Freestyle Crochet: Crocheted Phones, Shoes, and More

Crochet is finding new life in the hands of young crocheters. Ikea Vandross is one such young crocheter who is fearless with yarn and a hook. A graduate of a unique arts-oriented public high school in New Jersey, Ikea has combined crochet with her interests in fashion, portraiture, and other forms to create a variety of art, including freestyle crochet.

By the age of 10, Ikea had learned to crochet from Amanda Adams, her kindergarten teacher and honorary godmother. Amanda started her on simple patterns and saw that Ikea was a quick learner—although one of her first projects was a crocheted poncho that is too big for her to this day. Ikea says there is a lot of value in working from patterns, but that she prefers a freeform approach, crocheting items off the top of her head. “It adds excitement to my projects to freestyle crochet something that I’ve been able to just create myself,” she says.

freestyle crochet boot

Yarn Bombing Influences Freestyle Crochet

Ikea has been greatly influenced by the yarn-bombing movement over the last decade. Yarn bombing—the act of placing crochet or knit work in public spaces to make a social or political statement—started as a form of underground graffiti-inspired work but has rapidly become popular and moved into acceptance as a public art form in some cities. Ikea contributed granny squares to a large multi-artist yarn-bombing exhibit at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles last spring. For Ikea, the term yarn-bombing has an added dimension: she uses it to describe how she upcycles an item by covering it in crochet. Some items that Ikea has yarn-bombed are a telephone, high heels and matching clutch, a violin, and her boots.

Ikea doesn’t consider crochet a craft so much as an art form, and she sees a close relationship between art and fashion. “There are so many artists out there crocheting original hats, ponchos, shawls, scarves, etc., which are all a form of fashion,” she says. “Instead of using fabric, we use yarn. This is one of the major reasons I brought crocheting to my fashion class [as a student].”

“The different colors, shapes, designs, and other key factors in art are what make up a crochet pattern or original work. I look at crochet not as a craft but as just another medium in art; instead of using a paintbrush and paint, I’m using my hook and my yarn.”

freestyle crocheted shoe

Crochet in Art School

The fashion class is one Ikea took at Arts High School, which was established in 1931 as the first visual- and performing-arts high school in the United States. Although there have been struggles over the years to keep the arts supported, the school is going strong. Ikea is an example of its success.

“Throughout my high school career, I was introduced to different art techniques, such as etching, ceramics, scratch art, sculpture, drawing, and painting, which benefited me in numerous ways,” Ikea says. “As a senior, I was able to go on my own path and decide what I wanted to do. I chose to crochet with an emphasis on bridging the gap between crocheting and fashion.” Ikea credits one of her teachers, Jackson Lenochan, for helping guide her as she explored this area of art.

Her freestyle crochet art was well received by her classmates, who watched her crochet in class. Ikea loved sharing the accessibility of the craft with them. Some were encouraged to learn, and several suggested that crochet be offered as an art class to future students.

Moving Forward

Ikea has also explored other work in freestyle crochet. She has crocheted two dresses, a bathing suit, a mask, and a portrait of her brother. Ikea hopes to continue pushing the boundaries of her own skills and creativity in crochet. She is excited for people to see what she does and hopes to be able to reach a wide international audience with her crochet work in the future. It will be exciting to see what this representative of the up-and-coming generation does for the world of crochet.

This article originally appeared in Interweave Crochet Fall 2013.

All photos by Ikea Vandross.

KATHRYN VERCILLO is the author of Crochet Saved My Life (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012). She blogs at www.crochetconcupiscence.com.


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