Thoughts on crafting, creativity and pursuits of the yarn variety

Since I was a kid, I’ve dabbled in a wide variety of creative pursuits – sculpting, drawing, painting, beading and the like. As these things tend to go, some of it has carried over to adulthood, some has gone by the wayside, and new things have joined the list.

Crafting with yarn has been among the late additions to my repertoire. A lifetime of exposure to my mother’s knitting culminated in an attempt to learn when I was about 20, but I found the ratio of effort expended to result achieved to be skewed beyond my tolerance. The sad garter-stitch “scarf” I made still lives among my stash, its wildly varying tension, dropped stitches and dangling ends a reminder of persistence in the face of frustration. Associations cling to it; it’s become emblematic of the turmoil and redefinition of self that characterized that period of my life. When I moved out of my parents’ home, bringing it along only to stuff it in a drawer was a rebellious act I did not yet understand. I have not yet been able to bring myself to rip it down to its component yarns.

If I couldn’t part with that scarf, neither could I shake the appeal of the yarn. It obligingly remained dormant until a few years later, while I finished my degree and my partner and I had bought our house together. I was working at a bookstore, handling the magazines, and became exposed to the arrays of projects in the numerous craft magazines. In the mean time, I was introduced to the crochet that a few of my friends were making. The motifs one friend made particularly drew me, fluffy granny squares she pieced together into scarves. I was delighted when she gave me one for Christmas. It was nothing like the dense afghans and intricate doilies I was familiar with. Through examining that scarf and seeing the creative projects in the magazines, I became curious enough to try it myself.

Being a stubborn sort with a limited budget, I first tried to make sense of some instructions I’d found on an ageing Angelfire page. Armed with a grey plastic hook and a few balls of cheap worsted acrylic, I remember sitting in our dim basement den in front of the TV trying to apply what I had learned. The result was a mess. My edges were a horror, I somehow managed to undo the yarn’s twist, and I’m reasonably sure I turned single crochet into a strange variant on slip stitch. I soon realized my efforts looked like no crochet I’d ever seen and that the dense trapezoid I had produced would never be a blanket.

Flipping through books at work showed me what I had failed to grasp; I bought one shortly thereafter. It fixed my edges, taught me was a properly made stitch looked like and expanded my understanding of what was possible. I soon progressed from swatches and granny squares to full blankets, shrugs and colourwork. Six years later, I get twitchy when I watch TV without a hook in hand. The nature of crochet has let it slide neatly into my leisure time to become my primary creative outlet, and the experience of years has enabled me to experiment.

You’ll rarely catch me making something the same way twice. I’m now confident enough in my skills to improvise as I go or recreate basic patterns from a photo alone. That creative urge recently led me to take on an Industrial Design course to stretch myself, for which I completed a major filet work I never would have considered otherwise. The filet work now hangs on my wall, and I rarely go a day without wearing something I’ve made.

I might learn to knit someday, but the associations clinging to that first scarf are still strong. I’ve been able to make crochet my own, but for now, I’m content to leave the knitting be.