Humor, Op-Ed

One Stitch at a Time (#MondayMusings, #CrochetInsights)

21 May , 2018  


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

Material Things

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.


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10 Responses

  1. rummuser says:

    I sold sewing, embroidery and crochet threads for a living for near a quarter of a century and as part of my training had to learn how to of all these skills. You may be even using the threads that I used to sell Anchor Brand of the Coats group of companies. When I last visited the USA in 1989 they still were in operation there. Since I also sold knitting yarns for an Indian manufacturer but, under the Coats marketing organisation, I had to learn to knit as well.

    With my ulnar palsy of the right hand, all such pastimes are beyond me now but I can well understand the satisfaction that such handicrafts give to the practitioner.

    • I have never learned to knit. But I was told, a few years ago, that what little knitting I did learn, as a child, is not technically called ‘bass-ackwards’ but rather, English.

      Unfortunately, that’s how I manage to crochet, as well. I’m told there is no wrong way, if it accomplishes the same thing, but it’s hard to learn new stitches from video or pictures with hands.

  2. Anklebuster says:

    Holly, once again, you bring life to the most mundane things. I shouldn’t diss crocheting, so I qualify my statement with a “to me.” Which brings me to the point of my desire to comment:

    I thought you were making up a word during that imaginary counting sequence. Then I thought, “This is Holly.” So, I looked closer and laughed, because my always-on anagrammatical tabulizer misfired and recognized “am I a guru, me?”

    On the off chance that I was mistaken about your playfulness, I was thinking about doing a Google translate but, lazily, simply pasted amigurumi into the address bar.

    Well, whaddya know? LOL



    • Crochet can be a fairly mundane thing – or amazingly…not. For example, look here: I tried this, once. ONCE. Holy cats. They take as much time and as many stitches as a large one, but will make you go cross-eyed. I even bought a lamp with a magnifying glass, and it helped, but not enough.

      I have made Christmas ornaments with “crochet thread,” but I think these are made with actual THREAD thread.

  3. Anklebuster says:

    Those are so cute! I can’t imagine the attention to detail required to make just the right stitch for a monkey thumb. 🙂



    • Right? I’m endlessly fascinated by that stuff. I’ve given up all hope of CREATING it. My hands hurt, unbelievably, after my one serious attempt.

  4. Mike Goad says:

    Karen does the textile crafting. She works mostly with quilts, preferring hand-quilting, but does some machine quilting. She also does some knitting and/or crocheting, but not very often. She blogs about her quilting and other stuff and has tons of readers.

    So I am a bit familiar with what you are writing about because of her craftiness. I’m afraid I would be all thumbs if I tried crocheting or other fabric work, but I do appreciate those who can.

  5. My mother used to do these and also the sweaters but has left off her hobby long ago. May be due to the household chores and family pressure to cater to other needs.
    I remember she had huge stock of books, drawing paper and designs and wool or yarn. Now they are hiding somewhere in a trunk.

    The Hyderabad Playlist- A Song Story

    • That sounds a bit sad. Maybe for her birthday, you could help her to find the trunk – or replenish her supplies – and encourage her to indulge her creative interests again.

      Thanks for dropping by! It’s always nice to get comments from new readers. Welcome.

  6. Esha M Dutta says:

    It’s mindfulness that works for me when I’m trying to focus on anything in particular especially if it comes to things like craft, or cooking or even creating a work of art! It’s living in that moment that makes it worth the effort, truly! As for skills of value, I’m not sure how much I could offer but my mum surely would have a lot…all her life she has been a workaholic, she was great at growing fruits and vegetables, would knit us sweaters, stitch me dresses, cook us three meals a day and even invent stories to entertain us when we were kids! I admire her skills even today at 76! Touchwood!!

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