Scrumbling for Ireland
by Bairbre Guilfoyle
Recently my sister, Eithne, and I set off for Mulranny in Co mayo to attend a week-end workshop in Freeform Knitting and Crochet (FKC) Neither of us really knew what FKC was but it was a week-end away and we were both excited to find something new to learn. The workshop leader was a lovely Australian lady called Prudence Mapstone. While Prudence doesn’t claim to have ‘invented’ FKC she is definitely an expert in it and has published more than one book on the techniques involved.
The workshop was being held in The Essence of Mulranny Craft Retreat, and a few weeks earlier, Cheryl, who organised the workshop, sent the participants a list of supplies to bring along – needles and crochet hooks between 3 and 5mm, and small quantities of yarn in a variety of weights and textures. And while we were told to bring about 15 different yarns, it was suggested we decide on a particular ‘colour palette’ rather than a hodge-podge of colours. I, of course, just shoved about 30 different half balls of yarn into a bag and hoped I’d be able to sort out a ‘colour palette’ when we got there. Eithne, being far more organised than me, arrived with her yarns divided neatly up into bags of, not only different colours but different shades of colours. You’d never guess we were both Virgos.
So what is FKC? Well simply put, it involves the creation of random shapes or ‘scrumbles’ of knitting and crochet which are then joined together to make garments. The scrumbles themselves are made up of smaller patches of knitting and crochet of various colours, yarns, stitches and styles.
Scrumbling doesn’t require anything but the most basic knitting and crochet skills – which is just as well since, although I’m an experienced knitter, my crochet skills are non-existent. Prior to the workshop, I’d only ever crocheted hideous granny-squares as a young child, holding the yarn in the wrong hand and knowing only one stitch. Heading to Mulranny I couldn’t have told you the difference between a double crochet and a hole in the wall and, to be honest, I didn’t really care. My thinking about crochet has always been, it’s great for edgings and embellishment but lacks the drape and versatility of knitting when it comes to creating larger garments.
Having done the workshop and learned the difference between a double crochet and a hole in the wall, I have a newfound respect for the craft. But I still think it’s best suited to edgings and embellishments (I know, I know – crocheters want to take me out and shoot me).
So, on to the workshop. The first evening we looked at gorgeous sample garments and talked about basic garment construction and colour palettes. As I rooted around in my grab-bag of yarns I was astonished to find that I’d unconsciously selected a colour palette when packing the night before as what I had with me were mostly pinks, purples and blues. Shoving the odd balls of cream and red back in the bag I set about constructing my first Freeform masterpiece.
Over the next two days, in between gorgeous meals and walks on the stunning local beaches, I learned how to do singles, doubles and half doubles, crabstitch, scallops, bullions, rings and half-rings, spirals and corkscrews. I learned how to fill in corners of varying angles and how to create raised edges to give depth. I learned that you never have to rip out a scrumble as everything can be used or amended later on. That last bit was a relief when you consider some of the monstrosities I managed to put together.
Here’s one I prepared earlier ☺
While there are no ‘rules’ as such with FKC, Prudence did give us ‘suggestions’ for successful scrumbling – the careful use of contrasting colours, and light patches against dark, avoiding stocking stitch patches because of the way they curl, doing scallops of crochet from the wrong side. She also suggested sewing/crocheting in the ends of yarn as you go to save a mammoth job at the end AND to make it easier to work the scrumbles.
I have to mention my fellow-scrumblers, the majority of whom were on a ten-day trip over from the States, organised by Cheryl of EOM. They were a delightful group of talented, friendly and entertaining women who were very welcoming to the five ‘locals’ who piggy-backed onto their workshop. They came from all corners of the US; from Alaska to California and were so pleased to be in Ireland. They complimented everything and didn’t even complain about the weather!
Having said that, the weather WAS spectacular that week-end and you couldn’t have found a better place to spend it. Mulranny, if you don’t know it, is on the road to Achill and overlooks Clew bay. Each morning, when I opened my bedroom curtains, I was greeted with a stunning view across the water to Croagh Patrick. It’s the best way to start a day.
The Essence of Mulranny Craft Retreat also deserves a mention. It’s owned and run by Cheryl Coburn Browne, who’s originally from SA but is married to an Irish man and has been a long-time citizen of Ireland. She opened the centre as a place for craft groups, local and overseas, to come and stay and practice/learn crafts. She herself is a keen craftswoman and took the workshop with us.
The accommodation and food are top-class and the custom-built studio space is every craftsperson’s dream
So how did I feel about the workshop when it was over? Talking about it with Eithne on the way home, we both agreed we couldn’t find fault with a single aspect of the weekend; great location, great accommodation, great food, great company, great teaching. As to whether we’ll ever scrumble again? I’m not sure I will. It’s obvious to me that I have the sort of brain that likes order and FKC is just a little too disordered for me to feel comfortable with it. However, I always enjoy learning something new and even if I never make another scrumble I know I will use the crochet stitches in other ways. Eithne, however, has already made a few more scrumbles, and while she’s not sure she’ll ever make a full-sized garment, she can certainly see herself making a bag or small throw.
So at least there’s one person who’s happy to scrumble for Ireland.
Bairbre Guilfoyle is a Dublin based knitter, who enjoys a coffee and knitting in Dublin’s cafes.
Copyright 2010. Not to be reprinted without permission of the author, Bairbre Guilfoyle.