Friday, November 9, 2007

How I Learned to Crochet

Hello, and welcome to my blog! I hope you like it! I thought I'd write my first post about how I learned how to crochet, so here it is:

I enjoy painting and stenciling wood items, and last year was browsing Joann.com looking for stencils and paint. I saw an ad on their website for Knifty Knitter knitting looms. I clicked on the ad, and was fascinated. I had always thought it would be great to be able to make hats and scarves for my kids, but had no knitting or crochet skills. My mother tried to teach me and my younger sister how to crochet when I was about 9, and my sister was 7, but I couldn't grasp making anything other than chains. Fast forward to 2006, and I couldn't even remember how to do that! Upon seeing the looms, I did a little research on them, read reviews of them, and ordered a set. Once I got the looms, and figured out how to use them, I was hooked! I made a bunch of hats, a few scarves, a pair of mittens, and even a full-bed sized blanket for my sister (done in panels).

After a while though, I became frustrated with the looms. They are a very large gauge, and so require using multiple strands of any yarns that are less than a super bulky weight, which ends up using quite a bit of yarn.
D├ęcor Accents (and a few other places) sell beautiful handcrafted wood knitting looms in a variety of gauges, but they are pricey. There was also such a limited variety of loom knitting patterns out there at the time, although this is improving, as interest in loom knitting grows.

Around this time, I received a Lion Brand yarns catalog in the mail, and fell in love with this gorgeous
granny square blanket, and decided it would be perfect for my then 8 year old daughter (in more girly colors, of course). Not knowing how to crochet at all however, I needed to learn the basic stitches, so I bought a Lion Brand Learn to Crochet kit, complete with pink (my favorite color!) yarn, a jumbo pink crochet hook, and instructions to make a pretty openwork scarf. I eagerly sat down with the yarn and the hook, and figured out how to make a chain, but after numerous attempts at trying to make a single crochet, gave up in frustration. I got a learn to crochet book out of the library after that, and felt totally stupid because I could not comprehend any of it. I finally resigned myself to not being able to learn how to crochet, and went back to my looms, using the pink yarn to loom knit a child's hat for a charity hat and mitten collection at my job. I thought about taking a crochet class at a Joann's store, but balked at paying $40 for a class, and I didn't know anyone else who crocheted who could teach it to me. My mother crocheted when I was a kid, but hasn't crocheted in years, and had pretty much forgotten the stitches.


A few months later, in February of this year, I came across this DVD on Joann.com: - Leisure Arts' "I Can’t Believe I’m Crocheting!". After reading rave reviews about it on Amazon.com, I used a 50% off coupon, and got it for $10 at Joann's. I sat down and watched the DVD before attempting any stitches, and was eager to get out some yarn and a hook and practice the stitches, but life interrupted.

I work in very cold downtown Cleveland, and was walking to the bus stop after work one evening, when I stepped on what I thought was a puddle in an alley, but which was actually a patch of ice. I promptly slipped, fell backwards, and landed right on my wrists. I came down so hard that my messenger bag I always bring to work flew off my shoulder and landed a few feet behind me. I felt instantaneous pain all through my right arm, wrist, and hand so bad that I had to sit there for a few minutes before I could manage to get up. My arm felt like it was on fire, and my hand was so swollen I couldn't use it at all.

I managed to make it to the bus stop and stood there in incredible pain, holding my arm, waiting for the bus to come. When it finally came after what felt like an hour wait (but in reality was only about 10 minutes), I had to try to fish my bus pass out of my left inside coat pocket and get on the bus without any use of my right hand. Fortunately, I was taking what's called a "Park & Ride" bus that day (a bus that picks up riders from a parking lot, where they can leave their cars, and ride straight downtown without the bus making any additional stops), and my husband was picking me up at the Park & Ride lot . When I finally got there, we headed straight to the emergency room, and after an aggravating five hours, found out I had broken my wrist, and possibly my thumb as well. I went home with my hand, wrist, and forearm in a cast so tight my fingers turned bluish. After a very loonngg three days in the cast, and an appointment with an orthopedist, I was able to get my cast removed, and got a much more comfortable wrist brace.

I still had very limited usage of my right hand however. I had to learn how to brush my teeth, zip my pants, and eat with only one hand. I have long hair, and rarely leave it down, as it annoys me, but I couldn't manage to get my hair in a ponytail with one hand. I tried to recruit my husband to put in a ponytail for me, but it was so loose, looked so bad I promptly took it out. I ended up spending the next few weeks at home, on medical leave from work, totally depressed, frustrated and bored, not to mention broke, as I only got 50% pay for my leave, and my husband was laid off from work at the time, and collecting unemployment pay. Any other time, having 3 weeks off from work might have been nice, but I couldn't do much of anything with only having full usage of one hand. Surfing the Internet with my left hand stunk, I type two-handed, and so typing with one hand took forever and was barely worth the effort, and I couldn't hold a pen or pencil to write anything. I could read, but I couldn't hold a book. And of course, I couldn't practice my crocheting. Or could I?

One evening after a day of complete boredom, after putting my kids to bed, and tired of watching TV, I got out a crochet hook, and found that I could maneuver it even with a brace on. For the next few nights, I sat on the couch with my wrist throbbing, and practiced making chains and single crochets. When I finally had a swatch, I was absolutely thrilled! After a month from the time I broke it, my wrist was pronounced healed, and I was able to head full-speed into learning to crochet, although I still wore the brace when crocheting for a few weeks afterwards, as my wrist would get sore without it. Unfortunately, even now, my wrist still gets sore if I spend more than about an hour at a time crocheting, but I keep a tube of Icy-Hot cream in my crochet bag for those times.

After getting the basic crochet stitches down, I began eyeing that granny square blanket again, and the pattern was ranked "Easy", but granny squares still looked impossibly difficult to me. Luckily though, I found out about a crafting group, the Sisters of the Thread, at my job. The group does crocheting, knitting, beading, quilting, etc. They meet once week during lunch time in the building, so I decided to join, and some wonderful ladies taught me to make granny squares! I never did get around to making that Lion Brand granny square blanket though, partly because I realized I hate having to sew or crochet multiple squares together, and partly because I really dislike the recommended yarn (Lion Brand Jiffy, and haven't found a good substitute for it). I had used it awhile ago to crochet a small blanket for my son to take to daycare, and it was rather scratchy, and got fuzzy almost immediately. My son loves the fuzziness though, because he likes to pull "fuzzes" off the blanket while he holds it and sucks his thumb.

After my daughter repeatedly asking when she was going to get a crocheted blanket, I started on a "granny rectangle" blanket for her. The pattern came from a label on a skein of Bernat Super Value yarn. Instead of starting the granny in the round, it starts with a long chain, with double crochet groups worked around both sides of the chain, which makes it form a rectangle instead of a square. I'm using Bernat Camouflage yarn in "Go Girl Camo", which looked fairly pink when I saw it online, but which is actually mostly shades of purple with only a dab of pink. I'm doing a border in Bernat Super Value in a purple shade. I'm about 75% done with the blanket, but ran out of the camo yarn. I bought 8 skeins of the camo, and thought that would be sufficient, but here it turns out I actually need about 13. My daughter keeps asking me when her blanket will be done, and as we're heading into winter here in Cleveland, and the nights are freezing, I'd better get going on finishing it. Well, that's the very long story about how I learned to crochet! Hopefully that wasn't TOO boring!

Right now, my crocheting goals are to:

1) Improve my crocheting skills so I can handle patterns that aren't only labeled "beginner" or "easy".

2) Learn how to make a variety of fancy crochet borders (right now I can only do shell stitch, picots, and ruffles).

3) Be able to tackle crochet garments, and items that require more than simple shaping. I have Debbie Stoller's "Happy Hooker" book, and there's so many gorgeous clothing items in there I'd love to make if I had the skills.

4) Find a second crochet group to join. The ladies in my Sisters of the Thread group are wonderful, but I'm the only "young" person in the group that comes to meetings, and most of the women that come regularly have grown children and/or grandchildren, while I'm still dealing with younger kids at home, homework, etc. It would be nice to meet some crocheting women closer to my age group. From looking at crochet blogs online, and the popularity of "The Happy Hooker", apparently a lot of younger woman are into crochet, but I just haven't met any yet. My local library has a knitting and crochet group that meets once a month or so, but I don't know how to drive, and I don't want to bother my husband to drop me off and pick me up there, not to mention that he works nights now, and is usually resting in the evenings before he goes to work. I do belong to an online Yahoo! crochet group, Crochet Partners, and it's wonderfully helpful, but it's not the same as belonging to a group in person.

5) Teach my daughter to crochet (or get her signed up for a crochet class). She's been asking me about it a lot, and there's a Girl Scout "Yarn & Fabric Arts" badge (she's a Junior Girl Scout) she can earn, which learning to crochet would count towards. She also tells me that few girls in her class at school (she's in 4th grade) crochet during "indoor recess" (when it's too cold or wet for the kids to go out to play), and she'd like to be able to crochet then too. I did try to sit down with her one day and teach her how to crochet, but I guess I'm not a very good teacher, because she couldn't even make a chain. I've been wanting to take her to a kids' crochet class at Joann's, and they're only $20, which is a bargain for a two hour, two session class, but again, not knowing how to drive makes it difficult to get her to a class. And yes, I realize more and more that I need to learn how to drive. I'm just afraid that I wouldn't be able to learn. I've never been very good at "physical" things. I didn't even learn how to ride a bike until I was 17, and my younger sister taught me. I want to sign up for driving lessons through a driving school (I think I'd feel more comfortable having someone "objective" teach me rather than my husband doing it), but the $300 cost is a big obstacle. I was encouraged lately about learning how to drive by reading about Isela Phelps and her adventures in learning how to drive. She got her license just a few weeks ago on her 30th birthday - very exciting!

6) And finally, I want to learn how to needle knit. I still love crocheting, but I always see these gorgeous needle knit patterns (Isela has some beautiful patterns on her website) that I wish I could make. I bought a knitting DVD - Leisure Arts' "I Can’t Believe I’m Knitting!" from Joann's and a pair of knitting needles, now I just need to find the time to sit down and get started with it. I'm rather intimidated by the idea of learning how to knit, as it looks so much more difficult than crochet, but if that DVD is as good as the "I Can't Believe I'm Crocheting" DVD, hopefully I'll get the hang of it.

Whew, I think I covered everything! Stay tuned for more posts with some pictures of crochet projects I'm working on, and maybe some news about my learning how to knit!

1 comment:

Meilynne said...

I enjoyed your story of how you learned to crochet. I can't believe in such a short time, that you've become this good. Congrats!