Moorit Magazine

Hello! Today I’m really excited to be part of the magnificent MOORIT MAGAZINE blog tour. Yesterday the blog tour stopped by Eline who wrote about this project on her IG as @emmyandlien, and tomorrow it will continue with Chrissie who is @chrissie_crafts there. I wanted a bigger chat than would fit in the little squares of that platform, so we are here today!

This tour coincides with the Kickstarter campaign launched to fund Moorit – a forthcoming crochet magazine conceived by crochet designer, podcaster, MA in Publishing graduate and BIPOC-in-Fiber web-designer, Alyson Chu. (Yes, Alyson did design the amazing Puffin cushion with which she is pictured here.)

Alyson Chu holding amazing crocheted puffin cushion of her own design

Alyson has conceived Moorit Magazine as a means to elevate and uplift crochet, and to give crocheters more of the same choices and representation currently enjoyed by knitters in the craft community:

…crochet often feels like the neglected younger sister to knitting. It can seem like yarn events and stores cater largely for knitters, leaving us crocheters with less thoughtfully curated options. And when it comes to print publications— there are a number of high-end knitting magazines, but where are the high-end crochet magazines?! Moorit aims to redress this imbalance once and for all!

Moorit reached its initial funding target in less than 48 hours, proving that the magazine Alyson wants to publish is very much wanted. Although the project is now well over its funding target, you can still support it here and all funds will help Moorit to scale up to meet its obvious popularity and demand.

As is implied by the KNIT in KNITSONIK, I am far more familiar with the world of KNIT than of crochet! However, I do know a bit about what it means to want to make a certain sort of publication, and needing the support of the community to make that happen. I was also intrigued by Alyson’s vision to merge her love of crochet with a sense of place in Scotland, where she lives; and her woolly focus for this magazine, as implied by its wonderfully sheepy name. I really enjoyed learning more from Alyson about where she wants to take this project, and hope you’ll enjoy our conversation too!

FF: Hi Alyson, it’s so great to have you on the KNITSONIK blog and I’m so happy to see your Kickstarter doing so well! Last time I saw you – at Unravel, 2020 – you were wearing a glorious shawl which I later identified (when I stalked it online, ahem…) as Temperamental Artist by Kat Goldin of The Crochet Project.

closep of amazing stitch-pattern in crocheted design, Temperamental Artist

I was completely beguiled by the intriguing stitch texture – such a lovely balance of delicacy and structure! – that I picked up the necessary tools to learn the Tunisian Crochet technique used in this shawl myself: I wanted to see if I could figure out enough of the skills required to make this design. Could you tell us about the design that got you into crochet?

AC: I fell into crochet a bit by accident when I was studying for my Masters in London. I wanted to find a new hobby and I could easily have picked up knitting needles rather than a crochet hook at my local craft shop. But for some mysterious and unknown reason, I bought a hook. I think the design that signified my jump into the deep end of crochet was the Carolyn Top by Joanne Scrace (who incidentally, is the other half of The Crochet Project).

Alyson Chu wearing her lovely finished Carolyn Top

It was the first garment I made, and it opened my eyes to a world of crochet beyond amigurumi and homeware. From there it was a rapid journey of crochet discovery. I learned the basics of Tunisian crochet with Sol Rencoret’s Cobbled Street Cowl, and I realised how absolutely completely stunning crochet could be when I saw the Hotel of Bees Shawl by Christina Hadderingh. It remains one of my favourite shawl designs.

Hotel of Bees crochet shawl pattern

FF: When I used Kickstarter several years ago to fund the production of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, I really wanted to make the book I wished I’d had when I first started designing colourwork based on everyday inspirations. Reading your campaign and watching your video, it really feels like, similarly, Moorit will be the crochet magazine you wish you could already buy. Could you describe a little bit your process of noticing the gap in crochet publishing, and your journey from spotting that gap to deciding you would do something about it?

AC: I’d already noticed the difference between knitting and crochet books that are widely available. One of my LYS has a shelf of crochet books, but for the most part it’s limited to learn how to crochet introductory guides, stitch dictionaries, amigurumi and home decor. Turn to the knitting section and you find similar offerings, but also wonderful sweaters and shawls, hats and mittens. So I soon gave up on finding the crochet patterns I wanted in the pages of books.

As I became more familiar with the knitting world, through my mom who is my Keep Calm and Carry Yarn podcast co-host and an avid knitter, and also through working on BIPOC in Fiber with Jeanette Sloan, a talented knit designer, the names of indie knitting magazines began swirling around my consciousness. At the moment I have copies of Amirisu, Laine, Making, Making Stories and Pompom on my desk. They’re all lovely, insanely gorgeous high-quality magazines, and varied in their target audience, from strictly knitting to more general crafting. But at the end of the day, they’re not magazines for crocheters. And as someone who can count the number of things I’ve knit in my entire life on one hand, I would love more than anything to be able to pick up a beautiful magazine with beautiful patterns that was made just for me, a crocheter.

I’m not sure when, but at some point I reached a turning point where the thought became more than just a thought. It kept me up at night; when normally I can fall asleep in five minutes, suddenly my brain just wouldn’t turn off with ideas. I think, only in the dark and quiet of my bed was I allowing myself to entertain the notion. Then I remembered something I said to myself when I decided to message Jeanette Sloan to ask if she wanted my help to build her POC Designers and Crafters list into a new resource. “If not me, then who else?” I can’t wait for someone else to make this magazine because what if they never do? I can only control what I do.

FF: I love the name you’ve chosen for the magazine – Moorit – it’s one of my favourite sheepy words (and colours!) for who can argue with the lovely warm gingerbread tones of a Moorit sheep and its fleece? But I also love this word because it seems you’re leading with a really WOOLLY – and also specifically Scottish – focus from the outset. I wonder if you could say something about bringing the woolly heritage where you live, in Edinburgh, together with a focus on crochet?

AC: My first job in Edinburgh was working at a blanket company, so straight out of the door I was being introduced into Scotland’s “woolly heritage”, as you put it. Only a small number of blankets at that company were actually woven in Scotland, but unsurprisingly those that were woven in Scotland were woven in the Borders. In the mid 19th century, the Borders was a powerhouse of Scottish woollen mills. Even with so many of those mills gone today, you’re reminded of the industry’s heyday everytime you walk the Royal Mile; wool is ever present. It’s there in tourists shops in tartan scarves and blankets. It’s there in Highland dress and kiltmakers in 8 yard kilts and tweed jackets.

I hope you’ll forgive me for brushing past the many Scottish knitting traditions – those have been covered so well and so richly in other places! – But what I can tell you is that crochet has a special connection to Scotland too. Although it is a younger craft than knitting, the origin of crochet is highly speculative. However one of the earliest written references to crochet is from Elizabeth Grant’s published diaries, The Memoirs of a Highland Lady.

In the 1810s she writes about “shepherd’s knitting” which “was done with a little hook which she manufactured for herself out of the tooth of an old tortoise-shell comb.” Shepherd’s knitting is a form of slip stitch crochet which is probably the oldest form of crochet as it’s the simplest stitch.

Elizabeth Grant pictured with her craft, wearing a shawl; author of The Memoirs of a Highland Lady

Even though the crochet featured in Moorit won’t look much like its 19th century counterparts, I like to think of Moorit as just the latest iteration of a Scottish crochet lineage.

FF: I was looking on Ravelry and through doing an advanced pattern search, I found that there are roughly 390,000 crochet patterns in the database for which 221,600 call for acrylic or cotton to be used… which I make roughly 56%, with only 53,200 crochet patterns calling for wool… which I make roughly 13%.

By contrast, of the 625,000 knitting patterns in the database, it seems 175,000 call for acrylic or cotton – about 28%… but 352,000 call for wool or merino, which I make around 56%. On the Campaign for Wool website, a search for Crochet brings up 4 pages of hits, while a search for Knitting brings up 10. Wool in Scotland seems to me overwhelmingly associated with – as you say, kilts and blankets and tweed – but also with strong hand-knitting traditions like Fair Isle Knitting; Shetland lace and Hap Shawls. Indeed, in my mind Edinburgh is also strongly connected with the birth of written knitting and crochet instructions, because of Jane Gaugain. Jane lived in Edinburgh and circulated and published knitting and crochet instructions there through the 1830s and 40s and her Edinburghian context was the focus for this amazing piece of writing by my friend Kate Davies of KDD&Co.

Mrs. Gaugain's crochet D'Oyley No. 18

It’s really exciting to see companies like KDD&Co., The Border Mill, The Birlinn Yarn Co., Shetland Wool Week and so many other amazing enterprises building on, but also reaching beyond, Scottish textile traditions and towards new ways of making truly glorious things from local wool. So I think the specifically woolly angle of Moorit is fantastic. I appreciate you’re not planning to make the magazine specifically Scottish in focus, but I think there’s a very rich context for a new sort of crochet magazine which speaks to what’s happening with wool in Scotland right now; there are so many wonderful woolly things already happening in Scotland and it feels like there is space for more of that to include crochet.

AC: This! My data analyst heart is singing! Just to add to your figures as well, only 3% of crochet patterns call for solely 100% wool yarns compared to 20% of knitting patterns. Similarly for Merino or Merino/nylon the divide is 2% versus 22%. And if you broaden the scope to look at all animal derived fibres, less than 6% of crochet patterns qualify, but nearly 50% of knitting patterns fit those parameters.

It’s such a perfect illustration of how crochet is perceived. I think a lot of non-crocheters have a hard time imagining crochet beyond acrylic granny square blankets from the 70s. And okay, the numbers back this acrylic narrative, but that only scratches the surface of what crochet can be. Besides the incredible versatility of crochet stitches, there’s absolutely no reason to limit it to acrylic and cotton.

If anyone is crocheting something that’s meant to keep them warm, whether that’s just a hat or a whole sweater, wool does the job. It’s no different than knitting in that regard. Of course, there are plenty of crocheters who are already crocheting in wool and other animal fibres. And I think there is a shift happening right now toward redefining what crochet can be, and elevating people’s expectation of the craft. I want Moorit to be part of that, and showing crochet worked in wool will be part of that process.

It doesn’t hurt that there’s so much good wool to be had in Scotland either! I hope Moorit will feature a wide variety of yarn suppliers and dyers from around the UK, and of course some of those will be from my own backyard. The Border Mill, a small fibre processing mill which also produces their own range of yarns, was an early supporter of the magazine—they provided yarn for a giveaway last year. I’d also love to be able to work with Iona Wool, Black Isle Yarns, and Birlinn Yarn Company… just to name a few.

Gorgeous woolly yarns from The Birlinn Yarn Company, shown in context against an old map of Scotland

I love that I am lucky enough to live in Scotland. It’s so beautiful here and has such a sense of place. In 1844, Frances Lambert wrote that crochet was “originally practised by the peasants in Scotland…” and while Moorit isn’t exactly a Scottish magazine, I want Moorit to reflect a Scottish legacy. Be it embracing the materiality of wool, finding inspiration in Scotland’s natural places or learning from the innovation of Scottish design.

My crochet sampler - "Crochet - a species of knitting originally practised by the peasants in Scotland..."

FF: Hurrah for work which helps us celebrate a rich sense of place! Thanks so much for stopping by on the KNITSONIK blog today, to share a bit more of your vision for MOORIT MAGAZINE; I wish you all the very best with it and feel inspired now to dig out my Tunisian Crochet hook!

Thanks for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed this and, as I said up top, if you’d like to help this project get off the ground, you can still contribute to the Kickstarter here.

Until soon,
Felix x

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