Monday, December 27, 2010

Where's the other stick?

 It all started with this....
beautiful, handpainted, 100% merino wool yarn in vibrant, rainbow colors...
 and a hook...

...along with the desire to learn more about crocheting.

I learned a few basic stitches years ago from my mother-in-law, Karen, who is an accomplished crocheter.  It was tricky business, however, because unlike knitting with two needles, you only have one hook, and you have to PICK a hand to hold it in.  I am a lefty, you see, and Karen is right-handed.  Being a lefty in a right-handed world my whole life, I have learned to adapt and overcome.  And I did, to some degree, get it figured out, using my left hand, but soon became frustrated and went back to my knitting.

It wasn't just about holding the hook and yarn.  There was also the challenge of learning to read crochet patterns, which was a whole new language to me.  My mind would go hazy trying to comprehend instructions like:  Ch 1, hdc across, do not turn, cont around edge of base as foll:  work 23 hdc evenly spaced across row ends, hdc in 44 unused lps of foundation ch, work 23 hdc across next 32 sts, sl st in beg ch-1 to join, turn.  It was SO different than knitting.  I might as well have been reading Arabic, or Greek, or well, you get the picture.

And just like learning a new language, you first have to understand the words, and then you have to be able to speak them or use them in real life, or in this case, actually do what it says, CORRECTLY.

I know what hdc stands for..half double crochet...I even know how to do one...but somebody please tell me, where are the 44 unused lps of foundation ch?  Where are the next 32 sts?  And then you want me sl st in beg ch-1 to join?!?  There seems to be no beginning and no end.  Counting chains and 'seeing' where to put the hook for the next stitch was such a challenge. I never ended up with the correct number of sts and even a flat piece that was supposed to be square at the edges turned round, right before my eyes. 

Knitting, whether flat or in the round, you can see exactly how many stitches are on the needles and you know where your next stitch is (most of the time anyway).  But this crochet business was more than my brain wanted to take in at the time any way. 

So like I said, I put it away for many years, only bringing out my hook(s) as it pertained to my knitting:  to pick up dropped stitches, slip stitch two pieces of knitting together, bind off many, many stitches on blankets (that's a neat trick, let me tell you, and so fast), and putting the occasional crocheted edging on a piece of my knitting.  I tell new knitters all the time that the most valuable knitting tool I own is a crochet hook, and I mean it.  I would be lost without it. 

So when someone asks me if I crochet, my stock answer is, yes, I can crochet, but I am NOT a crocheter.  There is a big distinction to be made here.

If a customer comes to the Brown Sheep store with a question or problem regarding crochet, I honestly cannot help them.  The best I can do is send them across the hall into the office.  The ladies in there both crochet and are able to understand a pattern quite well.  I do feel bad when I have to do that though, because they are very busy answering phones, taking orders and such.  They are always willing to help and do so with a smile on their face, I might add, but three years of this and I think I finally decided I needed to step up, get over my resistance and learn to crochet...really learn this time. 

A few questions, a few lessons, and patient encouragement from my co-workers, I got started, again.

This time I put the hook in my right hand from the start.  I held and tensioned the yarn with my left hand.  (So glad I can continental knit as well as throw!  That helped a lot.  When I learned from my mother-in-law years ago I didn't know how to continental knit.  Seems it has made all the difference for me this go around.)

I chose a simple shell stitch scarf pattern that we have in the store (along with several beautiful samples I have been coveting for months now) Our previous crochet instructor, Brandy Earl, used this same pattern in her beginning classes.

So anyway, I was off and crocheting.

Seeing those colors taking shape was enough to keep me going! 

But it was also the rhythm and flow I found almost immediately.  What a different feel than knitting.  How delightfully surprising that I was enjoying it this much, even if I did look down at my knitting work in the basket next to my feet and feel a pang of guilt, like a cheating spouse in a way.  I really related to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's self-imposed label of Yarn Harlot.  (She can't stay loyal to any one knitting project lol)  In my case it was like having an affair with crocheting and my knitting was very jealous. 

Evidently my husband was paying close attention and was even 'bothered' somewhat by my new found love.  
He asked at one point, "Are you giving up knitting?" 

The way he asked I almost felt like he was asking if I was giving him up. lol:)  He doesn't like change much and I guess after seeing me with knitting needles in my hands for 26 years, he just didn't quite understand what in the world I was doing.  lol:) 

The look in his eyes seemed to ask:  Was I changing careers...again?!?  Was I going to be a crocheter instead of a knitter?  Why in the world was I doing this?...I think it threw him off in no small way.   I just smiled and kept on crocheting, all the time reassuring him that no, I wasn't 'giving up' knitting.  It was time for me to expand my skills, that's all.

I have to be totally honest here though.  There was a little voice in my head that kept asking what if I liked crocheting better than knitting?!?  Oh my...;)   

In any case, I was eager to share the fun I was having with our Knit Night group because surely they could appreciate my enthusiasm.  I brought my crocheting along to our last get together.  My friend Virginia, who crochets, but doesn't knit, watched me for a short while and when I noticed she was keeping an eye on my work I asked her what she was thinking and she said:  "You crochet like a knitter."

I laughed and pondered that for a sec then asked, "What do you mean by that?"

She said "You hold the hook like a knitting needle!"

I really didn't get it and honestly I was too engrossed in what I was doing at the moment to give it too much thought.  I kept happily crocheting away, feeling only slightly self-conscious somewhere inside of me that maybe I was doing it all wrong and she just didn't want to hurt my feelings. :)

Later on I was showing off my new crochet skills to my mother-in-law and asked her what Virginia meant.  She smiled and said this is how most crocheters hold their hook and she put it in her hand like she was going to write with it.

Oh!  I see now!  In knitting, holding the needles that way is called the Victorian hold or the pencil hold.  The light bulb went on.  I guess because I hold my knitting needles like a fork or spoon, that's how I was holding my crochet hook as well. 

No matter, the point being it was cute and I realized I loved being told that I crochet like a knitter.  Well of course I do.

Anyway....less than a week later...
(unheard of, by the way, when KNITTING a really is fast even for a beginner!)


A pretty little scalloped-edged scarf.

That can be worn like this...

or maybe... this.

It's 92" long!

That's the way I like my that I can wrap and wrap around my neck and still have plenty of length down the front of my legs.

My excitement at my accomplishment wasn't squashed even when I brought it to work to show the girls in the office and Tracy said, "It's lovely, but you did it wrong."

"Wrong?", I said.  Well, it sure looked like a scarf to me! ;) 

Yep, it seems that the pretty little scalloped edge wasn't really supposed to be there.
Evidently I forgot to double crochet at the end of every row before chaining and turning, which made my turning chains at each end bend...hence the accidental scalloped edge.

Very pretty though (don't you think?) .

I made the same mistake for 92" and didn't have a clue! 

I'm a beginner.  It's a good excuse.

 Well, I thought, I better try again.  I chose a beautiful brown monochromatic yarn (Lamb's Pride Worsted M-260 Cafe Au Lait) and made it for myself...and this time I did it 'right'.  The edges were straighter this time. 

The brightly colored scarf, by the way, I gave to my daughter for Christmas.  She said she loved it.  Those colors are so 'her'.  She said it looked tie-dyed.  Cool.

Here's mine...

I have always thought of myself as a knitter, period. And then somewhere along the way I adopted the title fiber artist, simply because it represents the other fiber arts I incorporate into my knitting.   Also, because I teach classes, I am always looking to improve my knitting skills and that's what I spend the majority of my time working on.

Every year, January brings renewed optimism for change, for a better life, for a better you. And that’s a wonderful thing.  It’s wonderful, because this fresh start gives us a chance to reinvent our lives and ourselves. It allows us to reinvigorate ourselves, to shed the baggage of the previous year and do anything.

I want to make the most of this gift. And sometimes that means reinventing the way I live. 

While I am definitely not ready to teach crochet just yet, I am excited for the coming year.  (I have hired a new instructor, Esther Warren to take over Brandy's classes...see the Class Schedule Page for details.)

I love new beginnings and this feels like a true beginning of something for me. It isn't so much about the crocheting as what it represents.  You can fill in that blank with anything new and interesting that you'd like to learn. 

It's about the fact that I haven't stretched outside of 'my zone' for some time now.  I have been so busy concentrating on  the BUSINESS aspect of this business I have chosen, that I simply have not taken the time, nor the opportunity, to CREATE and learn and explore.  So I am off to do just that. 

Now if I only my husband would stop asking me: "Where's the other stick?"

Happy New Year to All!

Knit (or Crochet) On,



  1. This post makes me smile. I've known how to crochet for years but it never really held my interest. Funny how that has changed now that I now also know how to knit. I have half finished crocheted projects in a basket that were started the winter I was preggers with my oldest daughter. She is now 9. Yet in the 2 years since learning to knit I've completed around 20 projects! I have a great appreciation for both crafts and am glad to know a little about both. But I find it funny that some people, myself included, gravitate towards one or the other as their main craft, filling in the missing holes of creativity with the other.

    BTW, I love that cafe au lait yarn. I used some in my felted bag and think I have a bit more floating around here somewhere in bulky.

    Happy sticking...whether it's with one or two :)

  2. I think both of the scarves are beautiful, Donna. You did a great job. I'm eager to see what you come up with for your next crocheted project.

  3. Thanks, Melissa! I also completed some very cute Christmas ornaments. I will post pics soon. I now have my eye on a very beautiful 'color blocks' crocheted jacket from "Crochet in Color" by Kathy Merrick. Yes, quite a leap from scarves and ornaments, but you know me--lol;) Just gotta jump in head first and do it!