Thursday, 10 March 2016

Frida's Flowers Crochet Along

At just after midnight tonight the yarn packs for my new Crochet Along (CAL) project, in association with Stylecraft Yarns, will finally go on sale. The new project is called Frida's Flowers Blanket and the inspiration for the design comes from my admiration of the Mexican Artist Frida Kahlo.

Many years ago my lovely Mum took me to see an exhibition of the work of Diego Rivera, a famous Mexican muralist who I knew very little about at the time. On entering the art gallery and seeing Rivera's wonderful giant paintings I was an instant fan. Rivera's huge paintings contain so many intricacies and incredible use of colour. His stylised images of flowers, people and traditional Mexican life, intertwined with symbolism of his patriotism and political views makes him, in my view, one of the  most important artists of the 20th Century.

I hope one day to design something in homage to Rivera, as there is so much subject matter within his murals that I could look at, but for my new design I chose to focus on Rivera's wife, the infamous artist Frida Kahlo.

When I start working on a new design and have my initial design inspiration, the first thing I do is make a mood board. Years ago, making the mood board could take a while and would involve me sourcing postcards and magazine cuttings and visiting the local library on an image hunt, but these days I can start by putting a Pinterest board together. You can see my Frida's Flowers Board by following this link.

Rather than focus on the art work of Frida, I decided to look at her style of dress and the costumes that she wore, although there are elements of her paintings that I also looked at in relation to the design - I will tell you about these influences within my blog posts written in relation to each motif once the patterns are released from 5th April. You will find iconic images of Frida everywhere and she is instantly recognisable with her distinct sense of style and poise.

In the 1920s and 30s, when it was fashionable for women to move away from traditional dress, Frida did the opposite and embraced her national costumes, wearing them in layers and combining them with jewels and flowers to create her own image as a masterpiece in itself and it is elements of her sense of style that I have tried to use as the basis of my design.

I design pretty much all my pieces from scratch and almost try to use my yarn and hook as if they were paint and paintbrush. I knew that I wanted to make this design very floral and opulent, so I started by choosing my colour palette. I worked closely with Annabelle at Stylecraft on this and we opted to use Classique Cotton as the first choice of yarn for the project. The shades in this range are so clean and crisp, so the palette came easily, especially as the range has recently benefitted from the addition of some fantastic shades like Mauve and Toffee.

When I choose colours for a design I always start by looking at the whole palette of yarn shades available and don't make any decisions about colours until I have done some crochet to see how the colours work together. It always surprises my how bright shades, such as Greek Blue for example, and muddy shades like Toffee can make a difference to a design eventhough they would not have been in a selected colour choice before I started designing.

When I was at Art School we were discouraged from using black in our design work and (until now) it is something that I have avoided, using dark blues, plums and greys instead, but for this design I felt that black was a key colour and therefore it's use unavoidable. I hope you will forgive me for this - I know it can be tough working with black in poor light and this is part of the reason why it is not used in large amounts on whole blocks.

Working on a new design after the success of the Lily Pond CAL last year was a bit daunting, but I tried my best to take on board comments and criticisms of the last project. Within the Frida's Flowers project each motif is worked in the round rather than some of them being worked in rows. In theory, this should cut down on the number of crocheters having issues with their tension and means that the size and format for most of the motifs is pretty much the same. However this doesn't mean that tension is no longer important as it will have an effect on your yarn usage and overall look of the blanket should you achieve an incorrect tension. I have written an introduction piece on tension and getting ready for the project which Stylecraft will release on March 22nd, so do make sure you take a look at this.

The Frida's Flowers blanket took me 4 months to design and make. For each motif that made it into the final design, I probably designed an average of 3 or 4 that didn't. Some pieces took days to get right, while others came a little more easy. I am incredibly proud of the design and so grateful to Stylecraft for all their support once again with this project. Without Stylecraft there would be no way that I could offer a design like this to you for free as it represents such a massive workload, not just for me, but for others as well. I would like to thank the test crocheters, the pattern checkers and translators and the entire team at Stylecraft for all their help with this project.

I would also like to thank all you lovely crocheters out there for all your incredible support over the last couple of years. Andy and I have been so touched by your emails and messages and I hope that you will continue to enjoy my crochet designs. Of course I realise that not every project will appeal to all, but I do hope (even if you are not a fan of my overall design) that there might be elements of it that you wish to make. Seeing your images of recoloured motifs or projects that you made in response to the Lily Pond CAL last year was incredible and I am looking forward to seeing how creative you will all be this year - even if you choose to stick to my original design.

If you want to find out more about Frida Kahlo, her art and her incredible relationship with Diego Rivera you won't need to search too hard as biographies, photos and images of their art are everywhere on the internet and you are bound to find lots of books about them in your local library. There is a link to a recently released video of the 2 of them that I have just come across here

Happy crocheting and much love
Janie x