Should I Learn To Crochet?
It's funny how some hobbies are often considered specific to a particular gender or age demographic. Crochet, knitting and needlework are among the crafts I associated with "old ladies" my whole life, simply because I only ever received something like that from the oldies in my life!
And yet, when I inherited a couple of crochet hooks and a ball of cotton along with my mother's sewing and knitting stash, my soul whispered to me for the millionth time: "try crochet..." Suddenly I had the requisite materials and tools to do it, I just needed to get over my 'yeahbuts'.
I had resisted for so long because I believed I would struggle with it the same way I struggled when trying to learn to knit - which I did on a few separate occasions with different teachers. I just could NOT get my hands to do what they were supposed to do, and in all honesty, I never really liked the look of knitted things anyway. But the call of the yarn was just too much! All those beautiful colours sitting in a bag in my craft area...
So one day, not long after I met my wonderful (and equally crafty!) homeschooling friend, Ros, we decided to give crochet a try together. Nothing like a bit of moral support. We got together with our hooks, balls of wool, a cuppa tea and a youtube video on my tablet, and off we went. We spent about three hours giggling, squinting and rewinding the video, and eventually learned to chain and do the single crochet stitch. It certainly was a fantastic way to bond with a new friend.
Aside from all the old-lady comments and jokes from my husband, I was surprised at how much I liked it, and how little there was to it, basically. I was also very surprised at how hip and modern crochet has become - it's a far cry from the frumpy, boring and itchy things I remember from my childhood.
It took a few days for me to really get my head and my hands around it, but once I got it, I really GOT it. And I just couldn't get enough of it. I began to welcome the granny jokes! It took a good few weeks to learn the ins and outs of the different essential stitches, how to get a good tension for the type of project I was working on, and how to get straight edges on square items, but all along the way it was the most engaging, relaxing and enjoyable craft I'd found yet. I began to understand why my soul had been urging me towards it for so many years.
The vast number of amazing crochet artists on YouTube and Pinterest meant I suddenly found myself immersed in an expansive world of beauty and creativity that was just so available to me! I hadn't experienced anything so mind-blowing since reading 'Bringers of the Dawn' (and that is saying a heck of a lot!)
There is just such a magical element to watching a looooooooong string of yarn twisting around a hook and working up into a solid fabric... that can just as easily be undone again. The saving grace of crochet is that you almost never end up wasting your wool because unless you do many colour changes while you're working on a project, you can frog it (pull your stitches out - "rip it, rip it" geddit? Yeah I thought it was cheesy too, but don't shoot the messenger) and just wind it back up and start again, or try something else.
It's not like painting or sewing, where a mistake is often irreversible and a (sometimes big) waste of your time and resources. Crochet lends itself to many mistakes and practise-till-perfect with the same length of wool, over and over again.
And once I got wind of all of the stunning, creative (and very often free) patterns for anything under the sun I could think of, that was it. I was officially addicted. I cannot sit still anywhere, not even in the car, without a hook and ball of yarn in my hands.
One of my first "big" projects - a pattern from an old Christmas crafts magazine I had.
Leela calls this little guy "Piplup"...
Yeah, I don't know where she got it from either.
Crochet Is A Life Skill
There is very little I can think of that crochet can't do - at least from a textile perspective. You can make literally any kind of fabric item - including shoes! - and depending on the yarn type and stitch/tension, you can create a truly endless variety of styles and textures.
You can make clothing ranging from delicate lacy summer dresses and tops to heavy winter wear such as cardigans, hats, gloves, scarves and leg warmers. You can even make sandals, swimwear and lingerie!
You can make any type of soft furnishings you could imagine, including cushions, chair covers, blankets, rugs and table cloths.
You can create beautiful items to decorate your home such as wall hangings, kitchen items (pot holders, dish scrubbies, teapot cozies, bowl cozies etc), and an endless variety of decorations for the festive seasons.
And of course, you can make an endless variety of toys, ornaments and even organisational items like baskets, handbags/shopping bags, drawer organisers, and the super funky jar cozies on Pinterest!
Crochet is literally the most versatile skill I have ever encountered - and to think, all you need in order to create anything you want... is the right sized hook and a ball of yarn.
And if you run out of ideas or inspiration, or you aren't sure about a colour combination, you only need to do a quick search on the internet to find a free pattern or colour chart for just about anything you can imagine.
But more than just a skill for the home and family, I consider crochet to be a survival skill. I don't get nearly so worried about the future anymore, but for a good while I was quite seriously into prepping, and I still have a bug-out bag in the cupboard just in case. While I'm pretty sure I will never need to, crochet can be used if you get stranded in the wildnerness, provided you have a sturdy knife to whittle a crochet hook (or several, in different sizes).
You can crochet a sleeping mat from long grasses, a basket to gather fruits in, a fishing net from vines or even some sandals for your feet. If you find the right kind of cordage, or you can make some, you can even crochet a blanket. It could very well be the difference between life or death. You could even crochet things out of plastic bags cut into strips - great for a hat or a lean-to's roof to keep you dry in the rain.
With that said, crochet as a survival skill is probably not going to be the reason you decide to give it a go! But it's fun to know anyways :) So, if you're feeling like you need a new hobby, here's a few excellent reasons to give crochet a try.
5 Good Reasons To Try Crochet Today
1. It's very easy to do once your hands have picked up the muscle memory for it.
"But Tam, it looks so complicated! And those patterns full of abbreviations and numbers and random-seeming letters... "
I hear you Sistah ;)
The truth is that it is VERY easy to learn crochet, and even before I'd been doing it a year, I had taught two other people how to crochet as well. The only tricky thing is getting your hands to hold the hook and yarn in a way that will allow you to get good tension and not fatigue your hands.
(Side note: I recommend holding your hook like a knife - with the handle inside your palm - rather than holding it like a spoon - with the handle extending out from the back of your thumb. This is much better ergonomically, and many who learn this way find they don't get the associated aches and pains that comes with crocheting the "traditional" way. I can personally crochet for HOURS and not suffer anything worse than a numb bum.)
Like any new skill, it's just a matter of practising - but crochet does NOT take much practise to get good enough to make serviceable items such as a hat or blanket!
Once you get going, you just need to keep making little swatches or small items until you have gotten a good understanding of it and are capable in a variety of basic stitches to be able to make big, beautiful and intricate designs.
For instance (using US terminology) learning how to chain, work the single crochet, the half double crochet, the double crochet and the slip stitch will allow you to make just about anything to begin with. They are foundational to just about every other stitch. I also recommend learning the magic ring method for starting which allows you to work in the round, as you would for crocheting a granny square (yes, they are actually called that - you can imagine the digs I got from my husband when I crocheted my first one!)
So that's really only 6 techniques to learn (which are easy to learn!) to get you making anything from a Christmas stocking to a granny square blanket! In fact, crochet is so easy to learn, my (then 7 year old) daughter and my older son actually picked up chaining and single crochet quicker than I did - they just didn't find it interesting enough to go any further. Kids these days...
There is also a small, but very easy learning curve to understanding crochet patterns. You learn what the stitches are as you learn how to do them, and once you know how they are done and what they are called (and the abbreviation for their name) you can read a crochet pattern. You'll also find many wonderful charts online that give you illustrations, abbreviations (and even sometimes directions) for many known stitches as they are read in a crochet pattern.
Just be sure you know which type of crochet you are learning - there are different styles and terminology - for instance UK terminology is different to US terminology, and because I learned via YouTube, I did not realise that I was learning US terminology. Very interesting results from following my first UK pattern without realising that there was a difference!
2. You can crochet with literally anything in string form.
There is a vast array of beautiful yarns and wools in different materials, colours, thicknesses and textures, from very cheap Poundshop (Dollarstore) plain colours in 100% acrylic, to uber-fancy mohair and eyelash yarns online and in speciality stores.
But as I mentioned above, you don't need to limit yourself to working with balls or skeins of wool made specifically for the purpose - you can make yarns out of anything. I've made yarn out of plastic bags, old t-shirts and I've even seen people make paper yarn. I often buy packs of postage twine from the pound shop since it's a natural white cotton yarn that can be used to make simple things like a dishcloth.
I have also used gardeners' jute twine to make very comfy and sturdy soles for flip-flops... :)
3. Crochet is deeply relaxing.
If I know I need to chill out because I'm getting flustered or stressed, I sit down and crochet while listening to something soothing - usually Abraham Hicks, a podcast or even some meditation music. It's a rhythmic and comforting distraction that simultaneously offers something to do with your hands to work out your frustrations while providing something very non-specific to focus on that allows your mind to cool off and slow down. It's very much a form of meditation - and who can get away from all the hoo-ha about meditation these days?!
There are many studies that show how beneficial hobbies such as crochet and knitting are for stress reduction, as well as more specific physical issues such as RSI or carpal tunnel syndrome. It's also good for keeping the mind sharp and for practising mental maths - learning a new stitch forges new pathways in the brain and you often have to count stitches and rows, as well as increase or decrease the stitch count evenly across the number of previous stitches. It's great for increasing attention span too. And that's without even considering the thought processes that go into creating a pattern yourself!
A downside of crochet is that once you have the hang of a particular stitch, it's actually easy to get bored. I don't recommend having a BIG project on the go with a fixed date for completion looming over it (unless you're getting paid for it), because unless it contains a variety of stitches and/or colour changes, it is easy to get bored with big projects and put them aside for the thrill of a new pattern, new yarn/wool and new stitches to experiment with.
For this reason, I usually have several projects on the go at once with a 'standby' big project that I can pick up when I find myself between other projects or needing to crochet without having to think.
4. Crochet is the cheapest, most portable and socially engaging hobby I have ever encountered.
A ball of wool and a crochet hook will easily fit into anything but the smallest handbag, and unless you are buying speciality yarns or fancy-handled hooks, you can most definitely get started for under £5.
I also don't like to do many things around other people - I like to give people my full attention while I am visiting with them - but crochet is something that you can do anywhere, in just about any kind of social situation because unless you have to count a lot or keep swapping colours, you can crochet and hold a conversation very easily.
I find it's more acceptable among other women than men though - they seem to think if you aren't looking at them you can't possibly be listening to them, while women have the understanding that just because your hands are busy does not mean your mind is needed for the task, and you are still fully engaged in the conversation.
Crochet clubs are also on the rise, so if you are looking for some hands on help, for a reason to get out and about or meet new people, or just for the fun of it, look for a club going in your locality. I have started a club of sorts with two of my friends and though we find it hard to get together very often with our mis-matching schedules, when we do, it really is the best of ALL worlds! So don't be shy to start your own club if there isn't one around.
Chances are there are many people crocheting all around you that you just didn't know about. Ask your friends and relatives and I'll bet at least ONE of them crochets. See who has some old crochet materials or half-finished projects stashed away, just waiting for your invitation to get them out. You may even be gifted your very own starting materials this way.
5. You can crochet while watching tv and drinking a glass of pinot... need I say more?
(I can even crochet after a wee green smoke too, hee hee ;)
So, are you ready to have a go?!?! Have I convinced to at least give it a try?
Here's a few videos you can follow to help you get started if you want to have a go at crochet. If you do, MAKE SURE you come back here and leave a comment - you will of