Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wartime Crochet With Attitude, Part I

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Karen Ballard and I have a mutual love of free form crochet. We met for the first time in a class taught by Prudence Mapstone of Australia at the Chain Link Crochet Conference 2011. I admire Karen's vast knowledge of needle work history and am grateful for her willingness to share with us as my guest blogger this week.

Karen wearing a World War II-era knitting hat with stubby needles on top

Karen's Heritage Heart, with flowers symbolic of her heritage, is currently on tour with Prudence Mapstone's traveling "Hearts & Flowers Exhibition" in Australia and New Zealand 
World War 1 Attitudes About Crochet by Karen Ballard

In 2008, I coined that term, "Workbasket Campaigns" to describe the organized efforts during World War I (WWI) and World War II (WWII) coordinated through the American Red Cross {ARC} and the Navy League to create needle crafted items.  These items were mostly knitted but also sewn, quilted, and crocheted for, or in support of, the military, wounded, allies, refugees, and the patriotic home-front. This effort was a significant: contribution of enormous numbers of needed items to those in war-torn areas and of improved morale for those on the home-front.  

As a crocheter, I realized with embarrassment that I had very  little information on war-time crochet.  I have since  paid particular attention to crochet during the World War eras. Please bear in mind that information on crochet during the world wars is greatly limited.  There are literally hundreds of knitted items, bags, tools, patterns, books, magazine articles/covers, paper dolls, posters, postcards, photos, knitted items, sheet music, even plays, and at least one movie referencing wartime knitting; but there are negligible numbers of references to crochet. I have red, white, and blue knitting kits from both wars which contain crochet hooks, possibly only intended for knitters who like to finish their projects with crocheted edges.

Patriotic kits
Patriotic US crocheting during WWI seemed almost to have been limited to making items for relief organizations, making crocheted knitting bags, even making knitting needle point protectors by crocheting over rifle shells, along with making patriotic home-front crocheted items.  The latter includes filet crochet designs of soldiers, sailors, and the Great Seal published by the incomparable Mary Card.1&2.

Mary Card US Soldier
Mary Card's US Sailor
Mary Card's US Flag

Mary Card's Great Seal of the United States
However, among hundreds of knitting patterns, I have found only a handful of US crochet garment patterns, including: a "Trench Cap,”3 , ear protectors3     
Helmet and Ear Protectors
wristlets4, helmets4&5 (like ski masks), a scarf6, ties7    and mine sweepers gloves.

Maud Nicholl's Mine Sweeper gloves
None of these patterns were endorsed by the ARC or the Navy League.  It seems that it was OK to crochet for our allies: Gertrude M. Walbran’s 1918  Khaki Knitting Book8published by Allies Special Aid of New York.
Khaki Knitting Book
includes crocheted blankets, mufflers, scarf, hospital stockings, wristlets, and a French Soldier’s Cap, all in one book!  

French Soldier's Cap from Khaki Knitting Book
There is even an ARC endorsed pattern for a French-relief crocheted circular shawl.

French Relief Shawl
Modern PriscillaMagazine (April 1918) provides a crocheted army sweater pattern “perhaps of use to those who do not knit”, and followed by the disclaimer, “While this crocheted Army Sweater has not been authorized by the ARC Society, the need for sweaters is too great to refuse a really good crocheted one, if one must crochet and cannot knit.  The knitted sweater is preferred because it is much more elastic, and for that reason warmer.”  I doubt the claim of greater warmth is true.  But there is validity in another argument against crochet, that for comparable garments, crochet requires more yarn.  This was an important concern, when yarn reserves were so greatly limited that they almost ran out during the latter part of the war, resulting in a critical shortage of socks.

The French did not seem to have the same bias against crochet.  During WWI they published comparatively numerous crochet patterns for military clothing, especially for crocheted “helmets”. 

French Helmet from Vetements Chauds book
Patriotic French Crocheters
Unlike US knitting books which rarely include crochet patterns, the booklet Vêtements Chauds pour Les Soldats et les Réfugiés modèles au tricot et au crochet10 has both knitting and crochet patterns for all garments. I have French postcards each with a woman who appears to be crocheting and showing an inset of a soldier. There is a French news magazine11 with a full-page spread of girls knitting and crocheting for their military. 

Young Crocheters from French news magazine. Miroir
I thought the French were not biased against crochet until I found a poem on another WWI postcard, published in Paris. 

French Knit/Crochet poem on a post card
The poem indicates that girls were forsaking crocheting trinkets to continuously knit sweaters and socks (with prayers in each stitch) for their soldiers.  In other words, crochet was envisioned as something fun to do to create trinkets, rather than for the serious business of making garments for soldiers. 

Although I have not found any WWI British, Canadian, or Australian postcards depicting patriotic crocheting,  Mary Card also designed filet crochet charts of patriotic symbols for Australia13  (her homeland) and Great Britain.  
Mary Card's Coat of Arms
There is at least one British Weldon’s with patterns for crocheted bed and operation stockings14.  

Weldon's Operation Stocking
And I have a filet crochet pillow-top of a 1915 war ship with British flags.

Karen's pillow top
None of the US, British, Canadian, Australian, German, Austrian, or Hungarian WWI postcards in my collection depict patriotic crocheting; only knitting and some sewing.  It appears that patriotic crochet took a backseat to knitting throughout WWI for all the primary nations that participated in the war.

Stay tuned for a future article on World War II (and beyond) attitudes about crochet!

1 Needlecraft Magazine Oct. 1918 Flag& Soldier, Dec. 1918 Sailor Boy
2 Mary Card Giant Charts: Flag & Soldier, Sailor Boy, Great Seal of US
3 Richardson’s Crochet & Knitting No.21, (c1917) Richardson Silk Co., Chicago & NY, pg21.
4 Useful Articles for Army and Navy (c1917) Golden Fleece.
5 Valeire, Anna; Knitted & Crocheted Sweaters & Things New in YarnArmy-Navy Wearings Book No. 5 (c1918) E. C. Spuehler, NY.
6 Plain & Fancy Needlework Vol.11, No.10, June 1917
7 Nicoll, Maud Churchill; Knitting & Sewing  How to Make 70 Useful Articles for Men in the Army & Navy (1918)
8 Walbran, Gertrude M. Khaki Knitting Book (1918) Allies Special Aid, NY.
9 Modern Priscilla Magazine, April 1918, crocheted sweater;  June 1918 French Relief Shawl.
10 Vêtements Chauds pour Les Soldats et les Réfugiés  modèles au tricot et au crochet (1915) Librairie Hachette et Cie, Paris.
11 Le Miroir, Noël  1914, pg 4.
12 Thanks to Melanie Gall for translation,  Melanie created the CD of WWI knitting songs, Knitting All the Day, and soon will be releasing another CD of WWII knitting songs.
13 Mary Card’s Crochet Book No. 2 (1923) Fitchet Pty, Ltd., Melborne, Australia
14 Weldon’s Garments and Hospital Comforts for our Soldiers and Sailors (1916) pgs10-11.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cancer & Crochet Support Group

Monday, October 28, 2013
Soon it will be one year that I started my volunteer job as coordinator of a Cancer & Crochet Support group at my local hospital. Today, I want to celebrate the life of one of our members who died last week. Even though Judy was in hospice, she continued work on her goal of making 100 caps for the premature babies at the hospital. She reached and exceeded the goal with 125 hats! During her last ten days of life, she attended a special event hosted by my CGOA chapter in her wheel chair with oxygen; she also came to the support group. She was one strong and determined woman and we will miss her terribly!

I've long known the value of crochet as a healing tool and a method of relaxation. I reviewed books that cover this topic beautifully: Crochet Saved My Life and Contemplative Crochet. Recently my friend Rita, an art therapist, came to share with the group.

Rita, Art Therapist, leading group
This was the group's first attempt at thread crochet and after they got over the initial shock of the small hook and tiny thread, they began to enjoy making the little pouch.

Rita guided them through thinking about their feelings about the group and they were spot-on in the comments they shared: "I love this group; we have become friends; I don't want to miss it; we share so much with each other in a safe environment; we are learning so much; My brother is visiting and I told him I couldn't miss this group and he'd have to entertain himself." This group is so important to me and a perfect fit. I love forward to our sessions together. Combining my nursing background with my love of teaching crochet allows me to lead this group with confidence and most of all to feel good about making an important contribution to their healing process.

The next week several of the women returned with their pouch worked through row 10. They were all stuck on a special "cross" stitch. I helped them get over that hump and they were on their way again. By next week I should see a few finished pouches. Rita has suggested that they write their thoughts and feelings on little pieces of paper to keep in the pouches. I thank Rita for taking time out of her busy day to bring a soothing ambiance to our group!

I've written before about my love of photos of crocheting hands. Although I can't show their faces. I think the hands of the women in my group tell it all.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Review: Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet By Kristi Simpson

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Welcome to my Kweendom and I am so happy to be a part of Kristi Simpson's Blog Tour. I know you'll love her book and I wish you luck in winning a copy in my give-away.
For details on winning, see below...

Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet
By Kristi Simpson

If there were nothing else in this book besides adorable photographs of babies, it would be well worth the price. But lucky for you there is much much more: a bonus of thirty-five adorable and unique pattern designs for baby-wear!

Large, colorful photographs of the projects worn by precious children add to the allure of the book, but in addition, concise step-by-step photos throughout are ideal for beginners. Throughout the book a wide range of readily available yarns are used in the designs. This is another great way for beginners to learn about yarns as they learn to crochet.  These are not your run of the mill baby patterns. Because Kristi uses fun colors and mixes different stitches, there are unexpected surprises such as the Mossy Baby Pod, Fruit Punch Hat and Football cocoon!

Kristi is one busy lady and brings a wealth of experience to this, her latest book. She is the creative force behind RAKJ patterns. Her fresh modern crochet designs have sold more than 100,000 copies through her online presence at Etsy She is the founder and publisher of Inspired Crochet, a digitalmagazineOn top of all this she has five children including a set of twins!

This brand new book was published by Stackpole Books and is available for the retail price of $19.95. You can purchase Kristi's book here.

To win your very own copy of Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet, enter the Give-Away by doing any or all of the following. Each one is worth one entry.

1) Post on Facebook with a link back to this post. Suggested mention: "Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet looks like a great book. It is filled with adorable baby patterns."

2) Post this give-away on Google+ with a link back to this post.

3) Tweet with a link back to this post: "I want to win Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet by @crochetkween

4) Pin the book cover to Pinterest and link back to this post. Share why you want to win this book

After you have completed the above linking,
-Like Cro-Kween Designs on Facebook
-Add Gwen to your Google+ circles
-Follow one of Crochetkween's boards on Pinterest

Once you've entered, return to the comments section of this blog and tell me how many entries you've made and include the links to verify. Please enter the give-away by Monday, October 28 at midnight. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Guest Blogger Dee Stanziano: Magic Wands, Part 1

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dee and I have been crochet friends for quite some time. I've enjoyed teaching for her chapter of CGOA in Connecticut; I've taken classes from her and I've written about her in an article about "Collecting Crochet" for Piecework Magazine where again, she shared her love of hook collecting. Dee is known as the "crochet cheerleader" and she blogs as CrochetWithDee.

Dee Stanziano
Magic Wands by Dee Stanziano:

Magic wands; all crocheters have them.  Cleverly disguised as magic wands, crochet hooks vary in many aspects including color, shape and material.  Some are mass produced, others are hand crafted. Some are heirlooms; others are brand new, waiting to cast their first stitches.  With refined practice, we are able to wave our crochet hooks seemingly effortlessly, turning simple string into an array of loops that becomes a series of stitches, and those stitches magically turn into fabric.  Yes, crochet hooks are just like magic wands that help us express ourselves as crafters and artisans such as those featured in The Fine Art of Crochet: Innovative Works From 20 Contemporary Artists by Gwen Blakley Kinsler.

Although I’ve been crocheting since my early childhood, I have never given much thought to collecting crochet hooks until recently. It wasn’t until I joined the CGOA in 2001, started my own Chapter, and began teaching various crochet techniques that my crochet hook collecting passion began.  I began collecting all sorts of hooks:  vintage, modern, wooden, glass, clay, silver, gold, bone and even jeweled. 

My most treasured antique crochet hook in my collection was gifted to me by my brother-in-law. He knew I had a passion for crochet and when he spotted the beauty  at a flea market, he knew he found something special.  This hook was crafted out of cow shin bone sometime around 1860 – 1880 but the manufacturer is unknown. However, due to the decorative hand-painted navy blue inking and the three jingly-rings that adorn it, it was most likely a wedding gift, or belonged to a wealthy crocheter:

Dee's most treasured crochet hook
I have decorative hooks that I mostly use when I am demonstrating crochet at public venues.  They serve the purpose of both drawing in the public’s interest, and inspiring me with crochet projects.  One of my favorite decorative hooks features Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series.  Another of my favorite decorative hooks (below) features the “Hanging On” Giraffe, inspired by the image created for the Wellington Zoo’s “Celebrate Chimp Week” promotion.  Both were crafted by Heather of the Lemonade Shop by special request 

Hanging On Giraffe
Recently I got to ask Heather about her work, and where she draws her inspiration from:
Q. You designed the Special Commemorative 2013 Crochet Hook for the Crochet Guild of America. Can you tell us what it was like to be chosen as this year’s designer, and what it was like to make so many crochet hooks for the Guild?

A. I have never seen so many sheep in one place, clay or real! I joked that they were my sheep army as they grew from 10 to well over a hundred. It was a great experience and I was immensely honored to be a part of it.

2013 CGOA Commemorative Hook
Q. I am sure {ahem} you received some "“interesting"”requests from your customers. Can you share with us some details of the craziest, zaniest, and whimsical hooks you'’e designed?  Have there been any requests that you'’e said "“o"”to? 

A. Funny you should ask that (nudge nudge, wink wink). Over the past year or so the direction of the shop has really taken a huge turn from original ideas such as gnomes and snails to TV and movie characters. With that said, the first DEXTER hook I did was an “interesting” experience as well as the Heisenberg character from Breaking Bad.  One is a serial killer the other a crystal methamphetamine manufacturer. Both a far cry from my cute unicorns hooks, but still a pleasure to create none the less.

I usually will say no to cartoon characters. In order to do them and do them right I would need to make them exactly as they were created and I think that in a roundabout way is a form of copying someone else’s art, which I am not too keen on. If I can’t put my own spin on it, I usually will say no. I joke that my creations are portly and cute. If a crochet hook can be both of those things I will almost always say yes.

Harry Potter Hook

Q. You make some super cute clay designs on crochet hooks, such as the Harry Potter character hook above. Where do you get your inspiration? 
A. Hands down my customers are my greatest inspiration. I’d like to think we work together on a lot of ideas through Etsy and the shop’s Facebook page. Since I take custom orders, one person might ask if I could make a certain hook and everyone on Facebook gets excited about it so it ends up in the Etsy shop. It really is a fun and interactive experience, so much that even when I am not in the studio working I think how amazing my customers are and how lucky I am to get to do what I do.
Heather's Hands Working
Q. It is amazing with some of the finer details you put into your clay work. When did you start working with clay, and what inspired you to focus on crochet hooks? 

A. Most of the hooks have a mix of clay work and hand painting with a lot of detail and let’s just say when this all started I did not require readers! 

I started working with clay heavily in 2011. It took me a while to find my own personal style and once I did I think that is when the shop really found its way.  It started with knitting stitch markers and then gradually moved over to crochet hooks and then over to crochet stitch markers. At the time no one was doing clay characters on crochet hooks so it was exciting to go from an unknown situation to having a successful Etsy shop. 

Heather's Etsy Shop
Q. On your Facebook page,  , you give your fans a glance into what’s new in your studio, which also includes adorable stitch markers. What other designs/products do you see yourself possibly offering in the future? 

A. I think about that on a daily basis. I’ve had thoughts about doing knitting needles, but my heart is with crochet hooks, so we will see. I’m sure in 2014 I will test out the waters. There are so many ideas I have for hooks and stitch markers still... and for each of my own ideas my customers have 20 more, so I think I am set for a while

Dee's passion for crochet hooks led her to write about two hook designers. Read Part 2 about Jimbo Hooks on Dee's blog: 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall Wrap-Up

Monday, October 21, 2013
Much as I hate to see the vibrant colors, invigorating air and doses of sunshine on the shoulders come to an end, it is also fun to pull out last year's scarves, cowls and shawls in anticipation of wrapping up for cozy days and nights of crocheting.

Paisley Cowl-2013

Seven paisleys were languishing in the "deal-with-this-later" pile when the President of my CGOA chapter offered up a UFO Challenge. I didn't win the $50.00 drawing, but I got a new cowl finished!
To "wrap up" news of my autumn activities, all I can say is it has been quite hectic.
Capitol Building, Des Moines, IA: birthplace of our eldest
Riverwalk in Des Moines: clear skies, crisp air!
Quilt Study Center, Lincoln, NE
Visiting Alan's sister, Alice: tractor museum

Chicken wire gown: art museum campus of U of NE
Promoting my book, blogging more often and an array of guest bloggers has kept me on my toes. I have been particularly thrilled and grateful to my guest bloggers who have done a bang-up job of sharing their interests and passions coupled with skilled writing. If you haven't already read their stories, here are some direct links to their posts:
Kathryn Vercillo, Marie Segares, Jude Butterworth, Kristen Stoltzfus, Bonnie Meltzer,  and Gabli Musings.

I have more guest bloggers lined up and they have interesting and inspiring topics to share with you. If you would like to be a guest blogger, just check in with me with your ideas and we can plan a topic and schedule a date.

Visiting fun fests, Octoberfests,
 apple fests and visiting museums. galleries and restaurants with friends has been the fun part of getting to know our new neighborhood.
O'Shaunessy's Brew House for an afternoon brew.
Always a thrill to stumble upon yarn-bombing during our walks!

Let's not forget the visit from Jack Blumenthal of Lion Brand to our CGOA chapter. He gave a wonderful video presentation about his company which has existed for over 100 years! Spiced with Jack's humor and tales of yarn, it was a fun evening which culminated with his gift of goody bags for everyone!

Jack Blumenthal of Lion Brand with Gwen

Now that the temperatures are dropping we must either wrap up the 15 year old ficus tree and jade plant or bring them in and hope we can find space to keep them over the winter!

Always so special are the weekends when the grand-kids come to visit; er uh, and the kids too! Chloe really enjoys talking to Jack now that he is speaking in full sentences! I love their hilarious little conversations! Here are some highlights of this past weekend:

Nicole, Chloe, Jack
"Whaa? No dogs allowed? I can't believe it!"

So much fun climbing!
The thrill of a drinking fountain!