My daughter undertook an exploratory video of me making a crocheted satchel bag in spring 2020. This is a video which will always hold a special place in my heart: it represents a few weeks of being in flow, in our elements, creatively working together as a team. It's amazing how much work went into making a short five-minute video of making a simple crocheted bag!
Crochet & Kudzu: Subject & Setting
Beth had already chosen videography as her final project for her junior year at Acton Academy, but we were also stuck at home due to the coronavirus. So she decided to make lemonade of lemons, using what she had at hand: our five-acre yard and a mom who's always working on a project, in this case a crocheted bag pattern I made up on the fly.
She chose to film outside based on several factors that may or may not have had anything to do with our house being a mess. Outdoor lighting is generally more beautiful and in our case didn't require any special equipment. Our land, which is full of kudzu, is largely devoid of the man-made, and we wanted to keep the video uncluttered and natural. There were plenty of water oaks for filtered light, kudzu vines, and a variety of plants like moss, clover and kudzu for textural variety. Did I mention we have kudzu?
Natural Styling & Props
Stylistically where props were concerned, we tried to avoid using mass-produced or synthetic items. We selected a handmade stool brought back from a family trip to Nicaragua, cotton yarn, baskets, a wooden loom, plant-based dyes, and glass, metal, and bamboo containers. She wanted to give the video a more timeless feel, although my Converse sneakers probably didn't help...
Filming a Video of Making a Crocheted Bag: What Could Go Wrong?
Once the setting and subject were determined, I gave Beth a detailed list of the chronological steps in the textile project. She organized and envisioned the rest. I was just a crocheter, weaver, and mad (dye) scientist who occasionally had to pause or repeat something for her shot. This was her project.
There were some minor obstacles. Although filming outside in the spring helped with lighting, there was an endless stream of train whistles, plane engines and neighborhood dog conversations. In the end, Beth decided to reduce the ambient sounds and use a music track. There were also delays from rainy days, waiting for me to finish the weaving (it takes longer than it looks), and our cat deciding the yarn definitely needed to die.
I am not a chemist.
Finally, there was (SPOILER) the dye-chemistry issue. I used commercial dyes in college, but during a pandemic I wanted to try what I had in my yard. I did what I thought was tons of research and discovered that I had chosen the most difficult fiber to dye naturally: cotton. Because, well, that's what I do. So I decided to throw everything at it. I pre-treated the natural, cream-colored cotton with sumac (not the poison kind) for the tannin pre-mordant and alum for the mordant. Mordants give the dye something to 'stick' to.
I then used a blackberry dye bath, resulting in a strong rose color that held fast during thorough rinsing and wringing. A final calcium carbonate soak was supposed to set the color. Within 30 seconds of submerging the bag into the solution, every bit of red came out into the water. If it hadn't been so horrifying, I would have been mesmerized. (I'm sure a dyer with much more natural-dyeing experience could weigh in on what happened). The end color was a cool gray with no trace of the original cream color. It was pretty but definitely not pink. This probably made the video's conclusion a bit confusing surprising.
Video Equipment & Editing in HitFilm Express
By and large, the technology aspects of filming and editing the video went well. In addition to her Pixel 3a, which takes beautiful video, Beth used the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 gimbal on a tripod. This nifty gadget enabled her to control her phone's tilt, pan, zoom and focus without touching the phone. It also allowed her to get free hand shots that were smooth and level.
Beth used video editing software Hitfilm Express with purchased add-ons. Due to a few previously failed attempts to get other software to play nice with our existing hardware, she ended up with only a few days to learn enough of the features to complete the video by the deadline. She added music, which she would vary some next time, and a few explanatory captions.
Soft Skills Are Essential
Regardless of the medium, soft skills are essential to any successful collaborative project. Beth was highly focused and organized during the filming sequence and post-production film editing. She was patient with me and the process, not settling for mediocrity but also having a sense of when it was time to move on. Despite barking dogs, noisy trains and unexpected dye results, she was able to keep her sense of humor. She was a quick study when it came to learning software and hardware and took the initiative in seeking online advice when she hit a snag.
Anyone in our family will tell you that while I'm usually patient and diplomatic, I'm not shy with constructive critique. I was genuinely impressed with Beth's first attempt at filming a video. We had a blast working together, found another creative outlet, and developed a new appreciation for how much work goes into making a simple video or film. We hope you enjoy watching the finished video: