For this week’s edition of my 1970s crochet designer series I want to see what I can find out about Susanna Lewis. She gets a cameo appearance in a couple of my favorite vintage crochet books but not a lot is said about her there. She has some of my favorite designs of the bunch, though.
Susanna Lewis was a young mother living near Pratt Institute in New York in the 1960s/70s. She met some of the crochet artists who would become popular at that time, like Janet Lipkin and Sharron Hedges, when she posted an ad for a babysitter at the school. These designers inspired Susanna to get into the fiber arts. She started with crochet but quickly found her niche in machine loom knitting. By the mid 1970s she was working primarily in wearable art, showing her designs in the popular Julie Schafler Dale gallery. She used a lot of symbolic imagery in her work and also worked text into many of her pieces.
Suzannah Lewis in Creative Crochet
The 1972 crochet book Creative Crochet features a single item from this designer. (Note that in this book her name is spelled Suzannah Lewis.) The piece is an abstract hanging. The dsecription in the book says, “this is a good example of using a variety of yarns to produce a rich, three-dimensional texture. The whole shape, which is four feet long, serves as a bag for the macrame monkey fists”. Macrame monkey fists? I get the feeling from her later work that this was a period when Lewis was just beginning to figure out how crochet and fiber arts fit into her desigh aesthetic.
Susanna Lewis in Art to Wear
Susanna didn’t have work featured in my other favorite 1970s crochet books but she shows up again in the 1980s book Art to Wear. In fact, my favorite crocheted item of hers is shown in this book. It’s her OZ Socks, a pair of Wizard-of-Oz-inspired thigh high socks with ruby red heels. It’s actually a combination of crochet with loom knitting and applique work. She made this piece in 1978 when she was asked to create a piece for The American Craft Museum.
By this time most of the work that Susanna Lewis was doing was actually knit and applique work. The emphasis definitely wasn’t on crochet. But there is one more item featured in Art To Wear that does include crochet with other techniques. It’s a beautiful cape from 1979 called The Moth Cape. I love its motion! Capes and coats were definitely a signature of Lewis’s work around this time.
Susanna’s Sasha Dolls
One of the websites that I found that may show what Susanna is up to today is the Sasha Dolls site. The site says, “These patterns are designed and written by Susanna Lewis, a professional knitwear designer and knitting teacher, writer and lecturer.” I haven’t been able to confim that this is the same designer but with the same name spelling and the same New York location I think it’s a safe guess that it is. There is also a 2011 book about the Sasha Dolls co-authored by Susanna E. Lewis.
Other Knitting Books
In addition to the Sasha Dolls book, there are some recent knitting books by the same author who I suspect is the artist from the 1970s. Lewis was always drawn to machine knitting and those techniques are the focus of these books. One is a 2009 book called Knitting Lace and the other is A Machine Knitter’s Guide to Creating Fabrics: Jacquard, Lace, Intarsia, Ripple, and More, which is an older book published in the mid-80s.