Monday, December 19, 2016

Help, I’m hooked!

My mother was a very determined and accomplished woman, teaching herself to cook and whipping up gourmet meals. Not only that, she was also an excellent seamstress, making her own dresses with tissue-thin sewing patterns (in the days before youtube). She knitted really complicated sweaters, and made me a beautiful cable-knit pullover when I went away to college that I really regret not keeping. She also mastered the art of lace-tatting (yes, there’s actually such a word) and crocheting. All that yarn and those needles used to bamboozle me and I thought it was only for old ladies. But one day I came across some snazzy crochet designs in really vibrant colours, and went on youtube (thank God for youtube) to learn how to crochet, went out and bought some yarn, and now I’m hopelessly hooked.

I live in the tropics, so there’s no need at all for me to crochet (or knit) any woollies for winter. Luckily, my son, B, who has moved to Hongkong, says that winter there is pretty chilly, so I have an excuse to yarn away. The thing about me is that I don’t normally do things by half measures. Not for me those doilies or kitchen mitts that those tutorials tell you to start out with. I was ambitious (or foolhardy) and decided I would crochet an afghan.

Isn’t that someone who comes from Afghanistan, you might ask? Yes, but it’s also what you call a throw or mini blanket that you throw (get it?) on your couch and curl up under on cold nights in front of the TV. I researched crocheted afghans and decided that I would do a straightforward beginner’s design in stripes.

I went to the craft shop and was accosted by a bewildering array of yarns, wool and whatnot. I read the magazines on the shelf there and figured out that I needed a crochet hook and balls of yarn. And so I picked out some really funky colours like purple, bright yellow and orange. Not for me those sweet pastel colours, I thought.

Back home, I sat myself in front of the youtube tutorial and taught myself how to crochet, learning a whole new lexicon of words like slip knot, single crochet, double crochet, yarn over and the like. I did start with what was going to be a striped afghan but soon realized (remember, I live in the tropics) that having a gradually expanding throw over my lap was making me break out in sweat. It was the heat, yes, but also the stress of counting stitches!

I lost count of how many squares I actually crocheted.
So I had to rethink my strategy. Surely I could crochet smaller pieces and then piece them together right? That’s when I discovered granny squares. Cute little crocheted pieces that, yes, I could technically use as doilies, but could be joined up eventually. So I unravelled all the yarn I had used for the stripes and started on my squares. Very soon, I realized that the one ball of each color of yarn I had bought wouldn’t  suffice for my project.

Off I trotted to the craft shop again, casting my (now) experienced eye over all the yarn and selecting more balls. A lady who strolled across me in the aisle said, “My, that’s a lot of yarn,” making me smile weakly and wonder if I had bitten off more that I could chew.

And so I started crocheting my granny squares like a little old lady. I kind of grew addicted to the process, looking forward to each evening when I would have completed all my work and chores and could sit down to crochet. It's a way of de-stressing for me. I resented any intrusion in the beginning when I was still getting the hang of the crocheting process. Any phone call or email was dealt with summarily so I could go back to my crocheting. I did become competent enough (after maybe my 50th granny square!) so that I could talk on the phone (speaker phone) while crocheting.

It took me about two months but when I cast off my last stitch a few nights ago, I felt a pang. I’ve obviously been holding the crochet hook wrongly so that my thumb was aching and I couldn’t bend it anymore. I even tried icing it and went online again to see how other people were dealing with their aches and pains. They have splints, finger guards and hints for how to rest your arm, but basically the only treatment is to stop crocheting.

Ta-daa! The completed afghan!
I told myself that I would stop once I finished this afghan, but now I’m left with quite a bit of yarn, and am itching to pick up that hook again. Perhaps a bag? A scarf for my son? I know, I’ve turned into a granny, researching all those wonderful patterns and thinking I’m now accomplished enough to try something more complicated. There’s a whole world out there of avid crocheters, coming up with really great items to make. Who knew?

Why crochet, you might ask, and not knitting? Basically because I’m a klutz. I don’t  have my mother’s skilled fingers. It’s already challenging enough holding one hook, I don’t think I can handle needles in both hands. No, I won’t even think about baby blankets or mittens just yet, but I came across a marvellous account of an 86-year old man in a nursing home who taught himself to knit so that he could provide caps for preemie babies in the hospital. Check out his story here:

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