Tips for the Mundane

There are some truths about crochet that no one ever seems to share, we all hit a period where we are bored. This could be a stitch pattern, the act of moving the hook, the feel of the yarn. Everyone I have ever met does put things down from time to time, but they never really admit it.

It does not matter if you crochet for a living or just as a hobby, sometimes we find a mundane point. However, I have found a couple of ways through this period.

Ask yourself why. Is it that the stitch is not exciting? Is pattern is taking too long to finish? Is my attention being pulled in another direction?

We have all been there, and there is no shame in it. I have found a couple of approaches to get through it and still actually end up loving crochet again.

First, take a break. This is not a bad word and it does not mean that you are done with the craft, it simply means that you need a point of rejuvenation. Usually when I put my hook down, I find that I still need something to keep my hands busy and fidgety in the evenings when sitting with the family in front of the television. For me I then pick up work puzzles, maybe some Sudoku or word searches, I don’t quite have the disposition for crosswords but there are plenty of different puzzles to keep me entertained.

However, sometimes you need to get a project finished, there is a deadline…maybe you need that gift for the baby shower in 3 days. In this case, I have to set small goals. It can be as simple as completing a set number of rows of the pattern every time I sit down with it in my hand. This really depends upon that stitch pattern, but maybe it is as simple as getting through one of the row pattern repeats. Maybe it is getting to the next color change, or the next color change in the yarn. I set myself a visual point and work toward it. I find that this helps even more if I have a small reward for myself at the end, maybe I get a cookie or such, maybe then I get a nice stretch. It does not have to be anything big, it just has to be something to break up the monotony.

Sometimes it is as simple as changing projects and putting one in “time out”. I find this happens most on projects that I was first intrigued by, but then quickly discovered that the design was a really rather simple stitch repeat, like an entire afghan worked in only double crochet rows. There is nothing wrong with it, it just is not very exciting, and frankly if I do not have a reason or deadline to actually complete it, I might not get it finished. In this case I just have to be honest with myself. There is no harm in using the yarn in another project.

I wish I could say that I never put down my hook, that I have endless creative energy, but alas that is not what works for me. There are times I need to find another focus to help but my love of crochet back in focus.

Memory In Crochet

March every year is a month long celebration of crochet, as it is recognized as “National Crochet Month”. You will find “National Craft Week” in there to, but I do tend to focus on crochet. Lately, however, I have taking a bit of an introspective look.

Usually when someone talks about the memories crochet creates they are usually referring something someone made. Maybe it is an afghan that grandma made, or a dishtowel that a favorite aunt created. However there is another crochet memory that crocheters sometime get to experience, and it is found in the yarn.

It is true that when crocheters create something special for a loved one or friend that they take time to figure out the right color, the right pattern, and think of this person often when creating the stitches. This is the process that some refer to as adding the love. However, this last week I have been reminded of another way to stitch, while looking at someone else’s thoughts and dreams.

I have been crocheting with yarn that was inherited by be from one of my students that lost her battle with cancer this last year. I have had similar experiences in the past, making stitches from yarn chosen by someone else, for some perfect project that I am unaware of. I do not know why this color, or why this weight. I don’t know what the inspiration was. I only know that this was something that inspired her, something that wanted to be created.

I may not know what the original intended creation for the yarns, so I simply pick a stitch and make an afghan. I later donate this afghan to various charitable organizations. I spend the time stitching, being remembering a friend.

I wish I could say that this was the first such time I have stitched this afghan, but it’s not. It is a memorial for me, a bit cathartic, and bit therapeutic, and a bit of a tribute.

Crochet continues to amaze me, how it is such an emotional part of life.

A Vacation from Crochet

I thought it would feel different, not crocheting for 2 weeks, but surprisingly it was a bit liberating.

I did not start out planning to put my hook and yarn aside through the entire holiday season, but that is what happened. My family and I took a holiday vacation, a true first for us. We were gone for 2 weeks taking a whirlwind guided tour of Europe, from London to Rome. It really has been a lifelong dream to actually have a passport stamps of travel, and the end of 2017 the stars aligned and the dream became reality. We visited Stonehenge, and the Eiffel Tower. We took in a show at the Moulin Rouge, and checked out the views from Mount Pilatus. We enjoyed dinner on the Grand Canal, and visited Michelangelo’s David. We were awestruck with the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum. It was a lifetime of dreams wrapped into an adventure, an adventure we would love to do again.

I packed a couple of crochet projects and added them to my backpack. There is down time in travel, like the direct flights of over 10 hours, and the coach rides across the French country side, or the moments before sleep in the hotel. However, I was captivated by the dream, engaged in conversations with my new traveling companions, and spending quality time with my family.

When I got home again, and dug those projects out of my backpack, they felt fresh and new. It was like my whole body, all of my ideas and inspirations were able to be rejuvenated and see my stitches with fresh eyes. I cannot remember when I last felt that way about my hand craft, it has to have been at least several years, and I do not know that just putting it down at home without the adventure would have yielded the same result. My hooks feel lighter, my ideas crisper, I hope this side effect has some staying power, but if it doesn’t at least I have an idea of how to recapture it again.

Crochet Crunch Time

How is it that the month of December can sneak up on me every year? As I get older, it almost seems to happen faster and faster. I once was able to have the holiday shopping completed by the middle of September and have everything in place to feel relaxed during this crazy time of year.

Then the years pass, I somehow lose weeks of my life and instead of having things outlined and planned in early fall I am just aware that I need pull everything together as my sister pulls the Turkey out of the oven on Thanksgiving.

All of my plans of what to crochet and for who gets put into over drive and long nights of flying fingers are scheduled. However, I must not be alone in this last minute hustle, as it is also this time of year that I get many requests for “can you make”.

“Can you make” always seems like a loaded question, it is not really asking if I would want to make and item, or if I have time to make an item, or if I charge to make an item….it simple asks if I can. Yes, I do have the skill set, but I don’t know if I have the time. But, at least I know that I am not alone in my last minute hustle.

So as the festivities begin, please know you are not alone, there are many of us up late making our hooks fly. Deciding that instead of an afghan, a nice scarf will work. Figuring how we can finish our self-imposed “to do” list and still stay sane and enjoy this time of year.


Brittany Hooks-My New Go-To

I learned something new and realized I was wrong. Yes, I can admit when I am wrong…even if I have friends and family that may not believe that statement…For years I have believed that for me there has been a difference between in-line and taper hooks. Some people refer to this as the debate between Susan Bates and Boye hooks, as they are the most popular brands.

left to right: Boye, Susan Bates, Brittany; all size K, 10 1/2, 6.5mm

To simplify the arguments, the inline hooks are like simple tubes with slits at the throat of the hook, while tapers taper down at the throat and enlarge at the head. I thought that it was this that made the difference in how I crocheted, but testing out some Brittany Crochet hooks, as showed me I have been wrong all these years.

Brittany hooks are inline hooks, and I offered to test them out primarily because I realized that the world is small. In small I mean, that I met the owner of Brittany hooks at a trade show in the Midwest, only to realize in our discussions that we actually went to high school together, a couple of years apart, in my home town in Northern California; that he actually hung out with my cousin throughout school and that we had many mutual friends.

I offered to test out the hooks, as a feeling of this small world companionship, I didn’t realize that I would learn something new and find a great hook in the process. Brittany was happy to have my feedback on my experience with their product, as they want to ensure that they are offering the best hooks on the market.

What I learned was that for me it really is not the shaft of the throat that effects my crochet, it is the length of the hook.

I use a knife hold when holding my hook, meaning that I hold it the same as if I were holding a knife to chop. I hadn’t really realized it before but the Susan Bates hooks are shorter than the Boye hooks as a result they do not extend past my hand, but instead rest just at the edge of my little finger. When using the Brittany, they had more length than a Bates, and that made all the difference. I found no difficulty in creating the stitches, and I have put these hooks through some test, creating a couple of sweaters and shawls.

The Brittany hooks were very comfortable to use, not to mention very handsome. They are actually all created by wood sourced in the United States, ensuring that they wood is sustainably harvested. All the hooks are made by a single family, and in a small town along the northern coast of California. My understanding is that this company grew out of a bit of a challenge; that challenge being creating a knitting needle from a single piece of wood.  This should not really seem like a challenge, as we have all seen wooden knitting needles before, however these are typically constructed in two pieces; a turned shaft and a stopper at the top. Brittany is actually all turned as one piece. The turning of the shaft is then adjusted to turn a beautiful ending edge. For the crochet hooks there is one other step, which is cutting in the throat.

While a machine might turn the lathe, the human hand is evident throughout the hook. Each one is lovingly created and hand finished. The family is dedicated to making a quality product while working by their family values of supporting the environment and their community. It began with a father over 40 years ago and is continued with the son working to support his growing family today.

However that thing I find most amazing is how reasonably priced the hooks are. I have found them on-line and in some small local yarn stores for under $10. For a hand worked hook….that is crazy reasonable. Couple with that, that they have an amazing product guarantee…if your hook is damaged in 5 years of purchase, they will replace it, no questions asked. That is beyond reasonable.

This makes it a very practical gift to yourself or someone you care for that stitches. I definitely recommend Brittany hooks, and am glad that I decided to give this hook a chance….I learned something new about my stitching as well as found my new go-to hook.