Mingled yarn

The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.”

~ William Shakespeare

crochet hooks

A couple of weeks ago, I began work on several projects I hope will eventually become Christmas presents. I pulled out my crochet hooks, bought skein after skein of yarn, and perused pattern books for ideas.

I first learned to crochet when I was very young from my aunt Sharon. For most of my youth, even well into adulthood, she was affectionately called Snookie.

She was the cool aunt. She was independent and bohemian in an era when these were not considered attractive female traits.

I would spend weekends with her as a kid. She had converted an old door into a dining-slash-coffee table and we would sit on cushions on the floor and eat dinner. The table was painted black with a high lacquered gloss. She had lived in Japan for several years, working as a teacher. As we ate, sometimes with chopsticks, we would pretend we were in Japan.

filet grannie squaresWhen I was about 8, she showed me how to make granny squares. As I got older, I advanced from those early lessons, teaching myself more complicated stitches, and how to read instructions and pattern diagrams. Years later, when my grandmother was in the hospital with cancer, I brought a project to her room with me, passing the time as we waited for her to return from surgery. The repetition, the controlled movements, were comforting and distracting at the same time.

Snookie , there to lend support to her mother, was surprised by how far I had taken her simple, granny squares. Through trial and error, from numerous mistakes, hours of pulling stitches and repairing miscounts in patterns, I moved beyond my childish skills.

I find comfort in the movement of the needle, the feel of the yarn sliding through my fingers, seeing order and structure emerge from my own hands. Once I have the pattern, I can “feel” when I’ve made a mistake. I don’t have to think, I can just do. I don’t worry about how disjointed  and out of control everything else is. I can escape into the familiarity of the stitches.

As much as I enjoy this craft, I don’t engage in it very often. It becomes a mania, either through one huge project which can take weeks or even months to accomplish, or as now, many smaller tasks, one after the other. Barely taking time to finish the last before beginning the next. Filling my mind with routine, masking the disarray surrounding me.

wool yarn In less than two weeks I have completed two gifts, am more than half-finished with a third, and looking through my books for a pattern for yet another.

When in this mania, there is little else. Last Tuesday morning, I began a hat for my son. Before I even left my bed, I had begun round after round of stitches. By the time he was awake, it was taking shape. By lunch he could pull it on, letting me check for fit and size. I barely moved from my room. I wouldn’t stop. I had to finish, and couldn’t think about anything else – only which stitch to make, when to join a new color thread, and count loops. Before dinner, he had his hat.

No worries, no fear, only the rhythm of the needles, the feel of the yarn, the symmetry of the stitches. My needle a weapon against my ennui. While the yarn is flowing, the needles twirling around loop after loop, stabbing through each stitch, I focus my mind only on that, only that.

This week’s Studio30 Plus prompt is “Tinkle,” and/or “Weapon.”

12 thoughts on “Mingled yarn

  1. I too am a yarn fanatic, a hoarder and an obsessive knitter and crochet-er. And I also start early in bed, especially as Christmas or birthday grow near. I’m currently doing a cardigan for my daughter, and mittens for the grandsons. I haven’t yet laid out the rest of the family gifts, but have to set up the projects this week or I’ll never make my deadline! Kudos to you for keeping this dying art alive.

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  2. I’m so envious of your ability to create stuff from yarn. I’ve tried over the years and only succeeded in tying my hands together to the point that I needed extrication…sigh
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and words.

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  3. My mom tried to teach me. Tried. She nor I had the patience to figure out the right handed teaching the lefty how to do this. I love how you explain it – the psychology of it.

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  4. I am so impressed by what people can create from yarn. I’m not patient enough to not be good, which means that I have never tried knitting or crocheting or any of the needle arts. That and I know that I’d probably be with you in the obsession over getting it completed. So where are the photos of the completed projects? 🙂

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  5. Your writing about crochet is beautiful, and soothing as doing it soothes you. I have never learnt, but admire those who create things in this way. If you need to keep going beyond Christmas I can send you my address to post some of your work to! 😉 Lovely post and use of the prompt.

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    1. Thank you, Laura. I’ve heard from other crocheter, knitters and people who do needlepoint, that it’s soothing to them too. It keeps your mind and hands occupied and seems to put life into a calmer perspective.

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  6. I had just written about my Babci (My great grandmother) and here is the very thing (besides peppermint candy) that reminds of her. Her gnarled fingers looping , the small tinkle as the needles collided. I have two very favorite afghans that she made that I will never ever give up.

    I never learned how to crochet but I can imagine that like you I would be consumed with it if I did, sitting for hours, not stopping until I was done.

    I loved the weaving you did with words in this piece, and that picture is just beautiful,,,it has me missing my Babci.

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    1. My aunt Sharon (Snookie) passed away in ’99 from colon cancer. Every time I work on a new project I think of her, and am grateful she taught me such a wonderful skill. I’m glad you have such loving memories of your Babci, and her afghans.

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