How I envy my friends who crochet simply for the joy of it. Examining my own output, I regret that nearly every crochet project for the past decade has been completed under the scrutiny of editors and the crushing pressure of deadlines. Being a control freak about my design samples, I am obliged to crochet them all myself. Each one demands fierce concentration because I demand perfection. There is zero tolerance for crochet mistakes, wandering gauge or indifferent technique. What keeps me from burning out is my deep, abiding love for the craft and the self-knowledge that I can’t not crochet.
However, as driven as the process gets, there are moments, fleeting ones, when I am working on a design and establish a nice rhythm. This is the groove, the state to which we all aspire, where hands, head and heart are one with the hook. Too soon comes the buzz-kill of having to stop and take notes, count stitch repeats and calculate proportions for the written pattern. I guess if my crochet designs weren’t so fracking complicated, if I didn’t persist in my devotion to seamless construction, if I made only rectangles in simple stitches, then I, too, could be a happy crobot.
Don’t worry if you’ve never heard the term. I think I made it up yesterday after a conversation with Vashti. If I’m not the first to use the term, then I bow to the crocheter who coined it. Crobotics perfectly describes the practice of mindless crochet, not necessarily machine-like or robot precise. A crobot is more like a person who has reached the level of soothing comfort and rapturous, zen calm that comes of mindless, automatic crochet.
Crobotics is when you’re curled up on the couch with a glass of wine and good company or TV and you’re drinking, talking or following the program and crocheting. Crobotics hinges on having a project that lends itself to casual inattention and incidental slight inebriation. This does not mean the crochet has to be plain, dead easy or boring. For example, even if you’re doing a multiple row repeat lace stitch pattern, once you’ve memorized the repeat you can go crobotic, not have to think about every change-up and if you’re truly in the zone, not even have to look.
My conversation with Vashti followed her weekend crochet-fest with our friend Marty Miller. Vashti and Marty attended a workshop given by another friend, Kristin Omdahl at a Sarasota, Florida yarn shop. Naturally Vashti had to call me and dish. I sincerely hope she doesn’t mind that I’m sharing stuff here. Kristin is an awesome teacher who charmed the gathering (I’d have expected nothing less), and graciously fielded questions and talked about her design process. As related by Vashti later, Kristin offered this nugget of insight:
“She emphasized the importance of how the yarn-holding hand feeds the yarn because after awhile, letting it share the work enabled her to crochet while not looking at it, like people usually can only do with knitting.”
I think this ability to not look at all is the ultimate in crobotics and it is something I just can’t manage. I have to look; I have to look so intently that it makes my eyes bug out. I am sure that if I didn’t have to look I would definitely be able to pick up speed. Kristin can both knit and crochet super fast without looking; I’ve witnessed it. Another friend, former world-record speed crocheter Lisa Gentry (also a knitter) likes to demonstrate how quickly she can work while staring right at you. It’s eerie.
Not looking at knitting I can grok. Knitting stitches are laid out in a neat row and there’s absolutely no question which is next. There aren’t that many places you’re asked to stick your needle, knitwise or purlwise, in the front of the stitch, in the back of the stitch, working it or slipping it. I think most of us can train our fingers to find the next stitch without peeking. Heck, I could probably knit without looking, really, and I suck at knitting.
But crochet is not always so straightforward, sometimes requiring you to stick your hook in all sorts of unexpected, unlikely and often illogical places, in front, in back and around, working or skipping stitches, strands, loops, stems, rows, sides, edges and spaces with abandon. It’s kinda like knitting is two dimensional and crochet is three dimensional. (I hope I have not pissed off any knitters. This is not a value judgement, just my way of putting the two processes in perspective.)
So crobotics is a source of happiness and a growing pile of crocheted FOs (finished objects), as well as the path to speed. Sadly, I will only know the pleasure of crobotics in limited ways. That doesn’t mean I’ve never had a cromance, a corollary to crobot. A cromance is evident when you’ve made the same design more than once and you’ve gotten so lovingly comfortable with the pattern that you don’t have to refer to it ever again and you’re now crobotting the thing. Over and over. Joyfully.