Previously Published in my Wisconsin Crafter e-mail newsletter. Copyright 2005 Wisconsin Crafter. Not to be republished without permission. Thank you!
Editorial — August 2005
Tangled up in Yarn
For a few years now I have defined myself as a crafter by explaining, “I scrap, I stamp, and I quilt.” By the time you read, this, however, that may have changed. We’re going Up North this weekend, and I’m bringing a crochet hook and (optimistically) four skeins of yarn with me. Let me explain.
I don’t have a big history with yarn crafts, nor does it seem to run in the family. (However, my mother still has a few of the wall hangings and plant hangers she macramed when she was a stay-at-home mom in the 1970s.) I have a little beaded macrame bracelet I must have made in the Camp Fire Girls, but I’m sure it wasn’t my idea. I’m not much of a jewelry person, and I rarely wore more than a wristwatch.
Knitting just didn’t attract me. I wanted to be a professional baseball player when I grew up, not a woman who sat around knitting things.
But somehow, last year, Martha Stewart dragged me into the whole yarn thing. I was reading Martha Stewart Kids magazine (now called Kids) and turned to a page that described easy crochet projects that kids could do. A potholder, a hat, a scarf. The line drawings looked clear, and the instructions seemed comprehensible. I stared at them for days before I got the nerve to visit Martha’s Yarn Emporium (no relation to the other Martha, I’m pretty sure) and select a crochet hook.
I already knew the project I wanted to make — a Harry Potter scarf for my son, in Gryffindor colors. A Christmas present. It was September, so I thought it was feasible. Martha made sure I got the right colors (burgundy and gold) of yarn in a weight I could handle, and the right size hook.
I took it all home somewhat guiltily. Here was another set of craft supplies I’d brought home, and I didn’t even know if I could do it. Stockpiling rubber stamps and scrapbook supplies was one thing, but this was definitely new territory.
Then I got out the magazine, pulled out a burgundy skein and the little gold-colored hook, and got started. After several torturous minutes I figured out how to start my chain stitch. I made a few stitches, then ripped it all out. I tried again and soon got into a groove: stitch – rip – repeat. After half an hour I wanted to flush the yarn down the toilet and stab myself in the heart with the hook. I was following instructions written for children and could only produce a row of chain stitches that looked as if a different person had made each stitch. Plus, I didn’t know when and how to turn the corner, go back the other direction, or anything else. Which loop of yarn was I supposed to be putting the hook through? How tight was I supposed to be holding the yarn? Was I doing single crochet or double crochet? What was the difference? And why couldn’t I JUST DO THIS?
It was definitely NOT relaxing. But I did not flush the yarn. I did not stab myself. I did, however, decide to set the project aside until I had calmed down a bit.
Nine months later, I figured out what to do. I needed to borrow someone else’s grandmother. Mine wouldn’t do, since she lives in West Virginia and doesn’t crochet. But my husband’s grandmother — now there was a woman with a history of needleworking who would give it to me straight.
In the meantime, a few things had happened to soften me up towards picking up the crochet hook and trying again.
One was meeting a couple of young girls at a Stevens Point arts festival last year. They were sitting and knitting while people came and bought their finished ponchos, hats and scarves. When I asked them if they crocheted, they quickly responded, “Gosh, no. That’s so HARD.” (They were about ten years old, but I respected their opinions as equals.)
Another was when I bought a Sunset book on crochet at a rummage sale. They devoted several pages to line drawings of crochet in progress, showing many different stitches AND the different techniques that should be used by right-handers and left-handers. (Perhaps Martha Stewart’s instructions were overly simplistic, I thought, even though I am right-handed and they were probably written for me.)
Lastly, I was scandalized to read that Martha Stewart had never known how to crochet. This gap in her knowledge of the domestic arts was shocking, at least to me. But by the time I discovered she didn’t know how to crochet, she had already been taught — by a fellow inmate at Alderson Prison.
Maybe she was somebody else’s grandmother.