KATE BRUNING’S JOURNAL
Crochet designer and author Kate Bruning tries her hand at watercolours and learns how to combat 'crochet collapse'.
“It’s a strange process that enables creativity to renew itself.”
W e’ve all been singed by creative burnout along the way. Whether crocheting for fun or professionally, there’s often a ditch waiting on the other side of a big project. Sometimes it’s after the frenzy of a handmade Christmas, or the mind-numbing repetition of making 10,721 items for a market stall, but sometimes even making a blanket can do it.
I’ve found myself in ‘the ditch’ many times but most recently, I was there after the completion of my third book in three years. This made me so familiar with it that I began to call it ‘crochet collapse’. Funnily enough, however, it was when I started to understand the stages of crochet collapse that I learned to love it, and to give myself over to this strange process that enables creativity to renew itself.
THE FOUR STAGES OF ’CROCHET COLLAPSE’
Stage one of crochet collapse is sheer, giddy relief. Crochet hook firmly back in its roll, cups of tea consumed in real time, television programmes watched rather than listened to.
Then comes stage two. A fatiguing itch in the hands to crochet with little energy to begin a project or drive to carry it through. A low grade frustration, restlessness and diminished interest, the crochet equivalent to writer’s block. NB This is an extremely important phase, as it’s the drawing back of the arrow in the bow to create the tension in order to shoot you through to the next stage.
Stage three is curiosity! The wind in our creative sails blowing us on to our next endeavour. The moment when you spot a cushion on Instagram and wonder how it would look in a different colour combination.
Finally comes stage four. A rediscovered passion for crochet. Cold cups of tea, a warm and happy house.
TRYING A NEW DIRECTION
I’ve learned to embrace stage two, to harness that tension and point it in a different direction. Last year, when the restlessness kicked in, I signed up to a watercolour class. It was a surprisingly vulnerable position to find myself in. After feeling so accomplished in crochet to the point of holding workshops and teaching others, it was strange to become the student again, working with slow and painstaking strokes, under benevolent scrutiny!
This new skill was absorbing and, to my relief and delight (aka relight), one that could be learned. It required practice and immense kindness to one’s self. It made me study objects, and consider how they really are, as opposed to my
“When the restlessne ss kicked in, I signed up to a class.”
“In the end, it led back to crochet.”
perception of them. Tuesday mornings became a shining light and something to really look forward to.
Then the arrow landed and I had a thought: “How would crochet leaves look with this?” I started to play, adding leaves and flowers that I had made a few months earlier to decorate a watercolour cake. That night, I couldn’t wait to liberate my crochet hook from its roll. Flora and foliage of different colours and varieties multiplied, burying me on the couch in a spring flurry. I kept referring to photos on my phone, suddenly desperate to rekindle the knowledge that I had of the horticultural universe.
After I had created a few small pictures, a conversation with another ex-pat family member reminded me of our shared, nostalgic love for Australian wildflowers. Curiosity prickled its little hooks into me. Could I... should I... would it be possible... to make a big bouquet of Australian wildflowers out of crochet and watercolour? Especially with said family member’s birthday looming.
What a joy it was to make, the culmination of so many skills built by different pathways (including my diploma of horticulture!). I couldn’t have achieved this painting if I had pushed relentlessly through crochet collapse, denying myself a break and change of direction. And of course, in the end, it all led back to crochet!