There are natural nothing-thinkers in the world; I’m not one of them. The directive to “make your mind a blank” tends to have the opposite effect on me, like, “don’t think of pink elephants sipping Cosmos on the moon.” I try to think of nothing, but it’s a half-hearted effort. At best, I just bore myself to sleep and start dreaming. I’ve dreamed of pristine beaches, warm sand beneath my bare feet, sunshine sparkling on gently lapping waves, and shoving people who record cliché meditation scripts right over the roaring cascade of Niagara Falls.
But when I crochet, and particularly when learning a new pattern – a challenging pattern – I have learned to focus on each stitch and nothing else. Having a mind that’s prone to perambulating the endless amusements of an overactive imagination, it can be challenging just to sit still and count to ten. More often than not, I’ve reached the fifteenth row of a swatch, only to wonder why I have the beginnings of a crochet triangle instead of a square. But crochet is more forgiving, generally, than knitting. If I check my work every few stitches, I don’t have to “frog” it (unraveling is called “frogging,” because you “rip it, rip it, rip it”). I don’t enjoy rework, and one of the things that stuck with me from early quality management training was that “if you have time to rework it, you had time to get it right the first time.” I force myself to slow down. I am not a machine, and I will never crochet as fast as one. Each stitch is an integral part of the pattern, and part of what holds the whole piece together. The quality of each stitch matters.
That’s not to say they all look perfect, or that I’ve mastered consistent tension. I’ve come to appreciate the craft more deeply, though, and it may be as close to “meditation” as I’ll ever manage to get.
Crochet comes with built-in reminders to move. Pain – in hands, arms, and derriere – is one. Getting up to grab a new skein of yarn is another. Fetching the scissors. Getting water. Taking a break. One can only “meditate” for so long before the imagination sneaks in and starts counting on its own: “Four, five, six, seventy-eleven, ninety-one, pink elephants, amigurumi, eighty-four, ‘did you know that three meditation podcasters and a designer of crochet patterns went over Niagara Falls last week in a rubber dinghy? Authorities suspect they were remotely pushed by a telepath’…” and that’s when you know it’s time to move. Get those steps in. Go for a walk. This is some high level advanced crochet-walking right here…
We don’t really appreciate material things, even as we race to acquire them. We struggle under the weight of them, as factories crank out more and more mass-produced and worthless “stuff.” It has now become costlier to fix the “stuff” than to throw it out and buy new. The planet is drowning in “stuff.” Craftsmanship is valued in the abstract, but rarely with real dollars.
Consider what an hour of your time is worth. Now, go learn to crochet, and make a sweater. Go on, I challenge you to crochet one sweater and wear it, take a selfie, and post it on social media with the real “cost of goods” – then tell me about that “ugly Christmas sweater” Grandma made you, years ago. Crochet one set of stuffed amigurumi juggling balls, and post video of you juggling them – then tell me how you’re “juggling projects” at work. One stitch at a time. Focus on the task at hand – literally.
I once said that if all the machinery of modern life stopped, suddenly, and we were left to grow food, hunt with nothing but weapons made by hand, and make clothing from scratch, I had no skills of value to offer. A friend charitably reminded me that every primitive society had, and valued, its storytellers.
Sure, but would they clothe them?
Now, I’m able to weave yarn into fabric, with nothing but a little hook on a stick. It’s better than stripping the clothes off zombies… maybe I can gather wool and spin a yarn in exchange for someone shearing sheep and spinning wool into yarn. It’s something to meditate on.