Newsletter February 2010: Painting in crochetNews:As you might have noticed in the e-mail announcing the previous newsletter, I am now producing a monthly podcast in French, in which I speak about the subject of the newsletter (and more). If you want to listen, you can subscribe through I-tunes (hopefully also outside France – there is no way for me to check this). Show notes and mp3 files are posted in the podcast category on my blog.In pattern news, there are projects for both crocheters and knitters.My latest crochet pattern is the stole Lina.It’s a great opportunity to play with colours in a fun yet simple way. If you want to make Lina in the yarn in the picture, it is also available as a kit.On the knitting side of things, I am happy to present a new pattern from Circé aux Belles Boucles (yes, the same designer and friend who created the 16-cable hat), namely Helianthe.Yet another clever and unique but still easy to knit pattern from Circé. Helianthe is also available as a very reasonably priced kit.Painting in crochet:Sounds strange, doesn’t it? I was going to call this « free-form with a pattern », which sounds even stranger, but while I was working on this project, I realized that « painting in crochet » was what it really was.I’m very attracted to free-form crochet. Some of the work I see is a bit over the top for my personal taste, but I find the concept fantastic. It turns out, however, that complete freedom with a crochet hook in hand paralyzes me. The total absence of constraints is an obstacle. I don’t know where to start and I don’t know where to go. I end up working a couple of rows or rounds and throwing away what I’ve made in frustration.Yet one of the most appealing characteristics of crochet itself for me is the freedom of it all. You can draw lines in the air (like the zigzags in the Lina stole, see above). Your work is attached to your hook with one single loop, and you can decide freely where to put your hook through the fabric to make the next stitch. And sometimes, when I work very hard writing patterns, estimating yarn amounts and calculating multiple sizes, I yearn for that freedom. It would really be a pity not to explore it.So this month, I decided to try a different kind of free-form-inspired project, worked using a paper pattern. The paper pattern is my sketch, which I then « paint over » with crochet hook and yarn. I chose a scarf as my first project.I measured a scarf I already had to determine a suitable size. I wanted to work the pattern in two halves, partly to see how two versions of the basic pattern would work out, partly to make the project slightly more portable, or at least easier to put away between working sessions. It turned out that my half-scarf pattern should measure 26 x 76 cm (10 1/4″ x 30″). I made a simple pattern by taping sheets of paper together and cutting them to the right dimensions.The paper was slightly narrower than the scarf, but I decided not to obsess over that and simply cut the paper strip to the right length.Then I drew my pattern. I knew I wanted a couple of circles and some lines. I used a glass to draw my circles, and a ruler to divide the pattern into sections with straight lines.The next step was to create my yarn collection for this project. I had decided on greys. I knew I had some leftover Katia Austral in two shades of grey, and those balls of yarn were designated as « reference yarns », the basis for my colour scheme. I dove into my stash of leftovers (which is conveniently organized by colour), and completed the collection.Most of these yarns are on the thinner side of the yarn spectrum (sport or fingering weight). I had decided to work the entire scarf with the same hook – I picked a 4 mm (US G-6) hook. I selected one of the yarns and started to work. I knew I wanted to start my piece with one of the circular motifs. One reason was that it’s easiest to work a circle from the center out. Another reason was that I wanted to avoid any taut horizontal starting chains.I went along, choosing a different coloured yarn for each adjacent area.When working like this, you need to spread out your work on the pattern very frequently, to check both that you are following the drawn lines and that the work is reasonably flat. This means that this type of project is definitely not something you curl up on the couch with – you need to sit at a work table thats’ quite large – at least large enough to hold your pattern.However, there is no need to be too obsessive about sticking exactly to the pattern. Because yarn is not a pencil, and because you will not align your work perfectly to the pattern every time, the result is a bit irregular, a bit quirky – actually, a bit « free-formy ». That’s one of the things that appealed to me in this project. Another was that it was a wonderful occasion to try new paths and learn more about different yarns – but more on that later.After a while, I realized that my grey colour scheme, which I had picked out on purpose because I didn’t want to go too wild with the colours, turned out to be a bit too… grey. « Grey » as in « sad », and perhaps even « boring ». »Boring » and « crochet » are two incompatible words in my world, so this needed to change. I decided that a bright red was what I needed, and went right back to the left-over stash to pull out some fine red mohair.I worked the first half of the scarf in lacy stitches, very much inspired by Myra Wood’s book Creative Crochet Lace.I realized, however, that I quite liked the small areas of solid stitches, and decided to work the second half of the scarf this way.This made it more difficult to keep the round motifs circular when working around them. However, I found I really liked the visual impact of solid stitches worked in straight(ish) lines in different directions.So this was one of the things I learned, as mentioned above. Other things were:I realized I really, really like the look of circles in sc worked in thin mohair with a relatively large hook. What I especially enjoy in this is how it showcases the « negative space »; i. e., the holes in the stitches. To me, this was quite an unexpected realization.I learned that it’s quite hard to handle a thick, furry yarn in combination with thinner yarns, especially if you use it for more than a couple of rows. I found it very hard to make this part of the scarf lie flat (and as you can see, I didn’t succeed!), both because of the abrupt change in gauge and because the yarn was so furry I couldn’t really see what I was doing while crocheting. The end result has a certain Shar Pei appeal; it’s soft and I think it’s quite funny, but I can’t say I’m entirely satisfied. I also came to the conclusion that the limits between the different areas needed to be somehow reinforced. I had set aside the darkest, thickest yarn to stitch a sc border around the scarf to give it a frame. This yarn came in very handy for reinforcing those limits. After a couple of different attempts, I decided that the best alternative was to embroider simple backstitches over the colour transitions.So this is the end result – quite quirky, a bit crazy, but a lot of fun, I think! I can’t wait to start painting in crochet again. Don’t you want to try?And remember, you have a new desktop wallpaper for March right here, if you like! See you soon!