This week’s section of the Gentle Art of Domesticity focuses on how we choose and display colour in the things we make.
I really enjoyed Jane’s ruminating about the changes in crochet and how it was enjoyed and employed rather differently ‘back in the day’, more of a use it up and wear it out attitude than our consumerist desire for new which is common to the modern era. The same can be said about vintage quilts and fabric stashes but for this section we’ll stick with crochet.
“I like the mish-mash of colours in vintage crocheted blankets; the way the makers seemed to use whatever they pulled from their workbag, the way they revelled in clashes and contrasts…” (page 52)
If you’ve been reading Elefantz for a while you’ll be aware that I’m in the process of completing a Sweet Pea crochet blanket for my almost 1 yo granddaughter, Rafaella. I saw a photo of the original blanket last year and purchased an identical yarn pack. Now this was fine because I don’t normally play with 8 ply yarn so did not have bits and pieces to use up, but Jane makes a very good point here about how in the past crochet was quite often a ‘thrift craft’, a means of using up leftover yarns and colours. I shall indeed have a good supply of leftovers when Rafaella’s blanket is finished and now I’m inspired to use every last remnant in other ways.
“This is free and liberated creativity in which simplicity of form gives huge possibilities for playing with colour.” (page 52)
When I was young and visiting a neighbour my eyes would rarely move from the beautiful and large granny square crocheted blanket she had draped over her couch. Every square was a set of different colours but they were all joined together with a black border which at first bothered me because I did not like black and in my young mind I questioned why Nana’s old friend hadn’t just used more colour. Surely it would have been prettier? The crochet blanket was backed with tartan flannelette and the two pieces joined together around the outside edge with more black crochet.
One cold winter day during our visit I became very drowsy as Nana and her friend chatted away and drank tea so the maker of this odd blanket pulled it from her couch and wrapped me in it. Snug as a bug in a rug I drifted off to sleep and the memory of that comforting softness sits within my memories to this day. That was the day I fell in love with the bright mish-mash of crochet colours hemmed in by bold black borders. It wasn’t just something to be looked at anymore…it had offered me warmth, comfort and rest.
I never looked at black the same way, not when it's paired with beautiful colours as was found in that blanket.
For Jane it appears her love of colour and contrast can often be triggered by the way certain shades move within a pattern, as she discovered when crocheting a ripple blanket.
“But the wavy stitch is dangerously addictive and it soon became a go-faster stripe as I wanted to see how more and more colours looked. Eventually I ran out, not of steam, but of yarn…” (page 52)
Jane is quite adventurous in all her creations, allowing the fabric pattern or the colours within to lead her on a journey of discovery, especially in the gentle art of making a quilt. Surprisingly, if one particular print catches her eye she will purchase it and then spend months collecting more pieces before she ever makes a single cut into the fabrics.
Not so sure most of us would be that patient with our quilt making!
As mentioned earlier in the book, before even a stitch is sewn it’s her son Tom whom Jane turns to for a second opinion when the squares or pieces have been cut and are laid out across the floor. Trusting his eye for colour and design has often proved invaluable for Jane and this made me consider how wonderful it is to have someone else who knows your style and yet sees ‘beyond’ to push you a little out of the comfort zone.
However, it does take a great deal of trust to receive someone else’s opinion on how you should use colour, and it’s important not to feel pushed too far from what you’re comfortable with. After all, you have to live with the final project and they can toddle off home and never lay eyes on it again.
I’ll leave the final words about processing colour in quilts to Jane…
“…if you allow the quilt to communicate its own colour rules rather than imposing yours, you end up with something quite different from what you had imagined, but something with a life of its own.” (page 54)
Told you she was adventurous!
Playing With Colour
“I have always envied artists who discover a tangible form of creative expression that can be repeated over and over but with subtle variations.” (page 56)
This section was all about taking one design and then remaking it in a variety of different colours. Choosing one cushion she had knitted, Jane then knitted the exact same pattern nine more times to complete nine more cushions – but each one was a display of very different colour combos
The making of these ten cushions taught Jane to look not just at an original pattern or project as an end in itself but to explore the way colour could transform one thing into a variety of moods or decoration.
And what did Jane do with her 10 cushions?
“We sit on them, put them under heads, feet and bottoms, scatter them on chairs and settees…I prefer to enjoy them all while I can.” (page 59)
Since we moved into our first home last September my own ideas on colour have been quite turned on their head because I discovered my decorating style in a rental home is not quite the same as the one I’m moving towards in a home of my own.
This is why it’s taking so long to decide what to hang, what to paint, what to make, what to display, what to give away. Reading that it can take Jane months of ‘collecting’ fabric she likes before making the very first cut into a quilt project reminds me that progression in big decisions or even big projects are quite normal – especially when you discover a new colour palette catching your eye, a passing of the baton so to speak, away from the old tones you used to love and towards something fresh and exciting. That’s right where I am at the moment, though there does appear to be a merging of both old and new in some areas and I’m pretty happy about that too.
** With craft supplies are you the use-it-up and wear-it-out kind of gal or thoroughly modern and more excited by the new styles and things on offer?
** Is there a project in your home which you made a while ago that’s lost its appeal due to your own ‘moving on’ with regards to colour and style? Would you consider re-making it in the colours you love for this season of life?
** Last week and this week we've read and thought a lot about colour. Are you looking at the way you use colour in your creative pursuits any differently?
** Jane's quite adventurous and open to trying a variety of colour combos and styles even when they're not what she'd normally go for - would you describe yourself that way or are you 'shy' when it comes to change?
Next week we’re reading pages 60 - 67
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