Grief can be a slow, quiet, solitary process. Needle arts can be as well. Perhaps that’s why we’ve used crochet to process the recent loss of three beloved grandparents. First, Lorna created two Day of the Dead filet crochet banners to celebrate our maternal grandfather’s life and passing. Now, the two of us collaborated on a pair of filet crochet portraits in honor of our paternal grandparents, Robert and Catherine Watt. Both portraits are on view as part of the exhibit Thread Around Holes at The Lace Museum in Sunnyvale, California until October 31, 2015, after which they will be available for private viewings at Claremont Art Studios.
These portraits use a crochet lace technique called filet crochet, which consists of a series of rows of squares. Each square is constructed as an open square, a partially filled-in square, or a completely filled-in square. Each type of square reads as a light, medium, or dark value, allowing you to transform a pixelated image into a lacework chart with three “colors”.
Jill manipulated a classic pair of mid-century portraits of our grandparents to have three values, then pixelated them to a lower yet still visually appealing resolution. Lorna drew a simple grid over the pixels to create a legible lacework chart. In the chart shown below, each square is 4 stitches, totaling over 26,000 stitches per portrait. You can find details on the materials we used here and here. After adding a classic Irish crochet lace edging, we blocked each portrait to size and shape with lace blocking wires on small escutcheon pins on a wall. Finally, we threaded heavy steel wires through the top and bottom to hang the portraits.
The resemblance is clear, don’t you think? Our grandparents were amazing, talented people and she a master of needlepoint, he a self-taught oil painter. They encouraged us to be creative and to make things as an everyday part of life. We recently inherited many of their needlepoint pieces and paintings. Even though they’re gone, they continue to inspire and amaze us daily.
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Lorna & Jill