Monday, 13 June 2011

Buried in Books Monday: Vintage Crochet

I haven't done one of these in a while as, quite frankly, I've not pulled anything much more exciting of the shelf recently than The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a selection of Thomas books or the odd dip into some reference book to check something.

However Father Earthly discovered these whilst clearing out our storage unit in Northumberland and once I'd had a quick browse to re-familiarise myself with them, I just knew these were for sharing! Inherited from my mum, they are all late 1970s publications so as you can imagine, the fashion is really rather special.

James Walters was obviously something of a fashionista in the 70s, particularly in the crochet stakes. His book Crochet Patterns, also introducing patterns by Sylvia Cosh, contains some rather stupendous designs along with a vast wealth of crochet knowledge and techniques - the likes of which are just not found in modern crochet books. And while many (ok, perhaps all) of the designs may only be worn today by Xenophilius Lovegood, they are nevertheless very adaptable, and a wonderful source of inspiration. Absolutely the best bit about this book though (other than the beautiful, beautiful pictures) is the designers' use of so many crochet techniques now forgotten - like cables. Yes, crochet cables! And not just one type but many. Other techniques include freeform crochet, diagonal rows, spikes, loops, and all manner of ways to make up garments.

As an additional bonus, he includes some just wonderful stitch patterns (below). Now a rarity in crochet books, I love stitch patterns because they are both a visual aid and a geometric artform all of their own.

His other book pictured above, Crochet Workshop, not only sports a quite spiffing image of the artist himself on the front cover, but is a veritable goldmine of absolutely everything crochet, from basic stitches and making the fabric, shaping and troubleshooting to how to sketch stitch patterns, stitch proportions, freeworking and finger crochet, incorporating darts, holes and three dimensional shaping, adding edgings, belts and buttonholes, and even further to woven, tunisian and hairpin crochet, hand-spinning and dyeing, making up, finishing and after care of garments. In fact, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive crochet manual! As is obviously his style, he has also included diagrams and instructions for things I doubt anybody would actually need or want, but that all adds to the charm.

The last book above, by Pam Dawson, is very much more on the conservative and traditional side of crochet! A basic technique and starter book with a lovely vintage feel, including lots of pictures of fine crochet lace. My favourite bit in the whole book however, is the illustration of two ends of yarn being spliced together with the associated paragraph: "Where a new ball is required in the middle of the fabric... the end of the old and new balls should be spliced together." Blimey! Well aren't I just a slacker! I can't even begin to imagine how I'd find the patience to splice a bit of standard DK yarn, can you?

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