From bespoke sweaters made from upcycled vintage afghans, to leggings and tops featuring colorful printed granny squares, Ashley Zhong’s Snapdragon Brand is a celebration of crochet. Self-described as a “friendly weirdo” and “obsessive thrifter,” Zhong’s style is exuberant, kitschy, and delightful.
You often use reclaimed vintage crocheted items in your designs. How did you get started in this direction?
I started by restoring some of the wonderful vintage afghans I found at thrift stores. I would buy them in any condition if I liked their style, sometimes with gaping holes, sometimes with rows and rows unraveled. I would sew them back up, hand-remove all the pills, and just enjoy the process of that. Even as a child I was really interested in the idea that they were handmade and from another time, so the process of restoring them was just another way of respecting and appreciating that tradition.
I fell so in love with the pieces I’d been collecting that I decided I wanted to wear them because I felt like it was the best way to enjoy their colors and ensure their frequent use.
How did you learn how to upcycle premade crochet work?
There are endless patterns for making crocheted garments, but very few tutorials for upcycling existing crochet, so I experimented to develop my own system and style.
It is very important to me to use as much of the original afghan as possible and cut as little as possible. By wholly embracing the natural assets of each afghan, I feel like I’m making myself a part of the evolution of the piece, working side by side with the original maker to create something new. The original afghan dictates the new design and that often leads to some rather avant-garde results. If I am working with an afghan made of 12 inch squares, the sleeves will be long and wide, the body and lapels will be oversized and the whole effect will be pleasingly dramatic.
What has been the most surprising thing about working with crochet?
I am constantly surprised by the absolute freedom of crochet. There are absolutely no rules to crochet. You can use any color, material, stitch or technique to make any item imaginable in this world. The only limits on the craft are the limits you put on yourself. Experiment regularly and embrace those things you’ve made that didn’t quite turn out how you wanted—you surely learned something in the process and that has value in itself.
Buy her designs: snapdragonbrand.com
This article was originally printed in Issue 1 of WeCrochet Magazine.