One of my goals on this site has been to research and archive the available information about amazing crochet designers and artists, especially those from the past who really helped to innovate the craft and bring it to where it is today. I did a series awhile back researching 1970s crochet designers and one of the artists that I profiled at the time was Susan Morrow. I hadn’t been able to find a whole lot of information about her but I shared what I had.
To my surprise, I received a lovely email last month from her sister Claudia. Claudia shared with me that Susan had continued making crochet art through the the 1980s and into the early 1990s. Sadly she passed away about seven years ago from an asthma attack (which especially touches my heart since I have asthma myself). Claudia has been storing much of Susan’s old artwork during this time. She said she’d be happy to tell me more about the work if I was still interested (which of course I was!) As it turned out, she lives in the Bay Area as well so we met up at a beautiful Berkeley cafe and spent a lovely hour or two looking at a few of Susan’s crochet art pieces. Claudia shared a lot about her sister, who sounds like she was a lovely creative spirit, and it was truly, truly a special experience for me.
I learned that Susan moved to New York almost as soon as she was old enough to be on her own. She lived in The Village for decades and loved every bit of it. She was creative in so many different ways (as is her sister and so was their mother). She originally wanted to be a Broadway dancer but that didn’t quite pan out so she spent her life doing other types of artwork including poetry writing and of course crochet.
It was amazing to have the opportunity to look at some of Susan Morrow’s crochet artwork up close. So many of the things I know about 1970s crochet from reading about it and talking to people about it really came alive for me when I got the chance to look at the details of her work. She was skilled with color as well as texture and it was profound for me to look at that.
I eyed the different types of stitches – loops, bobbles and more traditional sc, dc, etc. – and I remembered how so much of the design work that we take for granted in our crochet patterns today was truly innovated by the makers of that era.
I eyed the different yarn textures and imagined how difficult it was to try to source those different types of yarns at that time. Today I can walk into any yarn store and have more choices – color, texture, style, weight, yardage – than I could ever know what to do with. I could hop online and find the rarest of fibers and have them delivered to my home within days. But of course it wasn’t like that then. Claudia shared that Susan had a few particular companies that she sourced yarn from and that it was tough for her to find what she wanted.
What I most loved among the pieces that I saw were Susan’s true art pieces – crocheted fabric designed to hang on the wall. There was a large multi-piece stuffed artwork that was impressive to behold although my very favorite was a non-stuffed wall hanging that she’d gifted to Claudia awhile back. I also saw a few slides of her crocheted food placemats, work that pre-dated some of the popular crochet food art from today.
By the 1980s or so Susan, like most of the artists I’ve researched from that era, began making more wearable crochet items. I was able to see one of the hats that she did in Hard Crochet style although most of her many, many hats were crocheted in the soft style we’re familiar with today. Although I don’t have any photos to share, I was lucky to get a chance to see many, many slides of these amazing crochet art sweaters that Susan created. I loved their geometric shapes and bold colors – true 1980s style with her own unique flair. Susan also crocheted many different art pillows at that time. These were the things that people were more likely to purchase, of course, since there is such a limited market for hanging crochet wall art and an artist does have to try to make a living.
It was so special to get to see her artwork up close. And I was so happy to hear that Susan continued creating for so many years. Claudia shared memories of her sister and what struck me most was that she sounds like a woman who was full of life, full of laughter, full of inspiration and self-expression. I am so glad that some of her work has been preserved.