Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"'Crochet' is French for 'Hook'" or "Learning Two Things in One Post"

My apologies for going awol! There was a death in the family that necessitated a last-minute trip to Ohio and things went a little nutsy. But now that I'm back, I'd like to talk to you about,


Crocheting is the lovely art of using yarn and a hook to make fabric. When you put it like that, it sounds way more impressive than, "that thing your grandma does to make those blankets that everyone has hanging over their chairs." Or maybe that's just me.

Learning how to knit and crochet is something I've wanted to learn how to do for years, more so lately as I get more and more into a lifestyle of not having someone else do for me what I can do for myself (or as a previous generation called it when it was common-place, "self-sufficiency"). I can't make yoga pants just yet sadly, but I can handle a scarf, and a hat and sweater aren't too far down the line.

About three weeks ago, there was an ad in the church bulletin about the knitting and crocheting club starting up again, meeting Wednesdays at 1:00 in the school. Once I clarified that someone who had never held a crochet hook in her life (in fact, someone who had never seen a crochet hook in her life, and probably didn't even know it was a hook) was welcome at such an event, I was counting down the days.

Fast forward one week: I'm sitting in a basement classroom with a size I crochet hook and a ball of pink yarn, watching an older woman named Judy make magic with her hands. Seriously. I couldn't follow how she was turning that yarn into fabric to save my life. I did finally get it, my level of respect for this craft elevated one-hundred fold, and over the next two weeks, I went through the whole ball of yarn. And now thank goodness, I'm getting to my point.

My instincts were spot on about crocheting: it's an incredibly yogic activity.

There is the obvious similarity it holds to asanas and pranayamas, it gives your body something to do so you can work with your mind. This works in two ways and sometimes both at once: either your brain is focusing very hard on what's going on with this yarn and hook, and there's no room for anything else, and time flies by as your breathing and heart rate slows, and you experience inner peace, or your hands are doing just fine on your own, your mind wanders off over hill and dale, forward and back through the centuries, and you either let it do that and are mesmerized by where it's going, or you purposefully try to keep it in check, paying attention to the task at hand.

Of course you remember from previous posts the crucial yogic ideal of non-attachment: that we are entitled to our efforts, but not to the results of those efforts. To put it another way: we live in the present moment, with what we are currently doing. This pops up in the yama, Aparagraha, where it is also interpreted as a 'thou shall not covet' idea. We don't put our happiness off onto some unsure future event or outcome, whether that's buying that brand new car, getting that perfect husband, or conquering fore-arm stand. It may seem that with crocheting it would be very easy to do just that: "I can't wait till this blanket is done!" but particularly in the beginning, it doesn't work like that.

During that first lesson, Judy would show me the stitch, I would take the yarn and hook, work away for five minutes or so, realize it looked awful, and hold it out to her quite sheepishly. Without a moment's hesitation, Judy would pull out every stitch I had painstakingly put in (and those stitches do come out so easily...) redo one or two to show me how it goes again, and hand the whole shebang back to me. This episode repeated itself without fail for the first hour and fifteen minutes or so of our hour and a half meeting. The last fifteen minutes, I finally got on somewhat of a roll, and she kindly donated the ball of yarn and hook to the noble cause of sharing these skills with the next generation. I spent hours and hours crocheting for the next several days, and made basically no progress. I would put in so many rows, and then pull out so many rows, going back to a mistake I had made. Any attachment to my progress: the size of the granny square (seriously, that's what they're called) I was making, had to be traded in pretty shortly when all that progress got yanked out for the up-teenth time.

It's really hard to express the serenity crocheting has given me, because I just don't think many people have had the chance to experience it. I wiled away hours working on this square, only to undo my progress and start over, and it meant absolutely nothing to me whether or not I finished this week or ever! For the record, I did finally figure out how to make straight corners, and move up to the next row after moving all the way around the square, and I do far less pulling out these days, but once this blanket is done I'll be learning a whole new technique, and it'll be back to "crochet two, pull out three" for a while. I'm looking forward to it.

You might like to try crocheting: it's easy, cheap, and productive as hobbies go. But as usual, it's not really necessary. It's not about the crocheting, but about the attitude crocheting has helped me continue to cultivate. If you do give it a try, do let me know how it goes for you!

Omily yours,

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