Kathryn Vercillo is a writer and crochet enthusiast who runs the blog Crochet Concupiscence; here is a link to her blog:
Q: What inspired you to start your blog?
A: I am a professional writer who has worked in blogging for more than ten years so it was natural for me to start my own blog. I’ve actually had several personal blogs over the years but I started Crochet Concupiscence, my largest blog, in 2011. At the time I was doing a lot of writing work for other people that I didn’t feel inspired by and I wanted to start a new blog that would be a place of refuge for me. Crochet had become really important in my life and starting a blog about it was a great way for me to share what I was learning in the craft while connecting with a larger community of like-minded people.
Q: How did crochet save your life?
A: I struggled for over 15 years with undiagnosed, debilitating depression and in 2009 it reached an all-time low to the point where the condition was truly life-threatening. It’s a long story, which I share in my book Crochet Saved My Life, but essentially I was having a hard time finding anything at all that I could enjoy doing and then I stumbled upon crochet. There were many beneficial traits to the craft including the fact that it’s repetitive and therefore meditative and relaxing, that it took my mind off of itself and reduced anxiety and that it gave me a focused achievable activity to work on as I dealt with depression. Crochet alone didn’t save my life, of course; I worked hard in therapy and took medication and strengthened my personal support system, but crochet played a very key role at the time for me.
Q: What has been your most challenging crochet piece to date?
A: I’ll be perfectly honest in saying that I don’t often take on hugely challenging crochet pieces. I love the relaxation benefits of the craft so I tend to work on really easy things. Even when I’ve challenged myself to learn new skills and niches in the craft I’ve usually done things I could pick up quickly. I have a few big ongoing projects including a full-wall piece that I’m working on and a big hyperbolic crochet art piece so those are probably the most detailed, although I wouldn’t use the word challenging per se.
Q: What has been the biggest recent trend in crochet?
A: That’s a great question! It’s fascinating because crochet has many niches – it’s a DIY craft, it’s a method of home décor, it’s a way to make a living through sales on sites like Etsy, it’s a form of fashion … and so there are different trends in the different niches. For example, I would say that in fashion right now there’s a big trend towards wearing crochet swimsuits and other beach crochet. However, in crochet as a DIY craft I think the trends right now tend to be in specific types of crochet (Tunisian crochet in particular seems really hot!) as well as in exploration of colorwork.
Q: What is the history of crochet?
A: Here’s a brief timeline of crochet history that I’ve previously published on Crochet Concupiscence:
▪ 1812 – The Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant references “shepherd’s knitting” which is slip stitch crochet. Crochet started as just the slip stitch.
▪ 1824 – A Dutch Magazine named Penelope features an article with instructions for slip stitch crochet.
▪ 1835 – Crochet bag patterns begin to be more widely published in Dutch and German. By this time chain stitch and single crochet stitch have been added to the designs.
▪ 1844 – Mercerization is invented. This strengthens cotton making it more durable to crochet with.
▪ 1846 – Patterns are published in England to reproduce Spanish needle lace. This is the first time that we see patterns that include working through both loops (it was previously only through the back loop) and the first time that we see rows worked back and forth with turning (previously it was worked right to left and the yarn was cut off at the end of each row). This is starting to look like crochet as we know it today!
▪ 1850′s and 1860′s – Industrialization makes it much more affordable to produce crochet hooks. Plus the Industrial Revolution means that more women have leisure time to fill. This results in more crochet work done as a hobby.
▪ 1867 – Harper’s Bazaar launches. This reflects increased literacy among women and magazines for women who want to craft.
▪ 1886 – DMC Guide to Needlework book is published with information on crochet.
▪ 1910 – 1920 – The Edwardian fashion style means that crochet work is now more detailed textured.
▪ Post WWII – After the war there was a resurgence in home crafts and crochet became alive again after it had been mostly forgotten by the general public.
▪ 1960′s and 1970′s – Crochet fashions hit a peak. We’ve all seen the granny square items from this time! This is also when freeform crochet begins to be popular.
▪ 1994 – Gwen Blakley Kinsler founds The Crochet Guild of America to encourage crocheting.
▪ 2007 – Ravelry launches. Crochet and social media merge. By 2010 Ravelry had one million members.
▪ Today – Social media continues to play a huge role in promoting crochet as a modern craft form! It’s amazing to see what crocheters are doing today.
Q: How has crochet evolved as an art form?
A: I would say that crochet was primarily used as a functional craft prior to the 1960s and 1970s. At that time there were a lot of creators who worked to get craft in general recognized as a fine art form so we started seeing classes, exhibits and books that featured crochet art. Artists explored the different uses of the medium at that time and helped get more recognition for craft as art.
Q: What is the oddest crochet piece you have ever seen?
A: There are so many of them but I find everyone’s interpretations of crochet to be so fascinating! Some of the most unique crocheted items I’ve seen from artists include:
- Huge crochet playgrounds in Japan by Toshiko Horiuchi Macadam
- Crochet grenade cozies, crochet guns and other crochet art that explores the strange combination of soft feminine creativity against hard, masculine aggression
- Crochet combined with other unique art forms like the video work done by Sarah Applebaum for a Seventeen Evergreen music video called Polarity
- A crochet hat for nursing babies that looks like the mom’s breast
Q: Who are some of your favorite crochet artists?
A: Again, there are so, so many of them!! I really respect artists like Olek and Magda Sayeg who have helped bring unique street-style crochet into fine art exhibits and mainstream media in the 21st century. I personally enjoy the crochet work that blends a fine line between craft, art and fashion so the work of Sandra Backlund and Helen Rodel inspires me. I’m thoroughly impressed by people who can do crochet portraiture so I love Jo Hamilton and Patrick Ahern. And I love seeing what male artists are doing in crochet so in addition to Pat Ahern I also like Nathan Vincent, Ivano Vitali, Jerry Bleem, Nick Cave and Aldo Lanzini.
Q: What kind of work do you do and how does it influence your craft?
A: I’m a writer through and through. I consider writing to be my primary craft although I do a lot of work in crochet. They work together in that I’ve been able to take my love of writing and my love of crochet and combine them into writing about the craft. I’ve got the blog, of course, and I do craft writing for other sites and magazines, plus I’ve written Crochet Saved My Life and am at work on my next crochet-related book called Hook to Heal.
Q: How do you fund your blog?
A: I try to make enough money off of sponsorship and site advertising so that the blog can pay for itself. The truth is that I’ve put a lot of my own money into the blog but I consider it a worthwhile investment because it’s a blog that I really enjoy and it’s helped me connect to an amazing community of people.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)