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Learning to Crochet Later in Life While in Hospitals and on Airplanes

When I was growing up, I didn’t even know what crochet was. I had heard of knitting, but sewing was what my grandma was an expert on, so I was inspired to that as soon as I was old enough to reach the sewing machine peddle. Upon meeting my husband, I discovered crocheting was popular with his grandma and sister, but I lived far away from them, and besides, was still intimidated by this ancient art. I don’t know why, as I cycled through classes on everything from ceramics to tole painting with great enjoyment.

In my early 20′s, I attempted to teach myself to knit and sort of made the pieces for a baby sweater for a newborn cousin. She never got the sweater. Around age 30, I met a friend who could knit like a machine and she was willing to teach me. However, I started with a project too complicated for a beginner and got bogged down. I also found that the knitting stitches were hard for me to stop easily when I needed to take care of my expanding number of young children, and mistakes were not something I could get my mind around fixing. So, I unraveled the yarn and put it away.

When my girls were approaching ages 8, 9, and 12, my sister-in-law taught them some basic crochet while visiting from out of town. I watched in awe and jealousy as they later experimented with hats, crocheting clothes right on stuffed animals without patterns, and making yards of chain stitch and edgings just for fun. It was then that I really knew I really wanted to learn, but unfortunately didn’t see how it was going to happen.

A couple years later, one of these daughters needed to spend extensive periods of time in the hospital due to a diagnosis of leukemia. I, of course, did not want to leave her there by herself and was the main person to be there with her. As difficult as that time was, I like to make the best of situations and I saw those chunks of time as opportunities for learning to crochet. I bought a book, yarn, and hooks, and began to make the most oddly shaped dishcloths you ever saw. I managed one hat that I tried to follow directions for, but ended up just looking for a head that it fit.

This was just a few years before the internet had blossomed into the resource that it is now, so I was without video tutorials. The book I had chosen came highly recommended in the reviews, but it only had limited photos. My girls didn’t know how to read crochet instructions or much more than the basic single crochet stitch. But it was time, so I kept at it.

I felt painfully slow at it. Still, I managed all the granny squares for a baby afghan. Attaching them to each other was tedious for me, as I had not yet learned some of the techniques I know now, so I swore never to make another granny square and was leery of anything that had to be pieced together.

I went on from there to make some impressive looking, but deceptively simple fillet crochet table cloth edging and a small table cloth. There was a time when I had some serious, undiagnosed nerve pain that kept me from sleeping, so I crocheted ponchos for my girls at unprecedented speed. But overall, this was all over the course of about 10 years, so that my average project completion timetable was more than a year.

This year, my life changed in some significant ways. My husband switched to working mostly from home. After the summer, my mom became seriously ill, leading to her dying in 2 months, and I needed to spend a lot of time at her bedside. And, also, my youngest child graduated from high school level work, which I had taught her at home. This meant: 1) I was more on my own schedule, but not as much as you might think, and 2) I had to do most of the household and yard chores by myself now, 3) I was traveling more both on business and camping with my husband, because my time was “more flexible” than previously. It was time to make crochet part of all of this.

It was thus that I found myself crocheting my first infinity scarf out of sock weight yarn on an airplane from San Francisco to Boise one day. The gentleman next to me said, “You are crocheting, right? My grandma used to do that. It’s nice to see someone do it. It’s a lost art.” I had to respond that it is no longer lost! There are tons of resources everywhere, in book and video form. No longer is someone limited by having a person physically near them to teach them.

Here are a few of the websites that I am learning to appreciate:

ravelry.com has lots of free patterns and community discussion

crocheteverafter.com is a website/blog that I found when I came across the pattern for the infinity scarf mentioned above. It was a 99 cent kindle “book”. I found the pattern to be of beginner/intermediate level, fairly simple but teaching me new things at the same time. Follow this link to find it: Lace Infinity Scarves Pattern Pack This blogger also has a youtube channel AND a Roku channel, both of which I have already made use of. You can find links on her blog home page.

I admit to buying several books as well. I have used this book, Crochet Boutique: 30 Simple, Stylish Hats, Bags & Accessories,to make 2 hats and 1 other infinity scarf this last month.

There are lots of free, simple patterns at the lionbrand.com website. It was through them that I found this helpful tutorial for another hat method and learned some new crochet skills: crocheted stocking hat with ribbing I did not use the yarn in the pattern, instead making a college colors hat and scarf set for an upcoming birthday person…  I am currently working on my first crocheted “real” garment, a sweater for a granddaughter that is a combination of this pattern and some things I learned while making the infinity scarf out of sock yarn. (click on any photo to enlarge)

BSU colors crocheted hat and circular neck scarf set. The Neck scarf is still in progress.

BSU colors crocheted hat and circular neck scarf set. The neck scarf is still in progress.

I have started making a LARGE granny square as a way to use scraps of yarn and experiment with LOTS of stitches in my resource books. It is well over lap size and has been a very inspirational exercise. I don’t know yet how large I am going to make it. Hopefully, I will remember to post a photo of it when I’m done. I have seen a poncho using a similar approach that I am anxious to try. You can see all of the things I “hope to make someday” on my pinterest board here: Crochet Crazy.

I am actually making more things that I would have thought possible a few months ago. A little practice goes a long way with gaining speed and ease, so that it no longer takes quite as much brain power to engage in a project. The efforts are getting more fun all the time. And I’m not spending all my time crocheting. I’m still getting chores done. And some sewing, exercising, and visiting with friends.

Speaking of visiting, I have been able to use my limited skills to help teach a couple of family members to crochet now! And we are going to go all old-fashioned and have a monthly crochet night. Very storybook and should result in making great memories together.

These are some of the crochet beginner tidbits I have passed on to them:

1. Start with small projects.

2. Start with projects where fit or shape don’t matter so much, like dishcloths or scarves.

3. Avoid any fuzzy or kinky yarn. It makes it extremely difficult to see your stitches, which is very important when learning.

4. Have a basic reference book handy for glances at stitches and easing stress. I have seen many good option out there and don’t have one specific one to recommend right now.

5. Take small projects on travels and when visiting. Most of the time in a given project, there is a pattern that is learned and worked on without interfering with conversation. Sitting by loved ones in the evening is another good time to relax with crocheting, sometimes while listening to an audiobook.

My youngest is modeling this infinity crochet scarf is made with some chunky "wool ease" type yarn scraps I inherited. It took about 4 hours to make! The pattern is in the Crochet Boutique book.

My youngest is modeling this infinity crochet scarf is made with some chunky “wool ease” type yarn scraps I inherited. It took about 4 hours to make! The pattern is in the Crochet Boutique book.

6. Chunky yarn can make projects grow fast, but avoid the smaller, thinner yarns and threads in the beginning. It is harder to make them look good while you are still learning to control the tension in your stitches.

When people see me crocheting now, they seem to assume I’ve been doing it all my life. Ladies who are in their 30′s say things like,“I wish I had learned to do that.” They are fairly shocked when I tell them I didn’t learn until I was in my 40′s. They still have time! We may not know the number of our days, but we might as well use and enjoy the ones we have as they come. I am so glad I finally learned to crochet!

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