This topic came about from the title of my article recently in Fiber Art Now magazine. "Crochet As Art: A Conversation with 5 Free-Form Crochet Artists." Yes, the 5 artists I wrote about, all of which are in my book The Fine Art of Crochet, are free-thinking when it comes to their creativity. They are free-wheeling with the hook and use unique fibers in many cases. Once you read the article, tell me what you think? Are these artists doing free-form crochet?
In order to define free-form crochet, we must look way, way back to it's origins: Irish crochet. A brief history of crochet, including the Irish method, written by Ruthie Marks is available through The Crochet Guild of America. Unfortunately, there are no images on the site. On her blog, Nancy Nehring has a beautiful montage of Irish Crochet in reference to a class she taught in 2013 at Lacis. I wrote an article in Old Time Crochet Magazine (Spring 1998), "History of Irish Crochet," but was unable to find it online since it was so long ago. Explore the internet and you will find loads of Irish crochet images.
|Antique Irish Crochet from Gwen's collection|
|Maire Treanor class project|
Many members in my Northern IL chapter of CGOA have a real soft spot in our collective heart for the free-form method because many of us were privileged to study with James and Sylvia in 1995 and 1996 when they taught at the Chain Link Crochet Conferences. In 1997 our Chapter hosted the Chain Link event in Chicago and we organized an Open House in one of the local yarn stores to introduce James and Sylvia to the community.
Sylvia is best known for her rich and exotic “moth” capes and landscape coats which may become sumptuous wall hangings; the variety of texture and miraculous subtlety of color in her work is remarkable. By contrast, James did not crochet until he was thirty and won a nationwide design competition soon after! “His definitive technical manual, Crochet Workshop, is the only crochet book you will ever need,” declared Threads Magazine.
Sadly, Sylvia died of ovarian cancer in 2000. but her legacy lives on in the tribute James created on their website. I treasure this brooch that Sylvia gave me after creating it with her gifted hands in my living room!
|Scrumble Brooch by Sylvia Cosh|
Sylvia and James coined the term "scrumble" for the individual motifs that make up the whole of a free-form project. They compare to the tiny Irish motifs (roses, shamrocks and leaves) but are much heavier made in worsted or sport weight yarns.colorful yarns. This team coined the word scrumble for the motifs used in free-form crochet. They are also very colorful as opposed to the mostly white used in Irish crochet.
Here are some examples:
For those who have never tried the free form method, it is always an inspiring and "freeing" experience. The hardest part is letting go and convincing yourself you don't need a pattern. Once tried, crocheters go away with many ideas on color, form and texture and have a new found confidence in their own artistic abilities.
Best known in these contemporary times for their free-form crochet are Prudence Mapstone, Jenny Dowde, Margaret Hubert and Myra Wood. I've been privileged to take classes from each of them at various CGOA conferences. They teach and design prolifically and their books even instruct on how to do free-form crochet. It may seem like an oxymoron to follow instructions for doing free-from crochet, but these books are invaluable tools for getting one started and offering the courage to "do your own thing" by offering many helpful tips and colorful examples.
|Beadwork magazine brooch|
Besides teaching free-form crochet, I've published an article in Beadwork magazine (Summer 1999) with instructions for making a free-form brooch (entitled the same). These brooches included bead-crochet as well:
|My first free-form garment (1998)|
|Challenge 2012: Inspired! Music & Art in Fiber,Van Gogh, "Vase with Red Poppies"|
|Challenge 2011: Mythologies, Stories & Fairy Tales, "Freeform Fiber Faerie"|
|Challenge 2010: Somewhere in My World, "Dreams Realizing"|
In 2009 Prudence and Jonelle Beck wrote a book, Freeform Style, which actually gives guidance and instructions for creating specific free-form garments. I was invited to create a piece for the gallery section.
|Scarf from Freeform Style by Gwen|
|Free-form shawl I made inspired by a class with Prudence Mapstone in 2010 at the CGOA conference|
1) *Gwen's group-we're not a freeform group per se, but we're very "freeformy"
1) Russian Freeform
2) Prudence Mapstone's group
3) Jenny Dowd's group
4) *International Free form group
5) Margaret Hubert's group
*most active groups
I've given you lots to think about to answer this question, "What is free-form crochet?" Now go out and explore the resources I've provided and give it a try. I think you'll like it. Meanwhile, I think I'll go make a scrumble; just for fun!