I cannot recollect the time when I learned how to crochet. I suspect that Hannah taught me what she knew, but I have no memory of the time. Two projects come to mind when I think of beginning to crochet, but neither are truly at the beginning; one was a baby blanket and the other a snowflake. I was somewhere around ten or twelve at the time of both projects. Reading a pattern can be difficult for anyone who is not familiar with the basics, even if they are receiving help along the way. Numerous stitches can become confused and misplaced, resulting in something other than the beginning project. Though Hannah tried to help me, my blanket took on an odd, trapezoidal dimension, leaning seriously to one side. When I tried to correct it the result was that it leaned the other direction. There must have been something about the pattern that I didn't understand, and in the end I finally took it apart for good.
Whenever young children are put to learning a new skill we have found that the more repetitious the pattern is, the easier it is for them to complete it on their own. Once they have gone over the series of stitches several times with help, they can go on all by themselves, just repeating the set they learned. As they gain skill they are able to try new things and eventually do whatever they want.
Crochet is a simple skill to learn and is much faster than knitting. Yet, there are a multitude of variations to meet every need and innumerable patterns of everything imaginable. It also lends itself well to personal alterations and variations. It's a fun skill to experiment with, making custom items for specific needs.
The shawls we make are made from a family pattern. Being a very simple pattern, it was my first big crochet project. I ran into some difficulties on my first shawl because of the very dark color of the yarn I used (dark green). The dark color and the shadows thrown by the yarn blended together making it hard to see the stitches. White would have been better. This pattern is very flexible and can easily be changed to accommodate any size. This allowed us to produce everything from 18" doll replicas to our standard ladies sizes. We like this pattern because it is simple and easy to make, stays on you while you are working, is lovely with its lacy look and keeps you warm. All these things combine to make them very practical. More than one of our girls has one in her hope chest. I have not yet made one for my hope chest (the one I mentioned I made to sell at a craft show). I intend to make myself a shawl in the not too distant future.
I have tried my hand at crochet but have not done a whole lot. The patterns that I have used have all been very repetitive which makes them easy to do while listening to someone else read. First I made a shawl. It was very simple, just going round and round. About a year ago I decided to try my hand at lace. Going through our patterns I was disappointed that most of them are knit, because I have no experience knitting save one failed attempt to learn years ago. This so drastically cut down my options that I have only made one piece. I will probably go back through the patterns this fall and try to find some more, or maybe I will try my hand at knitting again as I have no crafts occupying my idle hands at present.
Yes, I willingly admit to being a member of the crochet alumnus. With a medium size yarn and a crochet hook there are so many projects that can be quickly produced. Once I mastered the basic skill (I only know two stitches) I produced a large and several small projects. The small projects include belt holsters for several tools (maglight and knife) and one neck bag for my pocket Bible. The large project took several months. This shawl is the same basic pattern used by my sisters with a few modifications. I produced it from solid cotton yarn, and it is in storage for my future bride.
This summer (2006) I decided to do some new things in crochet. I asked Hannah for some yarn and she got me some that was blue. Then I asked Sarah for a baby bonnet pattern. I tried to read the pattern but I couldn't tell what the symbols and letters meant since the words were all shortened. So I had to ask Sarah what to do. She would get a row started and show me what to do and then I would finish the row and ask her how to do the next one. At first it was hard but once we got to a place where you do the same row again and again it was easier because I got used to the way to do it. When I do another project I will try to learn what the symbols mean so I can do it by myself.
From time to time friends give us their old craft magazines. Occasionally these contain a pattern or two that we like and we rip them out and store them in our pattern box. This is a fun box to go through when I'm looking for new ideas of what to make. I like to keep my hands busy and productive and I love to try out new patterns. When I came across this hot pad pattern, I decided to give it a try. From the boxes of yarn God had recently blessed us with, I found colors that matched my dish set and thus my kitchen theme. I am trying to remember when making new things for specific rooms to keep them all similar in color so that the room doesn't clash in a jumble of different colors and styles. The hot pad is made of two squares bound together at the edges, and has an optional heart sewn on one. It took me a couple tries before I figured out how to make the two humps that form the top of the heart. Once I had it right, I made three matching hot pads and two different ones that I can use as gifts if I need to.
Tip: use cotton whenever your project will be used around heat, plastic fibers melt.
I remember when I was probably about eight, watching Hannah making a length of lace and thinking it was so hard it would probably be the only piece she ever made and I would certainly never be able to make any myself. I laugh now thinking back to that incident because both she and I have made many pieces of lace since then. Lace making can be rather difficult, especially if you are using very fine thread, but I personally enjoy the fineness and intricacy. Most lace making is very repetitious; the same group of stitches is worked over and over again down the length of the foundation chain and then another group is repeated over that one. The fineness, however, makes it unsuitable for young children. As I write, I am in the process of making myself a new dress, on which I am using some of the lace I made last year, in fact, it's the first piece of my own lace that I've ever used! One problem I have is in finding fine crochet cotton for making more delicate lace. I have one pattern for a collar and cuffs I would like to make in Irish Lace, but the size thread it requires seems almost impossible to find. I will trust God to provide it if it is His will for me to make that one. Besides lengths of lace, I have also made a lace collar and a collection of little snowflakes. The process for each is very similar to lace. I have enjoyed crocheting lace.
Tip: don't crochet too tightly or the edge of the lace will curl over.
Cotton yarn tends to weigh more than wool or synthetic yarn. The pink cotton baby afghan I crocheted turned out both warm and heavy. It's a family preference to stay away from the different plastic fibers which basically limits us to wool and cotton. Having lived in rather cold places most of our lives, we always make our baby blankets big enough to wrap our little ones snuggly up and/or cover them thoroughly so they stay warm and healthy. I like crocheting because the process is quicker than knitting.
Anything of this size takes a while to complete. This afghan took about two years of work, off and on. In fact, it still isn't quite complete. I started out with numerous cones of off-white wool yarn, which, unfortunately for someone, the mice had found and chewed on quite extensively. This was fortunate for me because I wouldn't have gotten it otherwise, but it meant a tremendous amount of time, tying all the pieces back together. Of course, once I made it into something I would have to sew all those ends in, too. Mom found the afghan pattern in the library, and God provided just the right hook for making it. Familiar as I was with crochet, I had never seen an afghan hook. It looks like a knitting needle with a crochet hook on the end, and the stitch it is used for resembles knitting in some ways. As you perform the first part of the two row repeat, stitches are collected on the shaft of the hook and on the second row they are crocheted back off. The fabric this stitch produced is ideal for cross-stitching. Once all the blocks were completed and the little ends all sewn in, I used embroidery wool to cross-stitch the flowers. Some of the flower designs were not detailed enough to be able to tell what they were so I redesigned some, and on some I changed the colors. Then I stitched all the blocks together, and finished the afghan by making a scalloped edge around the whole piece. That was fun. The final holdup has been that many of the flowers are purple; like violets and lilacs, and purple wool yarn is not common. As God provides more I keep working on those blocks and they are now almost done.
Tip: when tying yarn ends together it's easy to replace square knots with granny knots, but the latter is not a trust worthy knot since it loosens quickly, so be sure you are using a good tight square knot.
Crochet, like knitting and sewing, is great for developing eye hand coordination. This gives a child a real jump-start at writing, drawing, piano, typing, etc. Also, leaning any craft well makes learning others easier.
Like any skill, if crochet is taught to children it will never be forgotten. Little children have an incredible ability to retain what they learn. Even if they don't do much, if they get started young it will be easier for them when they get older. The bigger the crochet hook and yarn the easier it is for children to see what they've done and where their hook should be going. Remember, the more repetitious the pattern, the better.
Copyright © 2006 The Stover Family - all rights reserved.