By: Heidi Wong
It was summer last year when I noticed crocheted clothing was trendy among my generation. I was mesmerized by the sight of colorful, soft yarn and the way that it was meticulously stitched together to create a beautiful piece of wearable art, so I spontaneously decided to pick up crocheting as a new hobby.
I went to Michael’s and grabbed two skeins of yarn from the sale section plus a 10.00 mm crochet hook. The first skein I really liked, it was fluffy and dyed a dreamy mix of pastel pink, blue, and purple; the second skein was dyed an odd combination of orange and dark purple, and to this day it still sits on the bottom of my stash. The hook was far too big but at the time I wouldn’t have known.
I watched countless crochet tutorials to master the basics of crochet. At first, I felt like I was in a small paradise lying on the couch fumbling with my “project” as summer heat blared outside the windows. Sometimes I would put on a TV show and just let it play in the background as I tried to figure out how to make a simple square. I remember frogging the stitches and starting over for an infinite amount of times before I gave up out of frustration. I forgot about crochet for about a month and picked it back up again sometime in August. I looked back at the videos that I could almost recite and tried to make one single square, surprisingly it just made sense to me that time and I couldn’t be more proud of a literal square.
Still, I was ambivalent about this hobby as I realized how much hard work is needed for it. I have always been hesitant when it comes to commitments; on numerous occasions, I tried to stick to my goal of saving up but I’d always fail. I have always been hesitant when it comes to commitments because I’ve always loved chasing after the brief joy that instant gratification brought me. I have always found myself spending on clothes that I don’t end up wearing or unhealthy, overpriced food that prevents me from saving up. I was already timid even though it was just the beginning, however, the sense of accomplishment motivated me to move onto more projects.
Still unconscious about the fact that my hook was too big for the yarn I was using, all of my early projects were loosely crocheted. Despite the untidy outcome, I had the best time creating quick projects such as bandanas, pet accessories, and handbags. Even though I am usually one to give up easily, crocheting was an exception. Perhaps I was chasing after the sense of accomplishment that creating brings me, or maybe I genuinely enjoyed a newly discovered hobby that feels true to myself; it was like finding the puzzle piece that has been missing in me. The process of finishing a project to picking up a new skein of yarn for another one felt like going on an anticipated roller coaster ride and doing it again. It was as if I was chasing an adrenaline rush that comes from crafting. After making those small projects I wanted to make a bigger one. I planned to make a patchwork cardigan, but the process of making so many squares plus the ribbings and having to sew all of it together seriously intimidated me. Nevertheless, the thought of wearing clothing handmade entirely by myself gave me so much excitement. After some research, I went to the store and got some yarn, this time again, in pastel shades because these hues could never fail me.
The feeling of anticipation every time I start the very first stitch never ceases to amuse me, as there are endless possibilities. Each time I pick up a crochet hook and fresh yarn, I feel like an explorer searching for a destination in a deep forest; the hook is my map and the yarn is the woods, and I will navigate myself through mazes of infinite stitches day and night until I finish my journey. The sensation of the wooliness of the yarn running through the same, slightly chafed spot on my hands as fabric slowly formed on my fingertips made up most of my free time, whether it was a relaxing Friday night or the short breaks between work or even at dawn before I got ready for school. For a while, my life was centered around persistence. The process I had achieved so far reminded me of the importance of willpower, which helped me a lot in school and my daily life; I never thought a simple craft would benefit me so much. I have a habit of reminding myself of my past accomplishments in times of adversity. When I was nervous about my first piano recital, I reminded myself of my first swim meet. When I was nervous about my school concert, I reminded myself of that recital. Now if I am uncertain about commitments, this project will serve as a reminder that persistence and patience pay off in the end. Usually, I am afraid of the idea that results might not match the amount of hard work that was exerted, but this project taught me that consistency and motivation are crucial to achieving anything at all.
The cardigan was made based on one type of simple stitch- the double crochet stitch. All you have to do is wrap the working yarn around the hook once, insert it into an existing stitch, yarn over, and pull through twice. Sounds complicated on paper but once mastered, this stitch takes less than three seconds to complete. Frankly, there was not much technique involved in this project, it was more of a test of endurance and motivation. I had to do the same exact motion several thousand times, and every now and then I had to count the stitches and be aware of the yarn’s tension to make sure the sizing would turn out just right. Sometimes I would be so concentrated that I wouldn’t realize how much time had passed until my neck and wrists started getting sore. After I finished making all the squares and ribbing, sewing them together took almost as long as making them. The amount of time and diligence I sacrificed for a cardigan that, to others who don’t understand the joy of crafting, could just be bought in-store made it a bittersweet process, but I didn’t mind it.
Two months, 51 squares, and about 6,000 double crochet stitches later, the cardigan was finally done. It felt like a great accomplishment for a beginner to this hobby and also someone who could never commit and be dedicated to things. Although many mistakes were made, I was proud of myself for not giving up on the project.
To many others, this hobby might seem redundant and repetitive, some will even say it’s for old ladies because of its stereotypes. But what if I just want to feel like an old lady sometimes? Whenever I dive deep into a project, the repeating motions feel therapeutic to me; the time I spend crocheting is when I feel like I can be at peace with myself, away from the hassles of my life. It is as if my thoughts and emotions get lost in between the stitches and turn into an art piece that reflects my identity and brings out the best in me. My crochet pieces is a reflection of a whimsical artsy world in my head: you can see it in the overwhelmingly pastel colors, dainty accessories I made for crocheted animals, keychains I crafted to decorate my dull school lanyard, and even the visible imperfections that showed my learning process. Store-bought yarn is all packaged and advertised roughly the same way, hence it comes down to the maker who has the ability to turn something so uniform and simple to something that displays individuality and uniqueness; in this way, gifting a hand-crocheted item is like gifting a piece of myself.
Moreover, the beauty of crochet is that it can only be handmade as machines cannot replicate the intricate motion of creating a variety of different stitches. Every single stitch that can be seen and felt in a finished piece represents dedication and passion of the maker. As my technique improved, my enthusiasm for crochet grew even larger; I started to feel confident enough that I began giving others my work. Even though at first I couldn’t fathom the fact that I was giving away something that I spent hours on, I realized that the results were only a part of the entire process. The final outcome of a product doesn’t compete with the thoughts that are put into making it. A crochet gift is a labor of love, and it represents something valuable and delicate that a store-bought gift can’t replicate. The spark that inspired me to pick up crocheting is like the brightest star in the sky; it is almost as if people can just look up and get a taste of my happiness that comes from sharing my work.