Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Needlecraft as a form of meditation

I've remembered how to crochet.

Ever since I was quite young (maybe ten) I've loved handcrafts. Not only for the outcome but often because I just enjoyed doing it. Crafts such as knitting, sewing, crochet, tatting, patchwork, quilting, weaving and embroidery were what filled my school holidays.

Sometimes they made it into actual, useable pieces. I was in my element in the 80s when country cottage style was chic (so many patchwork pillows!) and chunky handknits were all the rage (I made myself a bright yellow bat-wing jersey with primary-colour houses on front and back, and rainbow striped bands at age 15 - I buried my cat in it six months ago, she was very cosy. My mum said 'oh no, not the house jersey', like I'd ever wear it again).

I still enjoy creating these days. The trick is keeping my patchwork and knitting fresh and modern. I'm so glad it's trendy to be crafty. My sister sells a bit on Etsy. Authors like Debbie Bliss and Erika Knight have some very simple and chic knitting and crochet books out.

Unfortunately somewhere along the way I forgot how to crochet. It's been awhile. I kept starting off a practice piece but always became stuck. Two days ago I remembered. I printed out instructions off the fabulous The Purl Bee (blog of Purl Soho, purveyor of fine and pricy craft materials, where I am surely headed when I have the good fortune to visit NYC) and now I'm away.

At the moment I don't actually have a specific project in mind, I'm just enjoying the meditative repetitiveness of crochet stitches. I've tried meditating the 'think of nothing for 20 minutes' way and just can't get it. I find walking is good meditation - the footfalls let my mind wander and rest, and knitting or crochet is the same.

I was inspired to get my crochet mojo back by Faux Fuchsia. She has crocheted a rug for herself and also for her niece and nephew. They look so colourful and cute in her favourite brights.

Some of the added bonuses are: you can't eat and crochet/knit. You can watch a tv programme with your husband with a project on your lap. You can still sip from a glass of wine (or brandy) with a hook or set of needles in your hand(s). Just not too much though or you have to pull the stitches out from time to time when it gets a bit wonky.

If you've never done anything of this sort ever, it's really not that hard. You may not be able to learn and watch a movie at the same time, but one day you will, and in the meantime you will have simultaneously relaxed and created something.

And that's what gives the satisfaction. The creating. Like cooking a good meal, there is great satisfaction to be had from giving a gift to a friend's newborn of a knitted cot rug, which apparently is much better than a woven rug in that you can pull it around the baby and tuck it in snug, and the knit fabric grabs and holds - it doesn't come undone.

My favourite 'knit without really thinking about it' project is this baby rug (or it could be a throw rug to have on the sofa for when it gets chilly).

Fifi's Craft Corner - Baby Rug

You need:

10 x 50g balls of 8 ply/double knitting wool
4mm and 5mm needles, 5mm crochet hook

Size will be approx 75cm across and 1m long

Cast on 125 stitches with 4mm needles. Change to 5mm needles and knit every row until you've used up nine balls of wool. Join new balls at the end of a row if possible, and then sew in ends later. Cast off when rug is correct length. Crochet around the edge of the rug.

Now that I've remembered how to crochet, I plan to use up the scraps of wool I inherited from my Nana, and make up rugs that could be gifts, donated or kept. I'll decide when I've finished. For this first one I am using up the colours of blue, cream and aqua. And practising my crocheting at the same time so I don't forget again.

My sweet husband, knowing my crochet frustration noticed I was crocheting rather than knitting last night. 'You remembered how?' he said, 'I'm so impressed! You're so clever with your hands.' He's a man who doles out praise lavishly.

Are there any other handcrafters around who would care to out themselves? I know LuxeBytes is a whiz with the needles. Or would-be handcrafters with a desire to learn?


  1. I learned a little bit when I was very young but have forgotten how to do it. On occasion I get ambitious with sewing on my sewing machine but that is usually for a home project or something like curtains. You should also sell some of your things on Etsy if you start making a lot of them.

  2. I used to embroider pillowcases. When my stepchildren were little, I made each of them their own with their name in block letters down the edge. One had a dream theme with moons and stars, the other had a seashell theme and the last was for my sports fanatic stepdaughter - balls and bats and such. I'm am not crafty in anything else. My mom got me started on embroidery young and it's stayed with me. I haven't sewn anything in ages but you have reminded me how meditative it can be.

  3. Stephanie, simply having access to a sewing machine and being able to complete home projects is such a boon. There are so many little things you can do with little or no money to make a place stylish and homey. I think it's a shame 'the old days' when women learnt these crafts is long gone.

    I don't have the productivity (or inclination) for Etsy right now. My sister treats it as an at-home job and really is quite busy (she has two pre-schoolers as well). Who knows though, maybe one day!

    Adrienne, even though you say you're not crafty, embroidery is a fabulous (and quite rare) skill to have. When you come back to it after a break you remember how much you enjoy it. And if you haven't done anything since childhood it could bring back those breezy and carefree days of being a kid.

    Embroidered pillowcases would make lovely gifts too. Imagine one with fleur de lys' on! You could also recreate the cushion you didn't buy in Paris.

  4. My crochet teacher was a lovely old lady who lived in the old folks home where my grandmother was the superintendant. They used to have craft afternoons, and Miss Kenyon, who spent her life as a nanny, taught me to crochet. I was only able to master the simple stitches and have never been able to follow a pattern so all I've accomplished really are a couple of small blankets, and round doilies.

    I'm currently trying to knit myself a sweater. It takes me a very long time to knit something because I'm a very slow knitter (and I find it frustrating that it takes so long). I remember knitting my son a sweater once, and by the time I finished it he'd grown and it didn't fit him. Then there was a pink sweater I knitted for myself that was too small and I gave to my MIL. They say third time lucky, so maybe this one will fit!!!

  5. Jackie, how funny. My Nana was a registered nurse and worked in a rest home also. She worked for so long (got bored and restless being at home) that she was older than some of the residents. Visitors would sometimes mistake her for one of the residents.

    Simple stitches and no pattern sound perfect to me. It's just nice to have something to work on, and eventually the rug gets bigger!

    I haven't knitted a jersey for myself since the eighties. And I bet the story of your son's jersey is more common than you'd think! I think that's why baby knitting is so popular - the pieces are small and quick to finish.


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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