Friday, February 4, 2011

To lace or not to lace, THAT is the question.....

Thinking about crochet today.  What has always interested me about crochet -- at least since the day I discovered that I didn't have to stick to doilies, curtains, and blankets, which I learned to make at my unpleasant but thread-adept grandmother's knee -- is the crunchiness of crochet stitches.  Knitters think that thickness, chunkiness, real TOOTH are all major shortcomings.   They rightly say that knitted fabrics are drapier, at least most of the time, from which they wrongly conclude that crochet can't really be used for clothing -- UNLESS it's lacy and open and more or less like a doily shaped into something to wear.   Now, I don't have anything at all against lace.  I really did make 200+ lace doilies while preparing for my doctoral written exams -- which, by the way, make really wonderful small-gift wrappers!!!!  

So it follows, as night the day, that if you make garments, you should work in drapey and usually complicated, open lace fabrics?   I just can't make myself believe that -- despite the huge admiration that I have for Doris Chan, who told me (more or less) at the knit-crochet guilds' national conference to remember that crochet didn't "have to be done in rows."  She probably had noticed that almost everything I've done is very, very simple -- usually solid in texture -- and almost never full of air spaces, almost never like a blown-up table cloth -- which people like Doris do SO well that there is no point in doing the same thing less well than they do.

Again, what interests me about crochet IS its appealing crunchiness, and then its simplicity, when worked as a solid fabric -- on a hook, of course, that's big enough to create a fabric that doesn't resemble medieval armor.  "Looping' is just incredibly easy, liberating in its simple math, its almost numbing regularity and logic.  I take it as a challenge to adapt SOLID crochet to garments, to make it drape, to take advantage of that lovely, thick, crunchy texture to create heft, which is a GOOD characteristic.   It has to be true, in crochet as in knitting, that everything depends on the integrity of the shaping, the attention to proportion.  It has made sense to me to get THOSE things right, and to execute the resulting scheme in the most beautiful yarns available in a simple, inobtrusive stitch that's just right for the yarn.   As with knitting, you have to make swatches.  You have to go through the Harmony Guide and all of the other dictionaries to play with textures.  But there are hundreds of solid-fabric alternatives, some of which fairly scream Chanel, Lanvin, the Old Vogue couture.

In the pieces I have done, I almost always work side to side, which drapes (!!!), and which also permits the insertion of pockets very easily (you simply chain for the height of the pocket, then go on as if nothing has changed in the piece, picking up stitches later for trim and an inside liner).   I love the elegant, lean lines of the resulting vests and jackets -- nothing tortured, just great texture and a nice hand.  My all-time fave stitch for these simple pieces is half-double crochet -- a time-honored way to have soft, squat, fat little stitches that aren't leggy, that make clustery, dimensional 'seeds' without any effort at all.  Besides, because I have always viewed double crochet as a kind of default stitch, I have that delicious sense of CHEATING as I go along, skipping the final yarn-over.   Everybody likes to feel naughty.  And it's even naughtier to use knitting for with I-cord button loops.

Now, I need to figure out how to use the lacy textures as embellishment, trim, secondary effects, the better to enhance the great, hefty, side-to-side fabrics.  I'm thinking about a tunic in half-double that carries a fairly wide border at the bottom, some kind of blown-up pineapple stitch maybe, or  a FILET design?   Filet just isn't found very much anymore except in thread work.  It has a tailored look that appeals to me, and you can chart out your own motifs.  It will have a single row of half-double stitching used as a lace that goes through holes in the very low vee-neckline (to the waist low!).  I made a really cool cardigan this way once -- it sold within days -- from Noro Silk Garden Lite (which is coming back on the market!), with some open-space lattice stitching around the edges and cuffs and in the middle of the balloon-ish sleeves (the lacing went through the front band and was simply tied).  But -- no lace anywhere in sight.

In the end, I could be the main problem:  I'm just not very girly.  I don't want to make things that look like doilies and lace masquerading as a tunic, as if crochet has to be girly to be "right."  Lord knows, there are some spectacular lace pieces out there -- but they're not ME.  I was once a wool tailor, and I didn't have lace on any of those suits.  More on this later.  There are problems to solve here -- I need to go to the notebook and draw for awhile.


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