By Nicki Byrnes
September 12, 2022
This is not the best time to do this. I’m sitting at my family lake house on an uncomfortable wooden chair, across from my husband as he works remotely. He’s a key pounder who takes calls from his computer so you don’t know he’s on the phone until someone’s voice starts coming out of his little speaker. Our kids are in the kitchen, a direct shot from me in our cozy little cottage. They’ve been fed snacks, it’s not lunch time yet, and they have pirate Lego’s from the 80s that should keep them happy and entertained for at least a few minutes. (As my middle child whines that his sister called him a “maniac”…could be worse, and they’re quiet again.)
Or maybe this is the best time to do this. I’m surrounded by windows with just enough sunlight streaming in that it’s bright but not blinding. There are two hummingbirds hovering to my left out the window drinking their sweet nectar water my mother-in-law religiously supplies them. The water is calm, the sky is blue, and the area is quiet. It’s Friday morning in August, which means vacationers are dwindling at this point in the summer and weekenders haven’t gotten here yet.
It’s Now or Never
When it comes down to it, there is probably never a best time to do something you find daunting. That is this blog. I wanted to capture my crochet journey ever since I taught myself 4 years ago because I knew others could benefit from my learnings. I always had an excuse not to start, though, whether it was time, kids, not knowing where to start, and so on. I know I’m not alone in this tendency.
Let’s back up a bit. Long before I threw caution to the wind and wrote this very first blog post, I didn’t know how to crochet, but did have great admiration for it. Crochet is something I always loved about my grandma. I revered everything she made and cherish the memories of her trying to teach me as a child. She showed me the basic steps and we created a little swatch together, but somehow I never seemed able to do it without her sitting next to me. It was hard, I wasn’t naturally inclined to persevere through something frustrating and difficult, and so I abandoned it for 25+ years.
The Power of a Growth Mindset
Many years later, my two oldest kids went to a summer day camp and I found myself with a little free time. I was used to them being around 24 hours a day and at rather demanding ages, so a few hours without them and only my youngest home felt liberating. I wanted to do something for myself during nap times that week, and a book I had read recently helped me narrow down my project. I had just finished the book Mindset, which argues you can control your abilities to learn new things and your successes in life with a growth mindset. I had most certainly spent my life with a fixed mindset, which allowed me to think crochet (among many other things) was just not for me all those years ago. But now, I felt empowered to try it again. I had never lost the desire to learn, and the thought of crochet still brought back the warm, sentimental feelings of nostalgia and the exciting, creative feelings of crafting.
I was determined to try harder than I was predisposed and was equipped with motivation fresh from reading the book. I dug out my grandma’s old hook she gave me, originally a pink metal hook but worn silver from her years of use. I had kept it in a storage bin along with off-white yarn she gave me (which I will always save and never use #sentimentalhoarder). I knew I needed more than just text instructions and flat images to learn because I had looked at how-to books over the years and they left me more confused than when I started. So, I pulled up YouTube and searched “how to crochet.”
What I found was both amazing and overwhelming. I was pleased to see thousands of videos from many creators, but I was intimidated by not knowing where to start. This video looked clean and simple, but that video explained things differently. This video showed nice angles of the demonstration, but that video had better audio. Where to start, which video to watch, and how do I know if I’m doing this right? How do I troubleshoot? And after that, what do I do next?
How I Learned
I stumbled through it that week and mastered some of the basics. Everything my grandma taught me had long been forgotten, so I started with how to hold the yarn and hook, make a slip knot, make a chain stitch, and create a single crochet. I just kept repeating row after row of single crochet until I realized it was starting to look like a scarf. I decided to keep going and actually make a scarf, which meant I had to research how to start and end rows, count stitches so my rows were even, and switch to new yarn when I ran out of the initial scrap yarn I started with. I reached 60″ and felt content with my progress. I had made the most beautiful, unattractive scarf I had ever seen. I was so proud!
I didn’t realize the importance of this first stage of my learning experience until years later. I’ll talk about the rest of my crochet story soon, but for now, I’ll skip ahead a few years. I was teaching crochet at a local yarn shop and realized the first step after learning the basics needs to be that beautifully imperfect first project. A single crochet scarf, for example, is the perfect chance to practice foundational steps, improve tension, learn to count, turn, and finish. So many people want to dive in and make something right away, but if the pattern is too complicated for their level or they don’t have the basics mastered, the end result will be frustration or disappointment.
Below is a photo from one of my in-person classes. A student taught herself on Youtube before attending our class and had attempted a pot holder. She went home and put the critical steps we discussed into practice. The bottom half is her first attempt after teaching herself online, and the top half is what she did after our one class together. Notice the improved tension and more even rows. Things like holding the yarn and hook a proper way and counting stitches (including knowing how to identify and count them) all result in a less stressful process and more successful outcome.
Let Me Show You The Way
It occurred to me the teaching process is overly complicated and outdated, not taking advantage of modern technology and learning methods. So many people have a desire to learn something like crochet or knitting, but find it too intimidating, don’t know where to start, and either never start or give up too quickly. I want to clear that up and show you there is an easier way to learn.
I want to show people there is a way to learn in an efficient and straight-forward way, with my anecdotes thrown in to help make things click quicker. My goal here is to make learning simpler and more successful, with a secondary purpose of sharing what so many of us love to talk, read, and hear about – yarn, crafting, fiber arts, and our beloved crochet. I’ll also share patterns I recommend – most of which are free patterns I found on the internet, tested, and liked. Some of the patterns will be my own creations.
There, first blog post done! That wasn’t so hard (says every procrastinator everywhere). I hope you join me on this journey and we can create a community of yarn and crochet lovers who uplift and inspire each other.
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