Queen of colour
Icelandic textile designer Tinna Thórudóttir Thorvaldsdóttir injects colour and creativity into her crochet patterns and her CALs

Tinna’s distinctive style features a liberal use of colour within a mosac crochet framework

What do Iceland, Havana, Cuba and Granada all have in common? Despite the thousands of miles between them, these locations have all provided inspiration to crocheter Tinna Thórudóttir Thorvaldsdóttir, resulting in her vibrant afghans, shawls, purses and bags. Tinna has a passion for mosaic stitch – a technique based on the Apache Tears Stitch from the seventies, which she has reintroduced into her modern mosaic designs. A tireless organiser of CALs, Tinna currently boasts over 20,000 YouTube subscribers, and she also has published three Icelandic crochet books.

While Tinna is currently based in Reykjavík with her two sons, her travels and stays abroad have all been part of the inspiration of her crochet designs, “I would mostly seek inspiration in my Icelandic heritage and traditional textiles, and I still do sometimes. Lately I’ve been more inspired by cities. My first mosaic crochet project, the Havana Afghan, was obviously inspired by Havana the city, where I have lived on and off for the last 14 years. There I wanted to capture the fact that in Havana you have such a crazy collage of different vibrant colours and patterns everywhere you look, which then somehow makes one beautiful whole. So, I designed my Havana afghan with that in mind. My Terrazzo afghan came to be after visiting Granada and the breathtaking Alhambra palace. I’m absolutely fascinated by the mosaic tiles and ceramics of Andalusia and for me they are an endless inspiration.”

CRAFT CULTURE

Textile work using yarn might seem an obvious hobby for Icelanders, simply as a practical option for layering up with cosy garments in the country’s cold climate, but Tinna explains that it’s actually celebrated for another reason, “In Iceland work is considered a virtue, so the culture here is that you should always be working or producing something,” she says. “I was taught that this is a way of showing your love to your family, to knit them socks in winter and then mend them the next autumn. That’s what my grannies did. And it’s a custom that I have kept as I grew up and had my own family. I often think of my grandmothers as I crochet.”

Crocheting in Iceland also has another bonus – the incredible yarn. “I prefer working with natural fibres,” says Tinna. “My favourite is wool, but I also love working with cotton/ wool blends, and obviously wool/silk blends are just glorious. We are so lucky in Iceland that here the cheapest yarn available is 100% Icelandic wool, as a result of there being more sheep living here than people! This is our traditional textile material, it’s even available in many supermarkets, and I don’t remember having ever worked with anything else until I was over 25!

“I must admit, that now I have got to know merino wool, and all kinds of juicy alpaca and silk blends, I don’t work as much with Icelandic wool as before as it’s a bit coarse to the touch before washing, but I still use our unspun Plötulopi quite a lot and absolutely love working with that. It comes in big 100g cakes and is unbelievably light and airy. If you are not used to working with it, it may be a bit scary, because it breaks very easily. But, because it’s unspun, it’s just as easy to twist it back together and continue stitching. Traditionally it’s used a lot with two or three threads held together, but my favourite is just working it single ply – there’s nothing that comes close to it really, so light and airy, but still warm. Which is of course essential here!”

PERFECT PALETTE

Besides her yarn choices, it’s her gloriously vibrant use of colour which has become something of a distinctive feature in Tinna’s work – an aspect she revels in. “Colours come very naturally to me. I just understand and know colours. And they give me great joy,” she says. “When starting out designing, I remember sometimes trying to tone myself down in my colour use,” she recalls. “I love big, bright, neon colours, and lots of them all mixed up! And I am fully aware that this is not everyone’s cup of tea! So, I would try and think, ‘what would other people like?’ and well, just as in life, I’ve found nothing good will come of this!

“COLOURS COME VERY NATURALLY TO ME. I JUST UNDERSTAND AND KNOW COLOURS”

“My Havana afghan was actually the turning point. I first published that pattern in my Havana crochet book back in 2016, and when choosing the colours for it, I found myself toning myself down, choosing only two colours for each pattern, and mostly some rather muted colours. The result is lovely, but it wasn’t really me. After publishing the book I decided to make another Havana and this time it was just for me, personally. My bedspread. Then I didn’t have to please anyone else, just myself, so I just went with my gut and used pretty much just all the colours. The brighter the better. And lo and behold, everyone flipped out over that one and liked it much better than the one where I was trying to tone myself down. So, after that I just stopped listening to anything but my own heart when it comes to colours. And wow, it’s so much more fun!“

The idiosyncratic nature of Tinna’s designs can also be seen in her use of mosaic stitch – something she discovered five years ago when she came across the Apache Tears blanket online. “I started to play with it and quickly realised that when using two contrasting colours, you can make up literally any pattern you like with it! It’s absolutely amazing!” she enthuses. “I designed my first two mosaic patterns back in 2015 and since 2016, I’ve worked almost exclusively with this technique. It’s just so much fun and so very versatile, I don’t need anything else. And I feel I still have a lot more to explore and discover.”

ONLINE FAMILY

Like the idea of trying out Tinna’s designs yourself? She gives crocheters around the world a helping hand via the popular CALs that she runs – in fact she’s only recently finished holding a ‘Fiesta’ CAL, with video introductions and tutorials for everyone to learn from. “This year is my first time hosting a CAL in my own crochet group on Facebook, Tinna’s Crochet Club, and we’re having such fun there! That best part about my job, besides crocheting all day long, is seeing all the different versions people make with my patterns. I love it. And since it’s a relatively small group still, it’s so close and personal. Everyone is welcome to join, so please do!”

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