It's not weaving . . . it's not canvas work . . . It's Tapestry Crochet!

by Margaret Shuster
Herald Citizen, 6/8/03, C-1

Carol Ventura breathes new life into old form of needlework that combines attributes of weaving, knitting and cross-stitch

     Cookeville artist Carol Ventura is leading a revival of an old form of needleart called tapestry crochet. She wrote a book about it nearly 15 years ago and has just published her second book on the subject, titled More Tapestry Crochet. The book shares the history of the art form, which has been used for centuries to make decorative borders in Switzerland, hats in Africa and bags in Guatemala. Today it can be used to make all kinds of objects, from hats to baskets to blankets to necklaces to wall hangings.
     "You can make it hard to form hats and baskets, or you can make it soft, with a looser stitch, for things like blankets," said Ventura. "It has so much potential. In the book, I explain how to do these different shapes." More Tapestry Crochet also includes a variety of projects and specific instructions. "I have a chapter about how to crochet, what it looks like loose and tight, different stitches, and I have instructions for both right-handed and left-handed people."
     The book also offers instructions on how to create your own designs and includes special types graph papers to copy and draw on. "I've explained how to do all the projects shown in the book exactly, but then I'm hoping that people will want to try to design something," said Ventura. "You can use a lot of motifs from cross-stitch and other art forms."
     Tapestry crochet doesn't really look like crochet. "A lot of people assume this is woven or think it's worked on some type of canvas," said Ventura.
     Because it is so versatile, tapestry crochet has some advantages over other forms because it combines many of the attributes of regular crochet, knitting, weaving, needlepoint and cross stitch. And it's easy to do. "It's basically just one type of stitch. You can cover solid shapes like bottles, decrease and increase," said Ventura. "It's so much easier than knitting, because if you make a mistake, you can just pull it out, and you only have one loop to find. With knitting, when you pull out, you have all those loops across a row and have to make sure they're turned the right way."
     It's also portable and economical. "I started doing this when my daughter was young; we didn't have money, I couldn't afford a studio, and I couldn't do anything else," said Ventura. "And now, I'm in the position where I could do photography or ceramics or whatever and build a studio. But I love doing this, and I think part of it is I can just pick it up and put it down. I can take it with me, I can do it while I'm watching TV." Plus, it's relaxing.
     "Crochet is very meditative. When I'm following a pattern, I'm counting, and I can't think about anything else," said Ventura. "And when I'm done, I feel so proud of myself. It's a wonderful outlet."
     Ventura has even used tapestry crochet to do a series of self-portraits in different colors.
     While tapestry crochet is not something most people have heard of, it is catching on among avid crocheters. "I teach a lot of workshops, and in July, I'm going to a national crochet conference in Chicago where I'm gong to teach this," said Ventura. "In the crochet world, I'm actually well-known. When I go to these crochet conferences, I'm like a celebrity, which is really good for my ego."
     Ventura, who is now an art history professor at Tennessee Tech University, discovered tapestry crochet with she was in Central America with the Peace Corps in the 1970s. "My inspiration was bags from Guatemala, then I started coming up with other shapes," said Ventura.
     In addition to attending conferences and publishing books, Ventura is working to bring this form of needlework to the attention of the general public. "I've done almost a dozen projects that are slowly coming out in different magazines, so I'm hoping this will be the next macrame, except with this, you can do so much more."
     More Tapestry Crochet, along with Ventura's newly republished book, Maya Hair Sashes Backstrap Woven in Jacaltenango, Guatemala (her doctoral dissertation), are available on Amazon.com and through Ventura's Web site at www.tapestrycrochet.com.

Link to Carol Ventura's Tapestry Crochet Page

Link to Carol Ventura's Home Page