Prudence Mapstone is a freeform crochet (and knitting) guru and one of my favourite practitioners with yarn. I was reminded of her work recently when a friend announced that she's decided to try her hand at crochet but she's not too worried about following patterns. I first learnt to crochet back in primary school. At around the same time Mum also taught me to knit but I quickly found crochet had much more appeal as it developed so much more quickly. This was the late 60s/early 70s and hippy style granny square tank tops were all the rage; crochet up a couple of squares to cover your chest, add some double crochet straps and then a fringe along the bottom and voila, you were done! I think I made one as part of the requirements to earn a badge at Brownies.
Crochet is based on looping yarn around a hook and pulling it through a stitch in an endless variety of ways. I spent a lot of time learning lots of stitches and really enjoyed the variety of textures that becomes possible. You can end up with a smooth, bobbly, or bumpy fabric and it can be super dense, or loose and lace like. But Prudence is such a skilled practitioner of the crochet (and knitting) stitch that she's been able to throw out the rule book. Her freeform work ignores straight lines and focuses instead on colour and texture, the latter created through both stitch, and thread, choice. She combines knitting stitches with crochet stitches in a single piece. There's not a lot of point to trying to explain this complex yet simple technique with words, how about a few pictures instead?
This is my Prudence Mapstone bag. Basically you assemble a bunch of yarns, start with one, make a small knitted or crocheted piece of any size or shape using any set of stitches you like, then change yarns, and keep on going. It's a good idea put the next bit on the side of the first bit 'cause that forces you to break out of the mould. If you started with crochet your next bit should be knit, and vice versa. (You don't have to combine knitting and crochet, you can just do crochet if you prefer but it's not as effective if you just do knitting.) You can make lots of separate bits and join them together or just keep going on the one bit. There're no rules about what you do or the size of your bits or what you end up with!
Prudence uses conventional stitches in amazing and clever ways but, having been away from crochet for a very long time, and having found the lazy gene (i.e. not wanting to relearn specific stitches) I actually made up my own stitches to make my bag. If you know anything about crochet and study the closeups above you'll no doubt see that!
Once I'd created a fabric of the right size and shape I mounted it on the plastic bag frame*. Since the whole bag was an experiment I decided to try something else on the other side in the form of random threading (instead of random stitching). This time I wove threads in and out of the frame in crazy ways, under and over, back and forth. To bring it together I added a few crocheted bobbles and lines of chain stitch on top. The bag is lined with cotton fabric and completed with painted bamboo handles. I used this bag in my video on my About FishPetals Do Fly page (it's about midway through when I'm crossing the bridge to PonyFish Island and wearing the Smash hat).
Prudence Mapstone is based in Queensland Australia and you can see her wonderful work at:
* You might have seen these Japanese plastic 'woven' frames in craft shops - here's a pic of a hat frame (from before I started making hat patterns myself).
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