Learning to Crochet-Where do I start?

I don’t think you should do a lot of prework before diving into crochet.  Too much research can postpone your experience.  The amount of information on the web can be overwhelming, and I can attest from personal experience that ultimately, it’s a huge time drain.  You start out looking at a couple of random sites or looking for one finite piece of information and before you know it, it’s four hours later and you’ve accomplished nothing!

To this end, it really helps if you know what kind of learner you are.  I don’t mean that you should embark on a big science project of determining your learning style.  I really want you to just take a few minutes and think about the way you’ve learned best in the past.

On a personal level, I’ve never once had an easy time with written instructions.  Think back to a time when you had to put a piece of prefab furniture together.  How did that go for you?  Well I can only say that I would probably never have been able to assemble anything of substance if it weren’t for my husband, and more recently, the miracle that is YouTube.

If you are a visual learner, there are a myriad of sites available, as well as some really comprehensive and well-written books. If you’re an experiential person, however, and you learn best  by doing, it’s probably worth the investment of a little money (and more importantly – time!) to take a class.  It’s amazing how a little one-on-one time with an instructor can cut through confusion.

As I stated in a previous post, I learned from a 1970-ish version of a book very much like the two below.  It worked for me.  It was painstaking, and thank God I had a couple of ladies available to help troubleshoot until I really grasped the concept, but overall, it got the job done.

These little books led to my first real book purchase, “Crocheting For Dummies.”  I kid you not.  The way I looked at it, if I was going to progress, I needed the most methodical, basic instruction I could lay hands on.  Kind of like when I bought”HR for Dummies”  shortly after assuming my first full-fledged HR role.  Scoff if you’d like, but I’m 12 years into a career in HR Management now.  The Dummies book worked then and it worked for crochet. Keep it simple, keep it basic.

Then I googled.  I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.  I googled and I found resource upon resource upon resource! But the most valuable thing I found by far was the goldmine of “how to” videos available.  They were brilliant!

One day I  googled “How to Front Post Crochet, ” and I found my first online video.   It showed me everything I needed to know!  AGAIN, SIMPLY BRILLIANT!!

When all else fails, google people, google!  Here are a few sites I really like.

Lionbrand’s education options were comparatively skimpy when I first began to crochet.  They’ve done a fabulous job enriching their “Learning” offerings, however. In truth, you can probably begin and end a lot of your searching here.

This site helped me immensely.  There may be newer and better, but I have sentimental attachment  to this site.  After all, they were my first…;)

Loaded with resources! Tons of information, including some very solid videos.  My only criticism, and I know this will sound goofy, but I just don’t care for the bare bones aesthetic of the site.  All the ads get on my nerves.  Having said that, again, lots of really good information here.

If you’d like more information on learning styles, there’s a ton of information here:


Crochet vs. Knit

I’m lucky to live in a town with a fabulous local yarn store owned by two very dear sisters who happen to be designers as well as purveyors.  The store is a cacophony of awesomeness.  Ok-that was a little over the top, but it really is chock full of merchandise.  Incredible yarns, patterns galore with examples hanging near the yarn or thread of choice.  Anyway, early on in my crochet venture,   I went on a visit to this yarn mecca hoping to have onsite tech support for what would be my first serious attempt at something other than a scarf. I spent hours, literally, looking at all the patterns and options available in that store. Then I realized I had an embarrassing problem.   If an item wasn’t labeled, I frequently had no idea if it was crochet or knit.  And what was worse, when I did find out, I found myself liking the knit stuff better.

Now don’t laugh. If you’re an experienced crocheter or knitter, you may find this ridiculous.   But please recall, I had just started the crochet path with no real preamble.  It’s not like I saw something crocheted and thought, oh I want to do that! Nope. I just decided to do it.  And here’s what I know.  I know I’m not alone.  I know there have been other people who had the very same problem.  The thing is, what if it was an extraordinary garment that led you to the decision to try crochet.  You better make darn sure you know what crochet looks like, right? So here’s the difference a la pictorial.  First, Knitting…

Knitting essentially creates a woven fabric.  Many sweaters, hats, scarves, etc, look very much like the example above.  It consists of two stitches-knit and purl.  But boy, the things those knitters manage to do with two stitches! Like this one…

And this one…

Regardless of the pattern, cabling or dimension, the essence of the weave creating fabric is there.

Now crochet…I may have started out fascinated with knitting, but today, I find myself preferring the textured goodness that is crochet!

Experts, put your fingers in your ears…. OK- to me, crochet is essentially the tying of intricate little interwoven knots.  (Not to be confused  with macrame or any craft that really is about knots.)  But essentially, you use your crochet hook to weave the yarn into intricate knotting. Experts can remove their fingers from their ears now.  The outcome creates a fabric that is usually (not always) much more textured than knitting.  Like this…

and this…

and this…

Too cool.

So if you’re just starting to explore the fiber arts world, and you happen to be an untutored rube like myself, fear not.  You got this! Google Images is your friend. Just look, learn and move forward into your crafting.


Fresh Off the Hook

I love this scarf.  I’m not sure if I’m swept away by my color combination, but I loved the way it came together and the feel of the mercerized cotton on the hook.  This pic was taken before I finished weaving in my ends and blocking.  I know, I know. I jumped the gun. I do that…

29-31 Horizontal stripe shawl by Pierrot (Gosyo Co., Ltd)

           found on Ravelry…


Mama don’t like ugly…

I think we can all safely say that there’s a lot of less than attractive crochet out there.  Just take a look at the sundry afghans littering any thrift shop.  If you take a moment to be rational, however, you know that the person who created that item didn’t set out to make ugly crochet.  Their intent was probably just to make something useful out of the materials they already had available to them.  And in that moment of utilitarian craft, some really ugly articles were born.

I feel like I can talk about this, because I have made a couple of really unattractive items.  I only have pics of one of them.  See exhibit A:Here’s what I can tell you.  This yarn wasn’t ugly.  It was actually a really cool kind of deep burnished orange. I have a lot of the color in varying shades in my living room, and it rocks.As you can see, it’s clearly a color I like. The yarn was chenille and soft in an awesome lumpy sort of way.  It even created a pleasing effect when I crocheted it with this single, front loop stitch.  And yet…despite all of it’s good points, it exited my hook this neck warmer kind of icky thing. Textbook ugly crochet.  Ugly in a very 80’s kind of puffy way….

It happens. Don’t feel sorry for me.  There’s someone out there who will appreciate the cozy, soft warmness of this neck wrap.  Fly and be free little ugly thing….Hopefully, when someone finds you in the thrift store, they’ll know that you were handcrafted with love and forgive the homeliness of the creation….

So here’s the wisdom imbedded in my little tale of woe, you’re probably going to make some ugly things when you’re learning.  It’s up to you be self-aware and identify them as ugly before you unleash them on an unsuspecting world. It’s a plea for awareness people. Know ugly when you make it. Know your audience before you gift it. 😉


Watch out! “Me” Time Can Be A Problem….

I’m an HR Manager by day…a mom/domestic at night.  In reality, the two jobs actually utilize a lot of the same skill sets and mental muscle.  Unfortunately, I pretty much use up all my emotional intelligence (not to mention tolerance for the human race) during the day.  By night, I’m a conflict-hating introvert.  I avoid interaction.  Shamefully, that avoidance often includes my husband and children, and always includes any extracurricular interaction with friends or family.

Early on in my midlife crisis, I realized my crafting could be an unwitting accomplice to my extreme after-hours introversion. I have to be very careful to temper my selfish desire to pursue what can be a therapeutic and calming hobby. If I don’t, I ignore my kids, the house stays dirty, groceries go unpurchased, takeout reigns…This can be ok on occasion, but obviously, wouldn’t be tenable for the long haul.  I’ll be honest, finding balance between what I want to do and what I need to do remains an opportunity for me.  I know it’s a potential obstacle, however, so I keep my eyes peeled.

The lesson embedded here is that even with  productive, creative pursuits, there can be pitfalls.  The really cool thing is that the problem can also be the solution.  It takes self-discipline to temper my after-hours metamorphosis into a hermit.  It also takes self-discipline to learn a skill and use that skill to bring an item or project to completion.  In essence, both require that I flex the same muscle.  Now obviously, it’s easier to flex that muscle with the more selfishly pleasing task.  That’s ok.  At least I’m using the self-discipline muscle.  The more I use it, the stronger it gets. Ultimately, the act of exerting self-discpline makes me more likely to do it in the future.  Hence, my decision this evening to play angry birds and eat apple instead of beading or working on my afghan.  Hold it…Yes, I know…that doesn’t sound like it required self-discipline does it?…oh well, take that example and you know…such the like.


Why Crochet?

So I think we’ll begin at the beginning-my beginning anyway. Let’s begin with Crochet.

Crochet proved to be a great first craft for me and it might for you as well.  Here are my top four reasons why I think crochet is awesome!

1. Comparatively, crochet moves fast. Once proficiency is gained, you can knock out a hat or scarf in an hour or two. For someone like me (I have tremendous issues with patience) this is especially important! I need the gratification of completion. When I’m learning, it helps keep me focused.

2. It’s cheap to get started. You can buy a crochet hook for a couple of bucks. Yarn can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. You can find a good soft skein of yarn for as little as 2.50. A lot of serious crafters belittle those acrylics generally available at stores like Walmart, but I think Caron Simply Soft feels good and is fairly easy to work with. Throw in a pack of those big plastic darning needles (less than 2 bucks) and maybe some stitch markers just to have on hand (3 bucks) and you’re done!

3. It’s portable. You can stash your yarn and hook in a small bag, and if your purse is as big as mine, you can just throw them in it!

4. You can make beautiful things. There is a staggering array of patterns available-many of them free- online.  You can keep your practice of crochet as simple or as complex as you please. If you decide to move into the realm of garment construction, you’ll be pleased to know that many couture designers have brought crochet garments to the runways of Paris and New York. You’ll be able to enhance your personal style in a way that’s contemporary and individualized to your personal taste.

Crochet · General

Domesticity or Midlife Crisis?

After a lifetime of avoiding all things domestic,  my late thirties saw me plunging  headlong into the realm of craft.  My mother tried to teach me how to do things.  She had skill and experience in all things domestic.   At her urging, I took a stab at sewing.  It was miserable. My mom finished every garment I ever started. Cooking worked out a little better for me.  I even considered being a chef.  Keep in mind I was ten at the time.  It quickly passed and my 20’s and 30’s saw me avoiding the kitchen and any other domestic pursuit like the plague.  Before children, I focused on all things me.  I read a lot. I hung out with friends a lot.  Domesticity played no role.  In my thirties, I worked.  It was all about meeting my obligations. I focused on a demanding job in human resources and the activities of my children.  The point is, I never had the time or the desire for domesticity.  I didn’t have the patience. And I think that may actually be the key to what kicked it all off.  Patience.  Six or seven years into motherhood, the absence of patience was becoming a real problem.  I craved patience.  I prayed for patience.  I prayed for peace and peace of mind and deliverance from the pressures of parenthood and my job.  I prayed for some way to decompress just enough to be able to be a better wife and mother. (Don’t get excited, my prayers may have been answered, but if they have I don’t know it yet!)  Simultaneously, I had realized that my daughter, my oldest, my heart, was destined to be a “crafter”.  She loved everything about it.  She delighted in spending time with her grandmother because during those trips to her “Meemaw’s”, she would get to craft.  I found myself constantly telling her no when she would ask to do something crafty.  Mostly because I didn’t know how to do anything she expressed an interest in.  Not to mention the whole stressed, pressured, impatient thing I talked about previously.  So I have to believe that somewhere between the quest for patience and my undying  love for my daughter, the idea took root.  I wanted to learn something. Something that had nothing to do with business or  any of the other things I’d isolated myself to over the previous decade.  I wanted to learn to do something new.

It was Thanksgiving 2008, and we were visiting my in-laws for the holiday.  My mother-in-law (an angel on earth) is extremely crafty.  Crafts, cooking, all the domestic arts…right there at my fingertips.  I have no idea why on that trip, my fevered imagination landed on crochet as an objective.  But at some point that weekend, I trecked to WalMart, bought an H hook and a skein of Simply Soft Eco in Turquoise (my daughter picked it), and plopped on the couch next to my mother-in-law ready to learn.  She went to a trunk where she keeps materials, and brought out what looked to be a 1970-ish “learn to crochet” book.  With her coaching I taught myself to single, double and triple crochet that weekend.  By Christmas, I was making my first scarf.  By New Years, I finished it, and it was awesome!  And somewhere in there, I tapped a long hidden, long repressed desire to create.  And it began.  The most ridiculous, atypical “midlife crisis” ever.

And so here I am.  February 2012.  Three years after the fateful decision to pick up the crochet hook.  In those three years, I’ve crocheted, embroidered, painted, beaded and made a valiant attempt to teach myself to sew.  I’ve stockpiled yarn, fabric, equipment and every craft material you can imagine.  True to my history, I’ve discovered that I’m a great “generalist”.  I love to plan, but I’m slow to carry out those plans. Although I’ve made some cute things, I’ve mastered nothing.  I have not reduced my stress.  I don’t really think I increased my patience.  I haven’t taught my daughter anything substantive.  But I have learned some things about myself.  I learned that I can finish what I start.  In fact, I’m driven to finish.  This sometimes undermines the enjoyment of the process, but it’s good to know that at 41, I have the persistence and self-discipline to actually finish a project now.  I’ve learned that I love to learn.  And I’m good at it!  I may not be a “master” crafter.  But I’m definitely a “crafter”.  Some of my greatest pleasure has been immersing myself in the online world of Makers and learning about the ideas and subjects at the periphery.  I’ve dabbled in thrifting, resale, DIY, gardening and frugality over the last three years.  I’ve adopted some practices and activities that I think will enrich my life for years to come….and honestly, I feel pretty good about it.

So where does that leave me today?  It leaves me convinced that there are a lot of people like me.  People who just want to create or do…something.  To tap that right brain in a way that’s completely removed from the reality of your day-to-day life.  So I’m creating a place for us.  There’s so much information out there.  So much specialization.  In the three years I’ve immersed myself in this online world of Makers and Crafters, I’ve devoted hours and hours of time to reading and synthesizing information I will never, ever use. I can spare you that.  We’ll explore topics together in a way that gives you the essentials. If you want to know more, go farther, specialize, you’ll get links to help you begin your journey.  Let’s be Generalists.  Let’s explore and learn together.  Let’s take a look at cooking, crafting, thrifting, gardening, and…such the like.