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Crochet Comets

step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Crochet Comets, by Suzann Thompson

At our 2015 Dublin Rippers quilting retreat, my friend Donna challenged us. She had a black plastic bag full of fabric. We had to close our eyes and reach into the bag. We had until the next year’s retreat to make something from the fabric we drew from the bag. She said we could make anything we wanted. It didn’t have to be a quilt.

My fabric was a tiny print that gave an overall impression of a kind of pinkish gray. It reminded me of the night sky.

Weren’t there a couple of yellow and white doilies in my collection at home that might make good comets? I went home to my doily collection and, yes! There they were.

 step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Crochet Comets, by Suzann Thompson

To get an idea of scale, I photographed the doilies and the gray fabric, plus some yellow fabrics that I planned to use for the comet tails. I used Adobe Photoshop Elements to digitally build the wall hanging, cutting and pasting the images of doilies and fabric.

I put several stars in the sky, just to give me an idea of how they would look. In the real wall hanging, I would use more stars and they would be a lot fancier. And I’d sew on a bunch of buttons as smaller stars.

Photoshop Elements has a click-and-drag tool for drawing boxes and circles and, hey—stars! I clicked on the star shape and dragged the first one. It was black, because that was the last color I had used. I changed the color, and the next stars were yellow.

 step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Crochet Comets, by Suzann Thompson

The sketch was pretty rough, but it served its purpose. I could tell that the quilt would have to be about five feet wide to give the doily comets and their tails enough room. The horizon and a few houses gave me an idea of proportions between sky and earth.

I started laying out the quilt top, stopping only to buy a length of fabric to go between the dark earth and the lighter sky. As I worked and laid out the doilies and houses and moon, I got a feeling. It was definitely located in my chest. It was a feeling of inevitability that seemed to squeeze my heart.

The feeling was that the sketch might be rough, but it was perfect the way it was. Any attempt on my part to fancy things up, would not make the finished product look any better. As I worked I came to know this without a doubt.

So the quilt is as close to the sketch as possible. I did fancy up the comet tails with buttons and beads, but the sky is plain, except for the appliqued stars, including a black one.

 step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Crochet Comets, by Suzann Thompson

The back is made from scraps, many of which were giveaways from my quilting friends. It is quilted in mostly parallel, curving lines. That took a long time.

This was my first mostly-fabric quilt with raw-edge applique and very simple piecing, and I learned a lot. It is also the biggest quilt I have made so far.

Crochet Comets is on display at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado, until April 23, 2017. Starting July 1, it will be part of the Celebrate Doilies! exhibit, making its debut in Stephenville, Texas, at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council River North Gallery. (Details here.)

 step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Crochet Comets, by Suzann Thompson

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Natcromo 2017 Celebrates Doilies!

Thank you to Amy and Donna of Crochetville.com for inviting me to join this year’s National Crochet Month blog tour! This is a wonderful thing they do, in addition to providing an internet home for crocheters all year round.

NatCroMo 2017 blog tour sponsored by Crochetville.com

Today, the love of crochet ties together thousands of people across the United States and the world. Crochet also reaches into the past to tie us to our ancestors and give us a sense of our place in history. Even for people who don’t do it themselves, crocheted items may bring back memories of happy times, visits, relatives long-gone.

Mrs. Jesse McKinnon's doilies

I’m seeing this effect more and more as I prepare for the Celebrate Doilies! exhibit, which debuts this summer in north central Texas. (See exhibit schedule here.)

The exhibit celebrates doilies through stories and memories from families in the area and beyond, through my own art and the poetry of Sandi Horton. Let me show you!

Stories and Memories

A few years ago, Mac McKinnon, who grew up a mile or so from where I live now, told me he had doilies and other crocheted items from his grandmother who raised him. “What can I do with them?” he asked. He was one of the first people I interviewed for the exhibit.

Mrs. Jesse McKinnon's doilies

McKinnon was orphaned as a fairly young boy. His aunt and uncle adopted him, and he went to live with them in Comanche County, Texas, where the family farmed peanuts and cotton.

McKinnon’s grandmother lived nearby. She was Jesse Pearl Craddock McKinnon, born around 1893. Jesse often took care of him, and McKinnon emphasized that she also “took time with him.” She taught him how to play games, but didn’t let him win just because he was a kid. They did all kinds of crafts together. He remembers making cork necklaces and decorating them with sequins.

Mrs. Jesse McKinnon's crocheted tablecloth

After her husband died in 1942, Mrs. McKinnon made a living sitting with elderly people. They were mostly bed-ridden, so she was there to keep them company and tend to their needs. Since a large part of the job entailed just being there, Jesse filled her time by crocheting.

The two doilies above and tnis table cloth are the work of Jesse Pearl Craddock McKinnon. It’s easy to understand Mac McKinnon’s love for his grandmother and his pride in her crochet skill.

Many more crochet stories and memories are featured at the Celebrate Doilies! exhibit. (There’s still time to share your own family doily stories! I’ll tell you how in a minute.)

Art

To me, many doilies are works of art and I certainly consider doily designers to be artists. For the past year, in preparation for Celebrate Doilies!, I’ve been using doilies in my wall hangings with great pride.

Winterling, a TextileFusion wall hanging by Suzann Thompson

Celebrate Doilies! features around twenty doily-themed TextileFusion wall hangings, like Winterling. Inspired by my mom’s Zwiebelmuster china, I created a bouquet of crocheted flowers in a blue and white china vase. And of course the vase rests on a lovely large doily!

Crochet Comets, a TextileFusion wall hanging by Suzann Thompson

Doilies take to the skies in Crochet Comets, which was my first fabric quilt, in contrast to my usual knitted quilts. If you can’t wait until summer to see it, Crochet Comets is on display now in Golden, Colorado, at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum through April 23, 2017. For details, visit my Exhibition Schedule.

House of Crochet, a TextileFusion wall hanging by Suzann Thompson

Laura Wheeler, Design 673, filet crochet house

I love home. I love to be at home. I love home- and house-themed art and crafts. What a thrill it was to find this lovely antimacassar featuring a filet crochet house! I paired it with a vintage quilt top and added crochet trim and buttons to make this quilt called House of Crochet.

(The original instructions for crocheting this cute, cute house available for purchase online at Today’s Treasures.)

See these and many more doily-rich wall hangings at the Celebrate Doilies! exhibit and at my website, www.textilefusion.com. (follow the gallery links).

Poetry

Poet Sandi Horton and I met at the Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas Weekend in 2016. I spoke about the upcoming Celebrate Doilies exhibit, and how it would include stories and memories about family heirloom crochet.

Doily by poet Sandi Horton

Sandi often writes ekphrastic poetry, which is about a scene or a work of art. Ekphrastic poetry might describe a painting, a piece of music, or a performance.

After my talk, Sandi told me she had doilies and other crocheted items that her mother and grandmothers made. She said, “I would like to write poems about them.”

That sounded wonderful to me! Sandi’s poems about her family’s crochet and even about my wall hangings are featured in Celebrate Doilies. Here’s a poem about her experience with crochet. It is used with permission.

Modern Girl
Copyright 2017 by Sandi Horton. All rights reserved.

The young girl eyes the multitude of colors
She wants to find just the right one
Should she be practical with a neutral
Or choose a bright, modern color?

Her mother and grandmother chose
Different shades of white and beige
They are so old-fashioned
The girl chooses a dazzling lime green

She wants to represent her generation
Even though most other girls don’t crochet
The girl wants to keep the chain going
Her nimble fingers tighten from the stress

Lime green thread twists around and around
The hook moves slowly, in an unsteady rhythm
Her mom says, ‘Crocheting relaxes me.’
The inexperienced girl continues to struggle

She refuses to give up
A smooth pattern finally takes shape
She finishes her first and only doily
Modern girls have better things to do

 Doily by poet Sandi Horton

Find Sandi on Facebook at My House of Poetry.

You Can Still Participate!

Do you have beloved family heirloom crochet you would like for me to show in the Celebrate Doilies! exhibit?

If you do, please visit the Doily Heritage Project page online. It will give you information and links to the Doily Interview, plus hints for photographing your doilies.

To be included in the July-August exhibit in Stephenville, Texas, I need your information and photos by May 1, 2017. The deadline for entering the next show in Granbury, Texas, is June 1, 2017.

Support the Celebrate Doilies! Exhibit and Crochet Art

I hope you like the idea of Celebrate Doilies! enough to support this effort!

For as little as $1.00 per month (that’s $12 a year), you can help me to pay for making posters and cover other expenses associated with putting on the Celebrate Doilies! exhibit. Visit my page at patreon.com to read more and donate.

Support the art and craft of crochet on Patreon!

You can choose one of several levels of support: $1, $3, $5, $10, $25, $50, or $100 per month. All of my patrons have access to a patrons-only feed, where I share exclusive news about my work and previews of blog posts. The rewards get better the higher the amount you pledge.

For instance, at the $5 level, you can participate in polls about names of wall hangings and design decisions, receive at least one art postcard per year, and have access to the patrons-only feed. And coming soon, at the $5 per month level, you can contribute a piece which I will use in a wall hanging.

Celebrate Doilies is Available to Travel

Crocheted Cars, pattern in Cute Crochet World, by Suzann Thompson

Celebrate Doilies! will be available to travel to other galleries and shows after October 1, 2017. Please email me at knitandcrochetwithsuzann at outlook dot com for scheduling and fees.

Small galleries and arts councils may be eligible for grant money to pay for exhibits like Celebrate Doilies!

Free Pattern for You, March 25 Only!

Crocheted Turkey and Penguin, by Suzann Thompson

Thank you for reading this far! As a gift for you, today only (March 25th, 2017) you can download the patterns for these cute crocheted Turkeys and Penguins for free—normally a $2.00 value. Here’s the pattern link: Turkey and Penguin at Ravelry Store.

From March 26-28, 2017, the “Turkey and Penguin” pattern will be half-off. That’s one dollar.

Postcards for You!

This is the first of two postcards I will be mailing for the Celebrate Doilies! exhibit. If you would like to be on my list for ONLY these two postcards, email me your mailing address (U. S. addresses only, please) at knitandcrochetwithsuzann at outlook dot com. I will not share your information.

Celebrate Doilies postcard

Thank You!

Thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed reading about Celebrate Doilies! Will you share your doily photos and stories for the exhibit? Please do!

And remember, doilies are perfect for your glamping décor needs.

Heart Garland from a pattern in Cute Crochet World, by Suzann Thompson

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Evolution of Minimalism

Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

In the late 1990s, minimalism in home décor was all the rage in England—at least that’s what we read in the newspapers at the time. Minimalist homes were clean, cleaner, cleanest! They were calm, uncluttered. Any decoration not strictly necessary for function was not allowed.

Minimalism is not my style, because I like decoration and stuff within easy reach. But I can see the attraction. It’s so full of potential—lots of surfaces to fill with books, paper, pens, vases, coffee cups.

For all the functional trendiness of minimalism, I feel that human eyes crave variation and decoration. So here’s a wall hanging all about how we may enjoy the starkness of minimalism for a while, and what happens next. Its title is Evolution of Minimalism.

In the beginning, we have the most minimal nine-patch ever. Sewn with patches of the exact same plain fabric, it is totally uncluttered. It’s so calming, so clean, so… Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

…so, well, boring. Hey, could we vary the color a little? Just to give it some interest?Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

That helped. A contrasting color would perk it up even more. But don’t worry, we can hold on to our minimalist roots by using the original colors.Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

Oooo! That squiggly pattern in the middle is kind of fun. It might be even more interesting to have some texture.Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

Love that single button in the middle, and the mother-of-pearl button fabric! Very subtle, how the pearl button fabric is next to the ocean wave patterned fabric. Clever. If one button is good, four buttons are better. Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

The nine-patch is getting kind of old. Whoa—this log cabin block is perfect. Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

Do you sense a tipping point? The log cabin is turning into a log pentagon. Do I see some red? Woo hoo!Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

Colors and buttons and flowers are busting out all over! Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

This is great! Lots of color! Lots of pattern! Lots of texture! It’s wonderful! Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson Wow. All this stuff is wearing me out, making me tired. Let’s clean up all this clutter and get back to basics. We’re going back to the beginning. Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

And so the natural evolution of minimalism goes.

It’s all coded in the DNA.

Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

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Three Stories, Three Stories

TextileFusion wall hanging, Three Stories

This wall hanging is called Three Stories, and I also have three stories to share with you in this post.

First Story

I’m putting together an exhibit called “Celebrate Doilies!” which will run from July through September 2017. The exhibit will feature photos of doilies and stories about their makers.

For the next several months, I will be collecting photos of doilies and stories about them and the people who made them for the exhibit, which will be at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council, River North Gallery, in Stephenville, Texas.

This means that if you have family doilies hidden away in drawers or proudly displayed in your home, I would love to hear from you. This blog post has lots more information.

To learn even more about how you can join in this project, visit www.textilefusion.com/doily-heritage-project and click here to see a sample doily story.

TextileFusion wall hanging, Three Stories

Second Story

The three stories of the wall hanging called Three Stories are the stories of the filet crochet house, the vintage quilt top, and the doily that I cut into quarters to embellish the corners.

I picked up the cute filet crochet house from Ebay. It may be a placemat, a table mat, or a chair back cover. Whenever I find vintage crochet for sale, I consider it having been released from its previous story. My job is to give it a new story.

Same with the vintage quilt top—I found it at an estate sale. The piecing and stitching are far from perfect, but the overall effect is charming.

The white doily in the corners is also from Ebay. The thread is small and the stitches are firm and well-made.

We don’t know anything about the people who made these things or what their lives were like. It’s fun to imagine the history of the doilies and the quilt top.

Three Stories and other wall hangings that feature doilies will also be part of my exhibit next year.

Third Story

Three Stories seemed a little plain to me, so I decided to fancy it up.

How? With crocheted flowers! And buttons!

A couple of crochet flower books I know came in handy. I crocheted “Sweetheart Rose” from Crochet Bouquet, and “Twirl Center Rose” and “Paired Leaf Frond” from Crochet Garden.

I arranged them in an old-fashioned garland-y way and appliqued them to the quilt during last Sunday’s Dallas Cowboys football game. The Cowboys won and Three Stories is finished.

Next, I’m looking forward to hearing your doily stories—one, three, or however many you have!

TextileFusion wall hanging, Three Stories with Twirl Center Rose

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Throwback Thursday–Vintage Crochet Cotton

vintage Bucilla crochet cotton

On the first day of the Campbell-Neumann sale in Austin, we would already be in line with dozens of like-minded shoppers, waiting for the doors to open. Misters Campbell and Neumann liquidated estates about four times a year, and any sale included items from three or more families.

Campbell-Neumann was where I found Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns for the first time. And it was where I bought a bag of cream-colored vintage Bucilla crochet thread and an old receipt.

1941 receipt from Mayer & Smith, Tyler, Texas
vintage Bucilla crochet cotton label

Mrs. W. H. Yarbrough bought two “cro cot” from Mayer & Schmidt (Tyler, Texas) for 70 cents on April 2, 1941. I can’t tell from the receipt if the cotton she bought was the cotton in the bag, because there were at least ten 800 yard hanks. Maybe she bought two more, because she was following instructions to “Purchase sufficient of this color at one time to complete your article, making sure that it is all of one dye lot number as the next dye lot of this color may differ slightly in shade.”

Some things don’t change.

Lampshade knitted with vintage crochet cotton

Nearly 45 years after Mrs. Yarbrough bought the cotton, I used a double strand to knit a lampshade (pattern from Barbara Walker). Now, another 30 years later, we still use this lamp and lampshade in our house.

I also knitted a 3/4 sleeve, v-shaped-neckline-in-the-back top, using the “Oriel” pattern. My dad took a picture of me wearing it in 1985.

I’ve changed since then, but the sweater is as cute as ever, so my daughter Eva wears it.

Oriel pattern knitted vintage cotton sweater

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Crocheters, Knitters Doing Essential Work

Pennsylvania has a great online resource called the Access Pennsylvania Digital Repository, where you can find the actual pages of old newspapers, among other things. The best part is that you can search for specific words in these old newspapers. Amazing!

I was searching for biographical information about an old-time crochet designer, when this war-time ad appeared on the search list.

In the April 27, 1944 edition of The Ambler Gazette, National Union Radio Corporation of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, offered “Good Money for Girls and Women” for “Light, Clean, Easy, Interesting, and Essential Work.”

Here’s my favorite part:

Knitters and crocheters can assemble radio tubes

If you can sew, crochet or knit, you can learn to assemble radio tubes. It’s easy but a skill which will always be valuable to you. The tubes you help us make may save the life of some boy you know who has gone to war.

Employers of today should take notice! Knitting, crocheting, and sewing are skills that prepare people to save lives.

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Quilt Fest Fun

When was the last time I was able to sit at my desk long enough to write a blog post? Hmmm, looks like it was late November.

We’ve done a lot since then! We did our usual December things, like school parties, a quilting ladies’ party, a band concert, and preparing for Christmas. And we also caulked and painted the inside of an entire house, organized lots of repairs and improvements on it, and filled it with furniture and other things one needs to live there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our new earthen house, but it looks great anyway and it deserves its very own blog post.

Rag Sky Art Studio fabric millefiori earrings

So here I sit at my desk, finally, and what do I see, but a pair of lovely earrings I bought at the Quilt Festival.

Meg Hannan of Rag Sky Art Studio in Seattle made them with fiber millefiori. It’s the same idea as glass or polymer clay millefiori. For her earrings and pendants, she makes a roll of different color fabrics, fiber, and beads, soaked with liquid glue. When glue sets, she cuts the roll in cross-section to reveal designs that look like tiny, colorful fantasy worlds.

I’m planning a pinkish and salmon-colored sweater that will look great with these earrings.

Dusty’s Antique Linens and Buttons had baskets and baskets of vintage buttons that would have taken two hours to look at properly. For some reason the orange button collection beckoned—possibly because I’m planning a sweater in orange with teal, green, and other rich colors. These swirly fabulosities were cabochons from the 1970s or so, which were converted into shank buttons.

buttons from Dusty’s booth at 2010 Knit & Crochet Show

I have a sweater of moss greens on the drawing board as well. Thank goodness I already have a great selection of green Gail Hughes buttons and buttons from a previous visit to Dusty’s to choose from.

Looks like a busy knitting year ahead!

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Vintage Flower Fabric

vintage crocheted doily book

Being a fan of flower fabric, I was happy to find this vintage pattern book, Doily Bouquet (Star Book No. 71, by American Thread Company).

The doily at the top right is made of flowers crocheted separately at first, and apparently joined as they are made.

For my own flower fabric, like the Roses Poncho (close-up below), I crochet all the flowers separately, pin them to a template, and sew them together with sewing thread.

Suzann

I chuckled when I read the doily instructions. The designer obviously assumed some intelligence on the part of the crocheter, which is not so common nowadays:

“Work a 2nd daisy same as 1st daisy, joining it to 1st daisy as illustrated.”

Illustrated where? The only illustrations in the book are photos of the doilies. You’re on your own to figure out how to join the flowers.

I think it’s good for crocheters and other crafters to figure things out on their own. You have to think. You have to try various options to find the best one. The more you are forced to figure things out on your own, the more you improve as a crocheter.

That’s how crochet designers, teachers, and writers are made. Hurray!

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Old Crochet Book at Comanche Museum

Royal Society Cordichet crochet book

The Comanche County Historical Museum (Comanche, Texas) is open to the public for only a few hours a week: Saturday afternoons from 2:00 to 4:00, Thursday afternoons 2:00 to 5:00, or by appointment. If you’re near, you should go. It is a lovely local museum, with old handwork, machines, rocks and bones, dolls, photos, uniforms, and all sorts of things that give you a glimpse into the history of the community.

It even has an old surrey with a fringe on top. Believe it or not, kids are allowed to sit in it!

My eye was drawn to an old book called Tatting and Crochet Lessons, published in 1915, apparently by a thread company that manufactured Royal Society Cordichet—”The Perfect Crochet Cotton.”

“May I take some pictures of this book?” I asked. “You bet!” the docents said. That’s the beauty of a small local museum—the people in charge are usually right there.

crocheted hair receiver and hat pin, Royal Society book

What a difference a century makes in what kinds of things we crochet! For example, the book offers patterns for a crocheted candlestick cover and a candle-shade cover. My favorites were these two: a hair receiver and a hatpin holder.

Irish Crochet Collar in Royal Society book

“Why would you want to save your hair?” asked my daughter. I knew that ladies used pads of their own hair to lift their hair-dos. Also, people used to make hair jewelry, as sentimental gifts or memorial pieces. “Ewww!” my daughter said.

Do you know any other old-time uses for saved hair?

Royal Society crochet book, the end

In contrast, this collar would be fine to wear today. It was presented sideways in the book, just like you see it here. The publishers probably thought the readers, having read that it was a collar, were intelligent enough to turn the book to see what the collar would look like around the neck of a garment. You might be surprised to know how much thought goes into modern publications to spare us having to use our imaginations.

I’m glad the people at the museum thought an old crochet book was important enough to keep.

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