A pattern is great. It’s a recipe for an item you love, but I suspect many crocheters long for a new challenge. We’re an imaginative bunch who enjoy learning new tricks and turn to crochet to vent our creativity. But doesn’t a *tiny* part of your imagination feel a bit tied down by patterns, orders and tidiness?
Sometimes I want to let my hair down and just run in the wind. I love freeform crochet (or scrumbling) because it removes all rules and boundaries, allowing me to combine any techniques I feel like. I’m a Jack Of All Trades (Master of none?), and I can knit (I’m not advanced), and I have dabbled in embroidery, cross stitch, weaving, felting and beading. In freeform crochet I can revisit my past interests and learn new ones (I’m looking forward to needle felting, playing with tunisian and using water soluble fabric ) and combine them to produce a unique, one-of-a-kind creation. I’ve been exploring this technique just a few weeks, and sometimes my patches are just plain messy, but I’m sure, as in any medium, I will find my style in time.
Freeform Crochet and Beyond is an inspirational book which will provide encouragement to beginners and a starting point for exploring freeform crochet. Renate Kirkpatrick is reassuring and states that her aim is to “tap into the hidden creativity that, I believe, lurks within us all.”
So who is Renate Kirkpatrick? She describes herself as “an artist by nature but a teacher at heart”. She “has a lengthy background in a diverse range of the creative arts and crafts. She is a firm believer in constantly setting new goals and working to achieve them.”
The book contains 7 chapters, which build upon each other, leading from simple starter patches to basic stitches and embellishments, although I found it quite possible to skip around throughout the book. There are 4 galleries, which show examples of completed freeform crochet items. Instructions are given in UK terms throughout the book, with US terms in brackets, and international stitch patterns or diagrams are provided.
Chapter 1: Basic Freeform Techniques
In the first chapter of Freeform Crochet and Beyond, Kirkpatrick describes her method for producing a freeform piece. Although you can use an existing dressmaking pattern or clothes as a template, the author describes how the project can evolve to be used for another purpose. I have personal experience of this. At the moment my twins are keeping their musical instruments in a bag which is supposed to be a hat.
Kirkpatrick begins by collecting around 15 to 20 yarns of different weight, textures and colours to suitable for the intended item. This forms your palette, and although this sounds a lot, you can always raid your scrap bag or make your own alternative yarn. She stresses the importance of using your own creativity, and describes ways of ‘rescuing’ a project, if it all goes horribly wrong. It’s not a dry read, and she relates a really funny story of having a piece attacked by lime green yarn.
The rest of this chapter explains how to introduce new colours, join patches, make seams, and fill holes. The section on making bags talks through a project from preparing a template or base, choosing a lining, preparing the opening, assembling the freeform patches and making handles.
Chapter 2: Starters and More
Although knowledge of knitting, crochet or both is expected, chapter 2 explains how to make the basic stitches, as well as crocheted clusters, popcorns, puff stitches and basic tunisian crochet.
The chapter really focuses on making starter patches – the main part of the palm-sized patch, which you work straight onto. Examples for squares, rectangles, triangles and circles and spirals are given, alongside stitch diagrams, photos, and suggestions for colours, stitches, size and texture or relief stitches. In these examples, scallops and shells are worked directly onto the starter before surface embellishments like chains, crab stitch and ruffles are added.
Chapter 3: Bullions Galore
Renate Kirkpatrick’s favourite stitch must be bullions, and in Freeform Crochet and Beyond this is abundantly clear. They get everywhere, and seem to be used as Polyfilla to fill in any holes in a finish piece. I have to say, they do look stunning, and certainly do add a ‘wow’ factor. I haven’t tried them for years, but I’m quite proud of mine, now I have a few circles, and I ‘m looking forward to adding them to a patch. This chapter gives directions for making bullions directly onto fabric, on chains, in rounds, making odd-shaped ones, bent ones, spiral ones, multi-coloured ones, ones with different textures, of different heights…. you name it. Renate Kirkpatrick really is The Oueen of All Things Bullions.
Gallery A: Bags, bags, bags…
This gallery shows 13 bags, including a night -time coral reef inspired bag, and gives brief descriptions of how they were inspired and made, and types of handle used. I get stuck with handles, so I found this really interesting. I love the rich purples used in Merlot, which is part tunisian crochet. Autumn Glow is wet and dry felted and I love the use of Vilene in this. My third favourite uses rock pool blues and greens and has tiny starfish buttons sewn on.
Chapter 4: Novelty Patches
This chapter of Freeform Crochet and Beyond examines different ways of using basic crochet stitches to form patterns. Kirkpatrick shows Crochet wings (lazy J stitch), popcorns, offset puff stitch, domes, corkscrews, mini spirals, twisted cables, coil stitch and medallion stitch. She also explains tunisian stitches like limpet (winding) stitch and cobble stitch.
Gallery B: Headgear: fun, fantastic, out there…
Now, although I appreciate the technical skill and beauty in these hats, I would not put any of them on my head! If I *had* to choose one, it would be the blue beret, which has a slightly more conventional shape, as it uses a dinner plate as a template. (Yes, that’s the conventional one). The hoods were made using a dressmaking pattern, which demonstrates very well the techniques described at the beginning of the book.
Chapter 5: Floral Elements and Stars
This chapter gives stitch diagrams written instructions for 12 flowers, 2 types of leaf and 2 stars, and provides ideas for variations and examples. These could be used in freeform crochet, but would be equally at home as embellishments for any other project.
Gallery C: Scarves and shrugs and shawls
This is an helpful gallery, and I wonder if this might have been better placed at the beginning of the book, as it shows ways of incorporating freeform ideas into simple ideas, from adding tassels to a simple double crochet scarf, to adding surface embroidery, to exploring the freeform crochet more freely. There are 12 projects in total, including 4 scarves and 2 collars or wraps, a top and ponchos. They should appeal to a range of tastes, but I like the forest inspired wrap in particular, as well as Coralloid (inspired by coral reef). The beautiful cream collar uses an irregular shape with motifs added.
Chapter 6: A multitude of tassels and other dangly things
Basically, how to finish all those dratted ends! Yes, in it seems in freeform crochet you’re probably going to make a few loose ends where you change colour. Fortunately, chapter 6 of Freeform Crochet and Beyond comprehensively explains how to magic them away using crochet techniques like corkscrews, hooded tassels, crochet links, twisted cord, diamond, square and circluar medallion ends, beading to add weight, felted ends, and macrame knots.
Gallery D: And simply great stuff
The final gallery shows 4 cheerful, coulourful cushions, using vilene and wet felting, a flower corsage and 4 necklaces. The regal mane necklace shows a very organic use of all the dangly bits in chapter 6, and looks like a great experiemtnt. There’s also a galsses case, tea cosy (hopefully a tea cosy with irony), and the fantasic crochet coral reef wall-hanging, which you are bound to have seen pictures of before.
Chapter 7: A touch of felt and other interesting techniques
The final chapter of Freeform Crochet and Beyond gives a few more ideas which could be incorporated into a frefform piece, like wet and dry/needle felting, using carded fleece, machine washed, felted pre-made patches, tail ends sewn onto washaway fabric (brilliant idea for scraps. I hate throwing ends away too), basic embroidery stitches and simple weaving using a card loom. If you do ‘proper’ weaving you may wince at this part. I love exploring new techniques and I really will try wash-away fabric soon.
Should you buy it?
I enjoyed looking at the galleries, and found them very inspiring, however I wish the publishers had included a full page photo for each piece. The small images were frustrating and simply don’t do justice to the detail, so I would rather have a single page for a close-up of each item. I think the publishers really missed that. Other photos are reasonable, but I felt the annotations were lacking in detail and explanation.
This book is very crochet-heavy. Knitters may enjoy it, and they can certainly apply the principles to their own craft, but it’s probably going to appeal to crocheters open to new ideas and different techniques.
Overall, Freeform Crochet and Beyond is packed with inspiring pictures and fascinating ideas for your scrumbles. I read this all the way through at night time, about half an hour before bed, and it was difficult to get to sleep because my head was so full.
Whatever your level of knitting or crochet, this book will provide the knowledge and inspiration you need to set out on your own adventure. Some of these techniques and stitches will be useful when making your own items from a pattern or designing your own projects.