It might seem like a strange hobby for a young woman. When I say young, I mean 40ish, which isn’t that young really, but I’ve been crocheting for years. I must have been in my late teens when I first learned and completed my first project, a granny blanket.
Crocheting is one of my favourite, if not at the top of the list, pass times. I was taught by my mum and my aunty and it is something passed along from one woman to another in my family, no doubt most families, of women who crochet, knit, stitch, sew. It is one of those oral traditions and practical skills that women just show and teach each other. Although these days, with Pinterest and super crafting websites, the abundance of materials, design and information sharing, it’s no longer just a pass time for old grannies. It’s a global art form ranging from the humble beanie to elaborate creations, like the art works of Shauna Richardson who crochets giant animal sculptures that were featured in the London Olympics. Her work is known as crochetdermy – literally crocheting life size and larger, true to life animals.
I remember traveling through Europe in my early 30s and being completely enamoured by the lace making traditions in Venice and Malta. Those artisan crafts are at risk of disappearing and they were urging young women to take an interest, to talk to their elders about the craft and perhaps even learn, so they can pass it on to future generations.
|Lace Displays in Venice - Own Photos|
|Maltese lace making – Image via maltainsideout.com|
I once attended an exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney that showcased some incredible lace and crochet creations. From wall hangings to garments and jewellery. Even crochet inspired urban fencing! It was truly incredible.
|Crocheted Tea Set – Own photo|
|Wall hanging - Own photo|
|Garments – Own photo|
|Jewellery – Own photo|
|Crocheted fence – Own photo|
I love everything about crocheting. I love buying the yarn. Here I am holidaying in New Zealand in 2010 in a yarn shop. Happy much!!!
I love the feel of the hook traveling through the soft yarn and the rhythmic repetitive knot making, which is all crochet essentially is. Over the years I practiced the basic stitches over and over until I could do it without looking and gradually learned to not only understand the combinations and designs by reading written patterns, I also taught myself to read diagrams, which are much easier and less prone to errors.
It’s easy to learn how to crochet these days. There are YouTube tutorials for everything and the simplicity of crochet, once understood, demonstrates the endless possibilities that you can create and make. From garments to dolls, blankets, homewares, bags and anything else you can come up with. And it doesn’t have to look daggy. Some of the most well known designers like Dolce and Gabbana have released crochet lines. But who would want to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a homophobic and misogynist brand when you can make shit for yourself.
Crocheting gives me peace of mind. It is incredibly meditative and relaxing, but it isn’t mindless. There is a lot of concentration and problem solving involved. Also mathematics, logic, creativity, ingenuity, patience and generosity. Crochet is a wonderful avenue for gift giving. I love nothing more than to make something for someone else and there are many opportunities to crochet for charity; from blankets for refugees, little pouches for orphaned baby animals and tiny beanies and booties for newborns and premature babies in hospitals.
Crochet as therapy is undeniable for me. It puts me into a meditative state, regulates my breathing and distracts me from negative thoughts. It’s a great time filler and lets me surrender to a productive experience when I’m feeling idle or am procrastinating. Best of all, it keeps my mind active and alert, but at ease. There have been some suggestions that crafts like crocheting can improve the health of the mind, even preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. It can improve memory and trigger recollection of treasured events in one’s life. The book Crochet Saved My Life by Kathryn Vercillo talks about how crochet can help with depression and stress at the very least. There isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to support the health and psychological benefits of crochet. Most of the information tends to be anecdotal and comes from people’s individual experiences. My uncle told me that his mother once had a stroke and the doctors weren’t optimistic about her recovery. She was a champion level crocheter. She invented stitches and patterns in her mind and could make absolutely anything from crochet. She did absolutely beautiful work. He tells me that after her stroke, she resumed crocheting and her facial paralysis improved. In fact, she made a complete recovery and astounded her doctors. It is hard to prove if there was a link between her crocheting and her recovery, but the doctors thought it was possible. It certainly didn’t do her any harm and she lived a healthy and productive life for many more years.
I have made so many things over the years. For myself, my friends, their babies, my babies, for raffles and for strangers. I’ve photographed most things because I part with most of them. Someday I hope to share this skill with my daughters. They watch me now, mesmerised by my hand movements and the colour of the yarn. Ok, so mostly they play with the balls of yarn like kittens and undo my rows by pulling at it, thinking it's a game, but I do see that glimmer of curiosity and they love trying on their hats and ponchos as I make them. They watch me wear my beanies and scarves and gloves and smile at all the colours of yarn in the big bucket by the lounge. When all else is just too hard, I crochet. I sit quietly and knot and knot. Mostly I make little projects that are easy to complete and give me instant gratification, but there’s nothing more satisfying than finishing a big job like a blanket. The girls have one each and I made all three while carrying them in my belly, those memories woven in every stitch.