Crocheting in Blue

Do you have a favorite yarn color? While I love a beautiful rose, a sunny yellow, or a nice burnt orange, I seem to be drawn invariably to blue yarns. I find them calming and elegant, and I know that historically a common method of creating blue fabric or yarn was through the process of dyeing it with indigo. But blue dyes were also created from wood, hemp, and other natural elements found throughout the world. 

Fatoumata Babaji, a masterful and prolific dyer, gestures with indigo-blue hands. Ende, Mali. 2010. Photograph by Cynthia Lecount Samaké. PieceWork July/August 2012  

Until I read the latest issue of PieceWork, I had no idea how much of a role blue dye has played in the world. Here is an excerpt from Dorothy Miller's article "Blue Around the World":

Blue-and-white patterning evokes the graceful blue and white of yukata (summer kimono) and the elegance of Jacobean embroidery. It suggests much that is pure, clean, cool, aristocratic. Blue-and-white cloth of ease and luxury.

At the same time, blue cloth appears in the work clothing of people around the world. Overalls, bandanas, aprons. It suggests much that is sweaty, exhausting, proletarian. Blue cloth of hard work and scarcity.

Large ceramic pots and bowls used for indigo baths. Ende, Mali. 2010. Photograph by Cynthia Lecount Samaké. PieceWork July/August 2012

And the historical link is indigo. In some form, indigo grows almost everywhere in the world. Colorfast and considered by some to be insect repellent, the dye produces blue fabric that does not easily show dirt-even less so with a little patterning. The designs may be white stitching to decorate and quilt layers for warmth or a stamped pattern to satisfy that human desire to embellish.

Blue cloth is the stuff of dreams and of workdays. Welcome to blue textile handwork from around the world. . . .

After reading Dorothy's article, I have a greater appreciation of the blue yarn and fabric I have loved all of my life as well as a greater understanding and connection to those who dyed, crochet, wove, or knitted in blue before me, whether they were in Egypt, Mali, England, China, or the Pueblos of the United States.

The Yokohama Mama Shawl to Crochet by Doris Chan. PieceWork May/June 2011

Looking back at those who crocheted before me also brings to my mind the Yokohama Mama Shawl from PieceWork May/June 2011, a beautiful exploded crochet lace shawl in navy blue. Doris Chan designed this elegant V-shaped crochet shawl as a tribute to her mother. The pattern was based on a doily her mother had made for her trousseau while living in Japan at the end of the World War II.

We have a shared passion for crochet and fiber arts. It's a passion that we share with mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and perfect strangers throughout history. Their stories can inspire us and teach us about the history of textiles.

You can find out more about the history of crochet as well as other fiber crafts within the pages of each issue of PieceWork. Subscribe today to join us as we explore the lives of those who paved the way for modern crochet.

Best wishes,

P.S. What is your favorite color to crochet with and does it hold a special significance?

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