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Associated Press
Artist Kaffe Fassett crochets caps later embellished with buttons and beads.

Crochet goes modern

Crocheting these days is so much more than granny squares and chunky Afghan blankets.

It’s leaner and trendier than it was in the 1960s and ’70s, when the craft was known for its bulky, acrylic yarns. Crochet’s enduring popularity is partly due to today’s wide array of high-quality, luxurious yarns – many at affordable prices.

Crochet can be found on high-fashion runways and in upscale home décor. Textile artists such as Kaffe Fassett use it.

But it also can just be fun: Mischievous “yarn bombers” decorate urban landscapes – street signs, trees, even bicycles and cars – in crochet.

It’s never been easier to learn how to wield a crochet hook, thanks to an assortment of books, magazines and online tutorials, the latter of which often are free.

“To me, it’s like painting with stitches,” says Teresa Richardson, 50, of Savannah, Ga., who shares free patterns and video tutorials at her blog, Crochet Geek, begun in 2006. “It’s being able to put out an interpretation of something artistic and creative.”

Her YouTube video tutorials average 75,000 daily views, according to YouTube Analytics. Some viewers request particular patterns, which challenges Richardson and keeps her working 12-hour days.

Carol Alexander, of Berne, has been crocheting since the early 1980s, when she made a toy for her then-unborn son. A crochet-pattern designer for more than 20 years, she’s the executive crochet editor for Crochet! and Crochet World magazines.

Respectful of the craft’s past, Alexander champions what crochet has become: classier, creative and commonplace.

“Crochet has always been the ‘redheaded stepsister’ (to knitting), but not anymore,” says Alexander. “It’s really out there and setting the standards.”

Edie Eckman, co-author of the new “Crochet One-Skein Wonders” (Storey Publishing), agrees that crochet has become more fashionable. “It’s OK to be seen crocheting publicly now,” muses Eckman, of Waynesboro, Va.

New yarns have helped. Appealing blends that include bamboo, silk or alpaca, for example, allow for thinner, softer yarn.

As a result, crocheted pieces can drape more attractively, which is why clothing designers are using more crochet, says Alexander.

The Craft & Hobby Association estimates that 14.7 million Americans crochet, 89 percent of them women.

The traditional and ubiquitous granny square remains popular, but it has been re-envisioned.

“People are using it in the same old ways but in new colors and in smaller yarns,” says Eckman.