We are delighted to have two crochet workshops featuring in the programme at unravel this year. On Sunday, Let’s Crochet UK, aka Gemma MacLennan and Barbara Touati-Evans will lead class participants on an exciting yarn journey into the world of freestyle crochet. To find out more about what freestyle crochet is and what makes it different to traditional crochet, then we caught up with Barbara and Gemma and found out more about this exciting and inspiring discipline….
What is freestyle crochet?
Freestyle crochet is the method of creating a piece of crochet without a pattern, using different yarns and stitches to create a unique item. Sometimes it involves making small pieces – ‘scrumbles’ and joining them together but it can really be whatever you want it to be as freestyle crochet is all about experimentation and breaking the rules – changing hooks, mixing yarns, even crocheting with materials other than wool like wire, plastic cables etc. are all allowed! The work can be 2 dimensional or sculptural/textural and it can be figurative or abstract, with the finished piece being planned or completely unexpected. Freestyle crochet is often used to create ‘yarn art’ as well as unusual garments, bags etc. and is also used by ‘yarn bombers’ to decorate outside spaces.
Why are you particularly interested in this particular are type of crochet?
Let’s Crochet UK is interested in freestyle crochet as it presents the opportunity to work with yarn in many exciting ways beyond following a pattern; it allows us to express ourselves artistically by using the traditional medium of crochet to explore colour, texture and shape as well creating a totally unique piece of work from our own imagination. Freestyle crochet also enables us to integrate other media that we are inspired by, such as contemporary art, photography, drawing and painting into our work; it’s also great for creating large scale pieces. We also find that freestyle crochet is really inclusive as everybody can have a go at it even if they are not perfect at crochet. You can make great collaborative crochet creations from using lots of bits and pieces made by different people with varying crochet skills, into something really eye-catching.
What skills or attributes as a maker help when you engage with freestyle crochet?
Engaging with freestyle crochet can be a bit scary to begin with as there are no rules, which for most crocheters who have been used to following patterns can be a bit daunting. However, if you are fairly confident using the basic crochet stitches you can make that leap if you are willing to experiment and think about the work a bit before you start – if you know which colours you like to work with, are excited by different types of yarn and have a rough concept of the type of work you want to make that’s a good start. It can also help to look at photographs, paintings, materials – anything that can provide inspiration; sometimes doing a bit of sketching can be helpful even if the finished result looks quite different to the initial idea. It’s also worth remembering that you can add to freestyle pieces, so there may be elements such as flowers, circles etc. that you can make using a pattern which can be used to embellish or add layers to a freestyle background.
Together you form Let’sCrochetUK; what brought the two of you together and what does the partnership bring to your teaching and creativity?
We initially met through teaching crochet classes at local libraries, so have always worked well together though our personal crochet styles are often quite different. Barbara is interested in the sculptural and textural artistic possibilities of crochet and in creating sensory environments; Gemma loves colour and the natural world and is interested in using these themes in different and unusual ways in her work. Our differing styles inspire each other to look at the possibilities of yarn in new ways and has resulted in our mutual interest in freestyle crochet. We also both love a good chat and drinking lots of tea which always helps us in our creative adventures!
How would you describe your workshop and what will people get from it?
Our workshop is, as it says in the title, an ‘introduction’ to freestyle crochet. We’ve chosen to base the class around the subject of barley and hops, firstly as a nod to the historical heritage of the Maltings building but also because it will give learners a focus and the opportunity to look at interesting shapes, colours and textures which will hopefully provide creative inspiration and help them to make a start with freestyle work. We’d like people to come with an open mind, a willingness to experiment and above all to have some creative fun with yarn in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
Tickets for Barbara and Gemma’s unravel Introduction to Freestyle Crochet Art can be bought here