Sep 25, 2007

Small, Delicate Things

[originally posted September 25 on my original blog]

I've been working at crochet for more than 16 years, having started sitting up in the attic bedroom of my aunt's house while my grandmother worked on her latch hook masterpieces in the room across the hall. My aunt busied herself with origami, while my uncle worked his paintings. My aunt started me with my first hook and a ball of yarn and introduced me to her Swedish neighbor who showed me the error of my some of my ways. My aunt's neighbor proudly showed off her intricate lacework and I was hooked -- on crochet. All this while on one of my periodic visits up to their rural Minnesota town.

My first project? A ribbed washcloth that I still have and use. I keep it because when I look at it, I am reminded of what a novice I really had been. I thought I had used the traditional SC stitch but found out that I had inserted my hook into the back loop of each stitch--thus the ribbing! I made a few more small things but as my life got busier, what with a new job, new living quarters (twice), taking in my nieces, I kind of forgot about the art, until a few years ago when I bought some yarn that just felt yummy.

I started by making a hat. Actually, I did not start off making a hat but rather, I was trying to teach myself to work in the round. Soon, the "thing" started to curl and before I knew it, I had made something cuplike which fit onto my head. Yeah, yeah, while wondering what to do with this thing, I put it on to see whether it would fit. I decided to make a hat. Of course, without a pattern but that never stopped me before (remember that washcloth?). I crocheted, working it into a shape that somewhat resembled a hat. I made plenty of mistakes but found the chenille yarn was quite forgiving. Even the holes created by missed stitches became buttonholes for decorative buttons that I would add. I stayed up all night and then presented the finished product to my sister. She was sooooo impressed. If only I knew how easy it was to impress the family with something so small, I would never have put down my hooks in the first place.

I discovered that night that I don't like to follow patterns -- I preferred to learn by doing, just like I had tackled everything else -- computers, raising nieces, leading Girl Scouts. At first, I made only small things using nothing more complicated than the SC stitch. But in the intervening years, I realized this could not go on. I needed to learn to read a pattern and to figure out why my SCs looked more like HDCs, and why every straight-sided item (like a scarf or washcloth) was the most lopsided thing of non-beauty. So I took to the books and began asking the experts (I only knew one who's motto is to not be afraid to take it apart and redo). I can read a pattern now, adapting it to my mistakes and bursts of creative what-ifs. I can even make straight edged scarves and afghans.

I tip my hat to those women who patiently answered my what seemed to be inane questions and pointed me in the right direction.

P.S. I still prefer making small, delicate goods, but I have grown to appreciate the warmth of a good afghan.