crochet portraits

Hello Whipup.net’ers! Kathreen has graciously invited me to be a guest blogger on her fabulous site and I’m very thankful for the opportunity! Thank you Kathreen! xox

The Girl

My name is Lee and I’m a twenty-six year old textile/fibre/crochet artist born, bred and based in Canberra, Australia {find out more about me and my work on my blog}. I was about seven or eight years old when I first asked my Mum to show me how to “do that thing with the hook”. The fascination lasted about two weeks and produced a basic knee rug that was comprised of more holes than actual crochet. The world of crochet was quickly forgotten as I moved on to tennis lessons instead. Which, come to think of it, also lasted about two weeks….

In late 2008 I remember stumbling upon the world of amigurumi (small crocheted animals/toys). I made a few little pieces before yet again my severe lack of an attention span kicked in and I found myself on the search for something new and exciting to try.

Gone With The Wind {with the artist}

The Technique

My search came to an abrupt halt in 2008 when my jaw hit the floor and my eyes were glued to the incredible crochet portraits by Todd Paschall of Crochet by numbers. I remember the first time I clapped eyes on his smiling portrait of President Barack Obama and I was in awe.

Image courtesy of Todd Paschall of http://crochetbynumbers.com

A squillion questions sprang to mind, the biggest one being, How in the world do you DO that?! When I discovered that Todd was sharing his technique and also offered to convert any picture into an easy to follow pattern, I knew I had to give it a try.

I began by getting the basic stitches down pat. The crochet-by-numbers technique only requires you to know how to ‘chain’ and ‘single crochet’, so I began by practicing with little square swatches. Within a matter of days I was ready to have a go at the training patterns featured on Todd’s site. At first these were the ‘scary ones’ I was a little anxious about trying as they involved the dreaded practice of colour changing! I soon discovered that it was nothing to fear and was actually quite fun!

Todd’s technique does not require you to ‘carry yarn’ or weave in any loose ends, instead every colour change is accompanied by a cut and tie-off. Although many folks have shivered at the prospect of cutting and tying-off at every single colour change, I’ve found it can actually be quite relaxing! Although I do often warn those who are thinking of giving it a go, to be prepared to be patient, have a fully stocked chocolate stash beside them and one hell of a comfy chair!

As my confidence grew and I knew I was hooked (sorry, pun was begging to be used), I moved on to much larger pieces, with much more detail (aka. more colours and more colour changes!). Pretty quickly I discovered that crocheting portraits had become incredibly fun, exciting and important to me. Ideas about future pieces, possible colour palettes and the never ending string of possibilities had actually started to keep me awake at night. Visits to local yarn stores quickly became a compulsory stopping point every time I left the house. It soon became glaringly obvious that a hook and a ball of yarn offered so much more than a way to while away spare hours.

The Result

As my work will illustrate, I’m a bit of a pop culture fanatic. I have a wide interest in film, music and literature as well as the era’s that go along with them. Musically speaking I am drawn to the 1950s and 60s in particular. The Monkees, The Beatles and The King to name a few…

Monkees

JohnLennon

Elvis and Ann Margret

I also have a love for the glory days of Hollywood and the actors that created true magic with their presence on the silver screen.

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman

It is also a poorly kept secret that I am a bit of a Harry Potter fanatic. I use the term ‘fanatic’ there, when really the word ‘MASSIVE’ should go in front of it. I don’t know what it is about the books and movies that continues to take hold of my hook, but I keep being drawn back to the wonderful characters and world of Hogwarts, time and time again.

Daniel Radcliffe

This piece featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a young Harry Potter and as the young man he has become has certainly earned a spot in my top three favourite pieces to date. Not only does it have the most clarity of any piece I have done, it is the first time I was aiming for the ‘sepia effect’ and it was the first time I nailed it! It is also the largest piece I have tackled to date at a staggering 32,000 stitches.

I also get immense joy out of creating pieces that conjure up personal memories for loved ones. In particular, is a piece I put together for my Dad’s 50th birthday. It features a picture of him as a finger-snapping two year old boy in the backyard of his childhood home in Sydney. As a life-long radio fanatic, I decided to surround him with radio paraphernalia, including a retro-styled radio, microphone and the logo of his favourite radio station throughout his adolescent years.

It remains my favourite piece to date. Not only because it’s so monumentally personal, but because of the reaction it received from my Dad upon seeing it for the first time. I stood in the living room and holding it up and outstretched before calling him into the room. He stopped dead in his tracks, gasped, muttered a few choice expletives against the palm of his hand that had shot up to hide his open mouth and smiled. We then both proceeded to get a little misty eyed (balled our eyes out actually…). His reaction meant that the sixty plus hours spent on it was forgotten instantly and I knew then that I had found a truly remarkable way to express love and pay tribute to the many people, musicians, actors, films and loved ones that I have and continue to admire.

Hogwarts Bunch Blanket

Recently the world of crochet portraiture has begun to open some really exciting doors for me too! Earlier this year, my Hogwarts Bunch Blanket was featured in ‘Let’s Knit UK’ magazine and for the past three weeks, ten of my pieces have been adorning the walls of a local café/bar in my first ever exhibition!

If you have ever wanted to give crochet a go, by all means pick up a hook and get cracking! You never know where it might take you!!

For more information, pictures, ramblings, how-to vlog’s and free patterns, please feel free to drop by and say hello!

Lee xox

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