Carol Ventura breathes new life into
old form of needlework that combines attributes of weaving, knitting and
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
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
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,"
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 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.