Tunisian Crochet Love with Dora Ohrenstein

One of the perks of my job is the opportunity it gives me to meet and  visit with amazing crochet designers. They are a lot like the rest of us. They have a passion for crochet, and they are easily excited by a new crochet technique or inspiration.

I wanted to give you the chance to meet some of these designers as well. So without further ado, I would like to introduce our first crochet designer, Dora Ohrenstien to tell you about her journey with Tunisian crochet.

— Toni

Dora in her Rainbow Tunisian Jacket  

Dora Ohrenstein on Tunisian Crochet

How do I love Tunisian crochet? Let me count the ways:

1. I love how it adds a whole new set of textures, structures, and rhythms to the crochet vocabulary.

  Striped Tunisian Jacket

2. I love that it works with any kind of yarn, even thick or textured yarns.

3. I love that it's relatively unknown and needs promotion.

4. I love that it's versatile and can produce thick sturdy fabric as well as lacy fine fabric.

When I first got serious about crochet, in the two thousand aughts, there were very few new books, so I collected used ones I found on the web. One, a Bernat book from the nineteen seventies, was full of gorgeous Tunisian fashions. I immediately made the Rainbow Tunisian Jacket, one of the first free patterns offered at my website, with a pile of gorgeous yarns from Berocco. Then I made an assymetrical Striped Tunisian Jacket with a beautiful bulky Skacel Yarn, and it made the cover of a Danish magazine-my first cover!

The New Tunisian Crochet  

The fabulous drape of that jacket, even though it was made with bulky yarn, convinced me of how apt Tunisian crochet is for garments. And yet, it's been associated with heavy duty afghans for so long that few people realize its hidden possibilities. This set me on a mission to rehabilitate Tunisian crochet from its mistaken reputation!

  Purple Smoothie Vest, Interweave Crochet,
Fall 2011

In 2011, I got the chance to write a whole book on Tunisian crochet for Interweave. The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs for Time-Honored Traditions, to be published in Spring 2013, allowed me to delve into Tunisian Crochet even more deeply. Pouring over nineteenth century books, I found stitches I'd never seen before and an intriguing antique pattern by the great Mlle Riego, which I converted to modern crochet terms. A Japanese stitch dictionary helped expand my vocabulary of stitches, particularly of lace stitches, and more stitches were found in older stitch dictionaries that I've collected over the years.

Probably the most difficult thing in the book was to work out the terminology for Tunisian-completely unstandardized!! With the help of my editors, Kim Werker and Karen Manthey, we did it and present over thirty different stitches, along with a dozen gorgeous patterns by the likes of Doris Chan, Vashti Braha, Margaret Hubert, and other first class designers.

Katharine Vest, Interweave Crochet,
Winter 2009

The Lorelei Sweater on the cover is my design, using one of the historic stitches, found in Encyclopedia of Victorian Needlework, by S.F.A. Caulfield. Even the Victorians knew that Tunisian crochet could be used to make lace-though they called it Tricot, not Tunisian. By the way, it's highly unlikely that the technique originated in Tunisia, or anywhere in North Africa. The first patterns appear in British publications in the second half of the 19th century.

  Shimmer Cardigan, Interweave Crochet,
Winter 2010

The wealth of previously neglected stitches, now available to anyone who loves Tunisian crochet, means there will be lots of new looks in crochet in the future. Talented designers are pushing Tunisian even further. This is a craft where the adage—"Nothing new under the sun"—is false. We've come a long way, and we've got a lot farther to go before we run out of new ideas.

— Dora Ohrenstein (www.crochetinsider.com)




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