Friday, March 28, 2008

Revelation and Inspiration: Crochet!

Yes, this is supposed to be a blog about knitting, but today I am going to post about crochet. Crochet is not something that I do (although my Mum did try to teach me many moons ago). And boy do I wish I had listened more then. Ah well, we live and learn.

Do you crochet? If so, then you may already get a lot of this stuff that I am about to talk about.

If you do not crochet (and I am in that boat), then I am going to urge you to get yourself a crochet needle and have a go. There are a lot of useful videos on Youtube, and a really great how-to website where you can learn to do the basic stitches by watching videos:

So, what has gotten me all excited about crochet? Well, it's PGR, of all people. A few weeks ago, I got myself a copy of the revised edition of Knitting in the Old Way (finally) and this is what has set me off! The last chapter in the book is about crochet-enhanced knits, and of course, because I don't crochet, it took me a bit of research to work out what the hell she was talking about. In this post, I would like to share with you some of what I have learned, and hope that it inspires you and makes you dance around the house, shouting "OMG!!! OMG!!!"and salivating madly! Just to peak your interest, let me begin with an image that is sure to have the desired effect:
To read more about the above sweater, check out the Finnish Ostrobothnian Museum's website .

This sweater utilizes not just knitting, but large swathes of crochet, and it is the reason why people who only knit (people like me), or people who only crochet, should expand their horizons. Because in the end, it is all about the fabric that you produce. And boy is this a BEAUTIFUL fabric!

Edited 14/04/2008:
Now, in this post, I am going to talk about the form of crochet that is used in that sweater, and also a simple form of crochet which PGR refers to as "bosnian crochet" / "shepherd's knitting".

"Bosnian Crochet" and "Shepherd's Knitting"
First another link to a website where you can see other examples of the types of fabrics you can produce with this Bosnian crochet. It's the website of Sylvia Cosh and James Walters:

These guys make no distinction between the terms "bosnian crochet" and "shepherd's knitting", it's just all "bosnian crochet" to them. And I kind of like that.

If as a non-crocheter (like me) you googled these terms "bosnian crochet" and "shepherd's knitting", you would end up in confusion, banging your head against the wall and swearing profusely. Sure, there is a lot of information on the internet, but there is also a lot of twaddle (aka unintentional MISinformation). What you need to know is that this form of crochet has nothing to do with Tunisian crochet, as some internet websites will quite emphatically try to tell you, so get that in your head right away.

American readers may know this form of crochet as "slip stitch crochet", BUT it's not slip-stitch under the chain head as is apparently traditional in "western crochet". Instead, it is slip-stitching into the back (upper) loop of a chain head (what PGR calls "bosnian crochet"), and slip-stitching into the front (lower) loop of a chain head (what PGR calls "shepherd's knitting"). Crocheting slip stitches in this manner described by PGR, occurs the in many countries including those of Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, and Central Asia.

Also, in some countries, they use an altogether different hook than the one western crocheters (and knitters) are used to seeing for bosnian crochet and shepherd's knitting.

In Norway, this form of crochet is known as "pjoning", and in Sweden it is known as "smygmaskvirkning" or "smygmask" or påtning. Here is an image of the special type of hook that is used in this type of tradional crochet in Sweden and Norway:
I also found this interesting scan of a page which recently apeared on a discussion board on ebay in relation to these special types of hooks:

As you can see, the whole hook is flat (as opposed to cylindrical), and it has a pointed end, as opposed to a rounded end.

If there are any Dutchies out there who are passing by this blog, there was also apparently an item in a Dutch magazine from the 1800s called Pénélopé, which showed such a needle:
So perhaps there was a chance that this form of crochet (or "haakwerk" as it is called here in The Swamp) is a forgotten part of Dutchie textile history?

At any rate, there is a free crochet pattern on the Garnstudio website for a pair of mittens, using bosnian crochet and shepherd's knitting (aka "slip stitch crochet). Also, on the Sylvia Cosh/James Walters website, you can try out this PDF pattern for a cute little neckpurse thing.

As you saw on the Finnish Ostrobothnian Museum website, there is some beautiful colourwork crochet. It turns out that this colourwork crochet is done with "single crochet" (as Americans call it) or "double crochet" (as UK English-speakers call it). And in working out how this is done, my google travels led me to a most wonderful and interesting group of crocheters who do what they call "tapestry crochet", which seems to encompass all forms of crochet where the maker is using stitches to crochet motifs. The "tapestry crochet" in the Finnish sweater is done using different coloured strands of yarn in single crochet (aka double crochet if your an Aussie or English).

This lady in particular, who does tapestry crochet really flipped my switches, and she has a great tutorial there too on how to easily hold and crochet the colours:

Wow. Just WOW!

Also, check out Carol Ventura's Tapestry crochet blog:

Note that Bosnian Crochet can also be done in colour too, and not just a single colour.

Update 14/06/2010
Here are some more links about "Bosnian crochet":