Status Update: In a Relationship with Crochet

Like any good American child, I have been trained to bring my art projects home and give them to my mom. I happen to have a great relationship with her. When I decided to make my first crochet project, I planned to make it for my mom, of course.  Using the yarn, I bought on my first shopping trip. I had worked my way through all of the cranberry yarn and had added the dusty rose yarn to my project. I had this seven-foot long by one-foot wide crocheted project. I had a crochet project! I could have stopped there, it would have made a great scarf, but I decided that I had to make my mom a blanket.

Within months of obtaining my driving learner’s permit, having spent almost no time behind the wheel within those months, my dad, my brother and I went on a road trip. Yes, I learned how to drive on a cross-country road trip. It seems fitting for my life that I decided that my first crochet project should be a blanket. I wanted to jump into crochet with both feet, no straddling the fence, go big or go home, bigger is better, insert additional commitment catch phrase here. I wanted swim in the deep end of the crochet lake.

You may not want to be in the deep end, that’s fine, you can choose your relationship status with crochet. If you want to date but don’t want something serious, crochet is cool with that. If you to hit-it and quit-it, only making one project, crochet is cool with that. But I knew that crochet was not a one-night stand for me, I was in a committed relationship from that very first stitch. Even if my stitches looked like kindergarten handwriting.

It turns out that I would be committed to my first crochet project for three years. It is the lengthiest project I have ever completed. Most projects don’t take that long to finish, graciously. Now I have a rule of thumb that I have to finish projects within a year. Do you set a timeline to complete projects? What is the longest time you spent working on a project? Tell me about it.

“Whenever, Wherever”: The Origins of Chelsea Crochets Around the City

One of the most attractive features of crochet as an art is its portability. Just think about carrying a canvas, paint brushes, and paints with you so that you could paint whenever you had time or inspiration struck, not something that could easily be accomplished. Crocheting requires only a hook and a ball of yarn. I had worked my first project, with the Vanna’s Choice yarn, into just a few single crochet rows before I took the project on the road. I was asked to watch a friend’s kid, while my friend had a night out. After completing the night time routine, the kid in bed, I grabbed the yarn and continued crocheting. This was the beginning of what I now call “Chelsea Crochets Around the City”.

It started small, bringing my crochet with me when I knew I would be waiting somewhere, like the DMV or a doctor’s office. Then I brought yarn with me to school and crocheted in my college classes. I create more crochet in my college classes than just about anywhere else. Soon I was crocheting at friend’s houses, at home while watching TV, out at the movies, if I was sitting (and I didn’t have homework to do) I was crocheting. I was living in D.C. and I saw a woman knitting on the metro and I couldn’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me to crochet on the metro. When I pack for a trip, my checklist includes enough yarn for the length of the trip, sometimes this requires a second suitcase, just for yarn. It’s like Shakira said “Whenever, wherever, we’re meant to be together, I’ll be there and you’ll be near…”.

Do you carry your hobby around with you? If you crochet, where do you crochet? Are you a crochet at home only person? Or are you like me and take your crochet everywhere? Tell me about it.

A, B, Crochet: Learning to Crochet is like Learning to Write

Learning to crochet is like learning to write. When you first start holding a pencil in your young hand it is strange. By the time you learn to write you have likely used a fork, spoon, knife, crayon, marker, but previous to that point you haven’t been asked to use that kind of dexterity; to use your fine motor skills to create letters on a paper with a pencil. I have always felt that writing is one of the most human of things and when I write, I am awed by the ability. The ability to crochet fills me with similar sense of wonderment.

Remember the number of “a’s” that you had to write before your hand just simply wrote an “a” without thinking about how to shape the “a”. After enough times writing an “a” it became second nature. Then they challenge you with an “A”, then “b”, “B” and so on, within a short time you are writing words. When I sat down with my first crochet hook, a Boye, size G-6/4.25mm, the Vanna’s Choice yarn, a crochet instruction book and started learning to crochet, I hadn’t yet realized the similarity between learning to crochet and learning to write. One unfortunate aspect of learning to crochet from a book and not the wisdom of others who crochet, is that the book didn’t tell me that I should practice my stitches like I practiced writing letters.

 

The book did start me at the beginning of the crochet alphabet though, with a slip knot, the very beginning of any crochet project. The book said that to create a slip knot, you should make a pretzel with the yarn. It sounds strange but it was the most accurate description, and anytime food is used as a descriptor, I am instantly intrigued.

After making the pretzel and creating my slip knot, it was time to learn how to make a chain stitch, the foundation of nearly every project. There are three ways to start a project, but the most common is the traditional chain; then you build stitches onto the chain. You can choose from a variety of stitches to build onto your chain, the more advanced you become the more stitches you know, seems obvious enough.

Slip knot on my hook, hook in my right hand, yarn draped around my left, I began a chain. Each additional link in that chain looked like a kindergartner had just written a bunch of sideways “o’s”. I would tell you to keep making chains until all of your chains look like an adult wrote those “o’s”. I didn’t do that, so my first crochet project looked like my journal from kindergarten.

Do you have any stories about beginning a project? What did your first project look like? Post a picture or tell me about it in the comments.

Crochet is a Lake

I remember the day I bought the first ball of yarn I would crochet. I went to Michael’s. In front of me a wall of colors and textures, I walked along marveling, uncertain which I should pick. I wasn’t certain about much, I hadn’t even decided what I wanted to make. I should have decided that before shopping, but I didn’t. I probably should have researched what kind of yarn should be used for certain projects, but I didn’t. I should have read about yarn weights, hook types, hook sizes, oh man, should I have read, but I didn’t. Sometimes you just have to jump into the deep and start swimming, right?

I picked up one ball of yarn after another, deciding which I liked the feeling and color of best. I shopped for the yarn like I was shopping for a sweater, it was a close enough comparison. I finally decided on a yarn made by Lion Brand Yarn, the brand Vanna’s Choice, the color cranberry. The yarn was dark red and very soft, I knew it would make something beautiful, whatever I decided to make. I assumed I would need more than one ball of yarn, so I bought three. I liked the look and feel of the Vanna’s Choice yarn and decided to get two balls in dusty rose and two in dusty green. I felt like I had just bought so much yarn, seven balls.

I was swimming, or so I thought. Actually, I had only walked onto the shore, I hadn’t even put my feet in the water yet. I have come to think of crochet like Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine, second deepest and sixth largest lake in North America. In other words, it is really big. Lake Tahoe has a large shelf before it drops off into the deep. If you wanted to remain on the shore or wade into the water up to your waist or shoulders, just like you could at Lake Tahoe, crochet allows you to do that; with very little knowledge and preparation, you will be proficient. But, if you want to go into the depths of Lake Tahoe, you cannot just swim, you need to have the right tools. I was comfortable on the shelf in the water up to my shoulders, and then someone introduced me to a website for crochet patterns and I knew I couldn’t remain on the shelf. Today, using a wide variety of tools, I am swimming, further and deeper each day. But, even today, sometimes I like to be reckless and buy yarn just because it is pretty and soft.

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