Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Weekend Workshop & Colourful Ruffles

Last Sunday (3 August) I attended a crochet workshop as part of the SALA 2014 Festival. 

One of South Australia's nicknames is "The Festival State" and it is true that there is always something happening. SALA 2014 is the South Australian Living Artists Festival.

SALA 2014 runs from 1-24 August.
You can view the program online.

The City of Holdfast Bay is holding a Winter Wonderland exhibition. The Bay Discovery Centre has been transformed by silver, white and glittery decorations to create a very simple, yet very effective display which evokes the magical feeling of winter when the frost glistens and sparkles in the winter light.

Free workshops are part of the exhibition. Sunday's workshop, presented by Irmina van Niele, was to make a brooch.  You may recognise her name from the Rhythm Sculpture Yarnbomb in 2013.

I have made brooches before using crochet but I do enjoy Irmina's workshops. She presents ideas and possibilities which spark my imagination. The range of materials and colours can't help but inspire and enthuse me.

Irmina's "Make a Brooch" workshop was inspired by her participation in the Adelaide Coral Reef Project.  Her sample brooches began with a small circle of chains into which one works rounds of stitches. The number of stitches increases with each round and this is where it is fun to play.

Depending on the increases, the rounds may stay flat or begin to ruffle. Smaller increases will introduce a little frilliness around the edges. Larger increases will create ruffles so big that they begin folding back upon themselves.
My brooch (work in progress) showing the ruffles
  • Using a 4.00 mm hook, the centre sections were created with a 4-ply cotton, working in dc and increasing stitches in each round; 
  • with orange, changed stitches to htr increases; 
  • changed yarn weights with a teal aran weight acrylic blend; 
  • increased into each stitch with the teal and it ruffled so much that the frills were overlapping and hiding the central colours.  
  • unravelled teal round and reworked with single dc sts into every second stitch;
  • I am considering adding a 'halo' of aqua/blue mohair as a final round; 
  • My brooch is resembling a rosette more than a flower, but I can still manipulate the frills towards the centre like the petals of a carnation;  in this way I can adjust the visible colours and wear it with different outfits.

Irmina supplied baskets full of coloured yarns collected from op shops - cottons, embroidery silks, acrylics and blends, and even fluffy mohair types.  The 12 participants were like children in a lolly shop. I love seeing the varied effects. This is where crochet has so many possibilities!

Within the bounds of making a brooch in the round, there was a lot of scope to create dramatically different effects with these variables:

  • number of increases
  • type and height of stitches
  • type and weight of yarn
  • hook size
  • colour changes
  • number of rounds
  • will the brooch be all the same yarn weight or textured by different yarn weights in different rounds?

The workshop felt like being back at school in art lessons, with the freedom to play and experiment.
Even though the concepts were not new to me, I like participating in activities like this because it ensures that I take time to crochet for crochet's sake. It is relaxing to take the time to explore where the process is more important than the product.

Often I will read about various techniques and add them to my list of things to try and while I may learn the technique as part of a particular pattern or project, it is hard to find the right time and frame of mind to just play, without a pattern, to see what happens next and let the crochet itself guide my hook instead of the other way around.

My friend Adrienne came along with me to this workshop together with our daughters. We were very pleased that the girls 'had a go'.

My daughter has an intellectual understanding of what she is trying to achieve but has been grappling with the fine coordination required to manipulate the hook and hold onto the work at the same time. Until this workshop, I would hold the fabric while my daughter hooked her stitches into it.  I was very proud that she managed to put it together for the first time, while also applying her knowledge to working in the round after previously only working in rows. I was very proud of the way she persevered and managed to complete an entire round by herself.
My daughter's efforts
She learned to manipulate hook, yarn and fabric, work in the round, change colours and  increase stitches.
She chose 'Adelaide Crows' team colours.

Adrienne's daughter had shown interest in learning how to knit (of course, ask Mum to teach something she doesn't know) but when Adrienne offered to teach her crochet instead, she didn't want to know. That's children for you! We were both pleased that Adrienne's daughter took the opportunity to 'have a go' at crochet and was motivated enough to take some yarn home to continue with her brooch in her own time.

During this time, Adrienne and I enjoyed each other's company and reflected on the workshop activity.

Is it true that budget constraints can hinder creativity? Sometimes the cost of yarn means that one is hesitant to just play for fear of 'wasting' it. It can be costly to collect a whole bunch of skeins in order to have a large colour collection however Irmina showed us that it doesn't need to be costly.

What is yarn for?  Can we justify the purchase of an expensive but alluring skein when there is no practical or utilitarian purpose for it?  Adrienne and I reflected that we like to have a purpose for the yarn we buy with something to show for it that we can use such as a blanket, garment or gift.

When we think of crochet in that way, are we devaluing the creative process? Through the freedom of experimentation, we learn new skills and make new discoveries about our craft and also about ourselves. It leads to new understandings. Surely that is just as valuable a purpose as creating a hat or a bag.

While our efforts were very much a 'freeform' process, compare Prudence Mapstone's 'scrumbling' technique which begins life as freeform shapes which are then incorporated as either embellishments or integral parts of a garment or bag (but they don't have to be)! Prudence Mapstone has also used her 'scrumbles' as individual art pieces and exhibited them to appreciate their value in their own right.


Adelaide Coral Reef Project: http://riaus.org.au/art-exhibitions/riaus-adelaide-reef/

Bay Discovery Centre, Moseley Square, Glenelg, South Australia:

Lupey Loops, "Stitch for Summer: A Colourful Rhythm", blog post, 23 February 2013: http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com/2013/02/stitch-for-summer-colourful-rhythm_23.html

Mapstone, Prudence, Knot Just Knitting, web site: http://knotjustknitting.com/

Mapstone, Prudence, "What is Freeform?", online article, Knot Just Knitting, web site: http://knotjustknitting.com/freeform.html

SALA - South Australian Living Artists Festival: http://www.salainc.com.au/


  1. Your flower looks very lovely! I bet it will draw up some attention when you will wear it! ��

    Take care

  2. Thank you, Anne. :-)
    I am looking forward to finishing it. It has been a very busy time and now that I am at home (not at a workshop) it is hard to find the right moment to be able to lose myself in the creative process without having the mood spoilt by interruptions. I quite like it just the way it is right now and I fear that if I don't like the mohair round, it will be impossible to rip out! I will get on with sewing in the loose ends for the current rounds while I decide what to do about the mohair (which is such a lovely colour, I feel I ought to use it.)
    Jodie xx