Learning to crochet was a bit of a ‘start-stop-and-start again with gusto’ journey for me. There comes a point on most journeys where you just want to throw in the towel – and I did at one point, not literally throwing my hooks into the corner – but I managed to keep at it and am quite proud of what I’ve achieved, the skills I’ve learnt and the things I can now make! I love the promise in my stash of printed and pinned crochet patterns, the colours and textures of a wool display, the meditative and relaxing qualities of hooking yarn, and the surprise in my loved ones’ eyes when they see what I’ve made for them. Here’s a run through of my crochet journey.
I suppose I first became aware of crochet through my mum. As an only child with parents who worked all day, there wasn’t much entertainment to be had for her, so she took to crafting as a way of whiling away the hours. She has always been a dab hand at embroidery, crochet and knitting and would always be working on a project, like making a jumper for her favourite teacher or embroidering our names for the nursery wall. Nowadays she’s a champion sock and scarf knitter and doesn’t make much else – I’m inundated with handmade woolly gifts, but that hasn’t stopped me from wanting to learn to crochet.
With three brothers, I was never bored as a child. But as a twenty-something, I wanted to be able to make something and be more creative again (after being a very creative teenager, those activities got rather side-lined in University). Crochet doesn’t take up that much room and it’s practical. It’s also a great mother and daughter activity and we can learn from one another. I decided I wanted to make a granny square blanket and asked my mum to teach me a basic square when she was visiting.
I spent time buying wool and gradually growing my stash of squares according my mum’s verbal instructions. Somehow they never looked right. Now I know that the wool I was buying wasn’t always the right thickness, no one told me about gauge, and I was making up stitches as I went along. Unsurprisingly, most of my squares turned out wonky and lopsided. Nevertheless I soldiered on making stacks of not-quite-square granny squares.
The next time my mum came to visit she was excited to take a look at my progress. Dismayed by all the imperfect but colourful squares she stepped in and whisked them away with her, undoing them all and crocheting the whole blanket from scratch herself. I now had a crochet blanket, but I hadn’t made it myself which was quite disheartening. Learning how to crochet was the whole point of the exercise. I felt I hadn’t learnt much and had exhausted my ideas of things to make, so my crochet hooks went into a drawer and my yarn stash wandered to the back of the cupboard for a while.
A couple of years later I started thinking about crochet again and how I’d given up so easily the first time. This time, I didn’t want to get my mum involved but teach myself instead, as I knew she couldn’t help herself and take over my project again. So I went to the library (old fashioned maybe, but so helpful) and took out a few books on crochet. I dug out some spare wool and a hook from my doomed first project and started practising by making chains, swatches of single crochet, double crochet, and changing yarn.
One book in particular stood out. It’s called Beginner Basics (“Vogue Knitting” on the Go! Series) edited by Trisha Malcolm. It has a few patterns in the back, but – best of all – the basic stitches and skills are explained really well. I couldn’t keep the library book forever, so for my 26th birthday I bought it. I started simply by making an infinity scarf with some grey and pink wool from a charity shop. There was no pattern in the book, I just made it up as I went along in single crochet stitches, the colours inspiring me as I went along. I felt so excited after finishing that scarf and wearing it for the first time; I believe that is the moment I really caught the crochet bug.
It’s not just the soothing and relaxing action of crocheting, and it’s not only challenging yourself to try a new pattern or different stitches, it’s the sense of achievement when everything comes together and you’ve created something unique, beautiful and practical with your own hands. Since that first scarf, I haven’t looked back and keep surprising myself. My Pinterest board is brimming with ideas and patterns, I occasionally buy crochet magazines, and sometimes I make up my own patterns. There’s so much inspiration out there. Why don’t you give crochet a go?
I’d love to hear about your crochet journeys! Who taught you or did you teach yourself? Do you practise any other crafts? What project are you currently working on?