread.

Bronwyn’s last email said, “. . . I so want to go back there!  It was a really fascinating place – so colourful, varied and culturally rich.  I was looking at the mosaics in the Blue Mosque in Casablanca and they reminded me of the photos you posted from Spain.  There is just so much to see and so little time . . .”

Until I heard from her, I did not realize that tapestry crochet was done there. This fantastic news moves Morocco towards the top of my list of places I HAVE TO VISIT SOON. Thanks so much, Bronwyn!

Tapestry Crochet in Guatemala

Friday, September 14th, 2007

Ahhh . . . Guatemala! The land that introduced me to tapestry crochet so many years ago. In the late 1970’s, men from Aguacatan, San Juan Atitan, Todos Santos, and Nebaj tapestry crocheted flat, rectangular shoulder bags for their own use (or for sale) in colorful styles that were unique to their own towns. While most bags were crocheted with two colors at a time, as many as 7 colors were carried in the best bags from Nebaj.

Bag from Nebaj, Guatemala
Tapestry crocheted bag from Nebaj. (1978)

Detail of Bag from Nebaj, Guatemala
Seven colors were carried for the complicated pattern.

In the late 1970’s, most bags were tapestry crocheted with the same commercially spun and dyed cotton thread used for backstrap weaving.  Several threads were joined and worked as one strand when crocheting. Naturally colored black and white wool was also popular and acrylic yarn was just entering the market.

Crocheter from San Juan Atitan, Guatemala
This fellow from San Juan Atitan tapestry crochets a bag like the one that he is using as his wife looks on. (1979)

Only a few tourist items were available back then; flat circular shoulder bags and change purses. When I returned in 2002, I was thrilled to see lots of new tapestry crocheted items for sale, including cylindrical bags, hats, and hackey sacks. I also saw both men and women tapestry crocheting these innovative products with a variety of motifs. Most were crocheted with acrylic yarn and the quality varied from very fine to not so fine.

Market in Chichicastenango, Guatemala
Tapestry crocheted bags for sale in Chichicastenango. (2002)

Antigua, Guatemala
In addition to handwoven cloth, this Mam Maya vender in Antigua also sells tapestry crocheted bags, hats, and hackey sacks. (2002)

Mam bag and wool vender in Jacaltenenago
This Mam Maya mother (originally from Todos Santos) models a bag that she tapestry crocheted with the same type of acrylic yarn that her daughter is selling. Yes, I bought the bag – it is exquisite! (2002)

And guess what? Guatemala also has an ancient looping tradition. Shoulder bags are the items that were – and still are – looped and shoulder bags were the first items that were tapestry crocheted there. As I mentioned in earlier blogs, I am convinced that loopers readily adopted, possibly even invented, tapestry crochet around the world. Each location had a unique looped product; shoulder bags in Guatemala, mittens in Finland, and hats in Cameroon.

Looped Bag from Guatemala
Looped bag from Jacaltenango, Guatemala. (2002)

Guatemala not only inspired my first pieces, but still influences my choices. Although I don’t always tapestry crochet tightly in rounds, my work features contrasting colors, the extra yarn is carried inside single crochet stitches, and the hook is inserted under the top 2 loops of the stitch below. My next blog will show tapestry crochet in Morocco.

Tapestry Crochet in Cameroon

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Men’s tapestry crocheted and looped hats are very popular in the western highlands of Cameroon in Central West Africa. Sometimes the styles are meaningful (denoting status, a specific event, or one’s home town), other times the hats are just fashion statements.

Men in Bafut, Cameroon
Both tapestry crocheted (left) and looped hats (right) can be seen in Bafut. Tapestry crocheted hats of a different style are for sale on the wall behind them. (2000)

Detail of looped hat from Cameroon
Detail of a looped hat from Cameroon.

How are looping and crochet related? They are similar, but with looping the entire strand is pulled through each loop; only a small loop is pulled through another loop with crochet. Looping is an ancient technique, but no one knows when or where tapestry crochet developed. I suspect loopers embraced it because tapestry crochet is quicker.

Tapestry crochet is one of many crafts done in Foumban, home of the Bamum (Bamun, Bamoun) people. The early 20th century Sultan Njoya encouraged metal casters, leatherworkers, potters, embroiderers, woodcarvers, beadworkers, and other craftspeople to move there and a hundred years later, it is still the center of craft production in Cameroon.

Foumban Craftsmen
A Bamum leather worker and a sculptor wear tapestry crocheted hats with diamond motifs, but each is quite distinctive. (2000)

Crocheters from Foumban, Cameroon
Bamum crocheters often carry recycled synthetic sack fibers to stiffen the hats they tapestry crochet with cotton and acrylic yarns. The hats on the right commemorate the local biennial Nguon Festival. (2000)

Detail of a Hat from Foumban, Cameroon
Detail of the synthetic fiber carried in Foumban. Notice that the top loop of each stitch is laying over the next one. This happens when the yarn color is changed after completing the stitch (instead of when 2 loops are still on the hook).

Hats from Foumban, CameroonHats from Foumban, Cameroon
These tapestry crocheted hats are from Foumban. The knob on the top is a decorative element that is specific to that town. (2000)

Although I observed more women tapestry crocheting than men when I visited in 2001, I did find one male crocheter in Dschang.

Man crocheting in Dschang
This Bamileke man from Dschang is crocheting a hat like the one that he made below. (2000)

Hat from Dschang, Cameroon
Aren’t the crocheted ruffles fabulous? (2000)

Hats from Dschang, Cameroon
These tapestry crocheted hats are also from Dschang and are more typical of the hats worn there. (2000)

I suggested in an earlier blog that Korsnäs tapestry crochet might have evolved from nalbinding, an ancient looping technique. I believe the same thing happened in Cameroon. My next blog will show a similar development in Guatemala.

Caroline Routh, Tapestry Crochet Artist

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

Tapestry crochet and the internet brought Caroline Routh and me together and this past Spring we finally met. Caroline studied and taught painting and design before becoming a fiber artist. As you can see, this background shines through in her exquisite abstract and figurative tapestry crochet works of art.

Caroline Routh Baskets
Caroline’s Red Stripes and Georgian Landscape are 5″ tall.

Caroline’s working method allows her to create shapely, three dimensional sculptures and vessels with fantastic color variations. How does she achieve such an extensive palette? By mixing the threads as if they were paint, of course!

Her “paints” of choice include sizes 3 and 5 cotton threads and embroidery floss (each strand is composed of six 9 yard long pieces), which are available in a rainbow of tints and shades. Metallic thread and novelty yarn are ocassionaly utilized for special effects. Caroline usually combines 2 strands into one working thread to increase the thickness. Sometimes the strands are the same color, other times each is different. She subtly varies the hues by replacing one strand at a time with another color either as it is needed or when it runs out. The new thread is tied on with a weaver’s reef knot, then the join is skillfully hidden by crocheting over it.

Caroline Routh Shell
Caroline’s tapestry crocheted Shell is 7 1/4″ long.

Detail of Tapestry Crochet Shell
This detail shows how one color transitions into another.

How do Caroline’s sculptures stay in shape? With a wire skeleton – what else would work so well? She demonstrated the technique for me below. For a lot of color changes, as many as 7 threads are carried with the wire. When no color changes are necessary,  only the wire is carried.

Caroline Routh Tapestry Crocheting
The florist wire that Caroline carries plays an important supportive role.

Caroline Routh Blackbird
Caroline’s Blackbird is 10″ high. The wire skeleton keeps it in shape.

A painter’s sensibility and tapestry crochet are successfully married in the one-of-a-kind imaginative pieces that are available through her web site and at the Mad and Noisy Gallery in Creemore, Ontario. What an inspiration!

Korsnäs Tapestry Crochet

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Korsnäs is a municipality on the western coast of Finland. The people (of Swedish descent) continue many of their traditions, including tapestry crochet. The Korsnäs Museum, housed in a historic farmer’s cottage that includes a kitchen and sleeping quarters, provides an authentic look into the past. The textile room includes an extensive collection of tapestry crocheted sweaters, hats, mittens, cuffs, bags, sashes, and suspenders.

Men’s crocheted and knit sweaters, hat, and suspenders in the Korsnäs Museum.

A wide tapestry crocheted sash, a narrow woven sash,
and tapestry crocheted cuffs and bags in the Korsnäs Museum.

Korsnäs sweaters are a stunning combination of tapestry crochet and knitting. Beginning at the bottom, they are crocheted, then knit, then crocheted in rounds for both pullover and open styles. The top seam is hand sewn together, the tube is secured with machine-sewn stitches around the arm openings, then the arm holes are cut. The sleeves are crocheted, then knit, then crocheted from the shoulder to the cuff and then sewn onto the sweater. The neck is edged with a crocheted border. The front is cut open for the button down style, then a decorative edging is added for the button and its holes and to help secure and hide the edges. The last step is to hand sew a narrow, knit band over all the cut and sewn seams to camouflage the joins.

Locals occasionally dress in their traditional costume and demonstrate knitting and crocheting sweaters in the museum. Appointments can be made for group visits.

Tapestry crocheting in rounds the lower border of a sweater.

One color yarn rests on the front and the other on the back of the forefinger, while the other fingers grip them for proper tension.

After the crocheted border has been finished, loops are pulled through the crochet stitches so that the body of the sweater may be knit in a tube, traditionally by more than one person at a time on double pointed needles.

Each knitter completes one partial round, then it is rotated.

Another great place to see Korsnäs textiles is in private and museum collections. Since they are rarely able to exhibit everything, much of it is often in storage. If you make an appointment and are very lucky, though, a curator will let you into the “vaults” and allow photographs, too! Fortunately, luck was with me in Finland.

In the “vaults” of the Ostrobothnian Museum.

I suspect that Korsnäs tapestry crochet evolved from nalbinding, a much older looping technique that utilizes sewn loops. With tapestry crochet, only a small loop is pulled through with a hook, whereas with nalbinding, the entire yarn needs to be pulled through each loop with a sewing needle; very labor intensive. Even if the yarn is spun as needed, looping is still much more time consuming than crochet. Both techniques are still used to make mittens in Finland.

Nalbound mittens from the Karin Rosendahl collection.

Tapestry crocheted Korsnäs mittens from the Ostrobothnian Museum.

Korsnäs child’s sweater from the Ostrobothnian Museum.

Korsnäs sweater from the Ostrobothnian Museum.

Detail of the lower part of the above sweater.

Korsnäs sweaters from the Karin Rosendahl collection.

Collar detail of the above sweater from the Karin Rosendahl collection.

I will always be indebted to the many wonderful people who made this trip possible, especially Marketta Luutonen, Anna-Maija Bäckman, Leena Nyqvist, and Jeanette Rönnqvist-Aro.

Marketta Luutonen and me.

Anna-Maija, Leena, and Jeanette of Loftet.

Some of these names should now be familiar to you. Jeanette crocheted the cuffs in my previous post and Marketta and Anna-Maija have authored several excellent crochet publications. In fact, the best book (in Finnish, Swedish, and English) with history and patterns, is their Decorative Crochetingwhich was printed in Vasa in 2003 (ISBN 951-96888-4-6). Marketta also wrote Virkattuja Pusseja (Crocheted Purses), printed in Vasa in 1992 (ISBN 952-90-4278-7). Although written in Finnish, it includes several excellent photos and graphs. Another good book is Korsnäströjor Förr Och Nu, by Gretel Dahlberg, printed in Vasa in 1987, ISBN 951-99832-4-4. Although not in English, it includes historical pictures, several museum pieces (many in color), and some graphs for sweaters and mittens.

Carol Ventura
It took a year to get my ensemble, but it was worth the wait! Although I ordered mine at the Korsnäs Museum, it is also available online. I will be sure to wear it at the TKGA / CGOA Conference in Oakland in September. I hope to see you there!

Tapestry Crochet in Finland

Sunday, July 29th, 2007


I dreamed about researching tapestry crochet in Finland, but thought it would happen “when pigs fly.” So, when I was invited to teach tapestry crochet at the 2005 Crochet Days Conference in Vaasa/ Vasa, I was inspired to bead tapestry crochet a purse with flying pigs. I worked on the square base before the conference and continued onto the sides in Finland. The instructions for this purse were published by Simply Creative Crochet magazine in 2006.

The type of tapestry crochet done in Finland is similar to that of the rest of Europe. The hook is inserted into the back loop, which produces a cloth with wonderful drape and the front loop forms a horizontal line under each row of single crocheted stitches. The colored yarns are worked very efficiently by placing them on either side of the finger.

Tapestry crocheted cuffs are very popular in Finland.

A (right-handed) conference participant showed me how to switch colors back and forth (without dropping and picking them up for each color change) on my “Flying Pigs” bag. (I was actually working 3 colors for this bag, but her demo was for 2 colors, so please ignore the pink thread.) This method works well for quickly switching colors back and forth, but is awkward for crocheting several stitches at a time. As seen below, one color is secured on the front of the left forefinger and the other on the back, then fancy hook work allows one thread to be carried while the other is worked.

To change color, yarn over with white (ignore the pink thread).

Continue to single crochet with white while working around blue.

If you would like to give it a try, instructions for these cuffs (by Jeanette Rönnqvist-Aro) are in Luutonen and Bäckman’s 2003 book, DECORATIVE CROCHETING. Mittens, bags, and Korsnäs sweaters are also included.


The 2005 Crochet Days Conference was sponsored by Loftet and the Finnish Crafts Organization.

After presenting a slide lecture about the history of tapestry crochet, I led two bead tapestry crochet workshops to students who could tapestry crochet circles around me! Inserting the hook under two loops and incorporating beads was different for them, though, so they were very excited to learn something new. As usual, I learned a lot, to!

Students bead tapestry crochet a small basket.

Maarit Aalto wrote her master’s thesis about tapestry crochet
and also taught it at the conference.

After the conference we visited Korsnäs, famous for marrying knitting and tapestry crochet. That will be the topic of my next blog.