>New to Crochet?

>Hokey Smokes!  March is flying by and still I have not joined in the celebration of National Crochet Month.  You’d think I could come up with something extraordinary to contribute.  As a professional designer and author I spend most of my time in my own crochet alternate reality.  There are days and weeks on end where I hardly talk to anyone but other crocheters who deign to come out of their own crochet alternate realities.  I have to be reminded that not everybody speaks the language.

Chloe and Clarity Cardigans, Interweave Crochet, Spring 2010

So today I am sticking my head out of my timeless tunnel and offering a few words to newbie crocheters. Meanwhile, for any avid crocheters who have ventured this far into the post, I will put up some images of designs I have out this season, sprinkled like fairy dust throughout this long tirade. Hey,  I do hope that you are coming to the craft as a result of reading or hearing about NatCroMo, and that the hype has sucked you in, because a lot of people have done a whole lot of work this month just to get to you. Perhaps you are a knitter or other fiber artist and you’re now looking to add crochet to your skill set.  Or maybe you’ve never before held a skein of yarn in your hands, but you’re attracted to this thing we do.  I have three words to say.  Crochet ain’t easy.

Tokyo Vest, Tahki City Crochet
Man, we all hate moments when we are made to feel unbalanced, stupid and foolish.  It’s like fussing with the back of your hair or trimming your bangs while looking in a mirror.  Don’t you always go the wrong way?  Doesn’t it make you feel dumb?  Or it’s like tying a bow tie on yourself.  It’s supposed to be exactly like tying your shoelaces.  But damned if the fact that you’re looking at it from the other direction makes it so much harder. Hey, my guy still can’t do it for himself.
Graceful Lacy Cardigan, Crochet Today, March/April

Our human pride begs us not to go there.  Avoid those situations that can only lead to awkwardness.  Life is too short to spend any of it undermining your ego.   So how can I convince you that my beloved craft is worth it?  There is no question that learning to crochet is often frustrating, with agonizing hours spent fumbling around and pitiful little to show for it.  At first you have to think about the movements of every fracking muscle in your hands and wrists as you struggle with using the hook and maintaining tension in the yarn.  And there’s the hitch.  Thinking.  What has to happen is that you must remove the cognitive process from the equation and fly on purely physical auto-pilot.

It’s like driving. I can get in my car and arrive at the supermarket and not remember driving there.  This is not about being careless, preoccupied, distracted or asleep at the wheel.  I am certain that it was uneventful, even pleasant, and that I have driven quite well and lawfully, but the trip was on total auto-pilot.  I am so used to my vehicle and the route to the destination, so accustomed to performing the actions of steering, braking, accelerating and adjusting for traffic and conditions, that I don’t actually think about any of it.  I just do it.

Marseilles Jacket, NaturallyCaron.com

Not having taught crochet a great deal, and with limited experience teaching absolute beginners, and not the slightest memory of actually learning to crochet as a girl (it might have been by osmosis!), I can still feel your pain.  I am the world’s worst student. That rascal Dee Stanziano, in her class Pushme-Pullyu, forced me to examine my so-called skills from a different perspective.  She made us crochet backwards, first with our other hand (for me that’s the left) and then with our regular hand.  It made me feel as though I didn’t know how to crochet.   At the time I am sure I cursed Dee and the devilishness of it all.  But it turns out the embarrassing experience in that class gave me a greater appreciation for what it must be like for a newbie.

The hands are eloquent when the brain is mute. The moment your body “gets it” and your brain stops thinking about each tiny motion and nuance, and you let go of the beginners’ mantra going round and round in your head (I particularly like “hook up, hook down, pull through”, but each teacher will dispense her own), that’s the epiphany.  The goal and the ultimate reward is getting to that point where your hands “know” what to do, smoothly and automatically.

Kylara, Crochet Lace Innovations, April 2010

So what will it take?  Another brand of teacher might admonish you to practice, practice, practice.  Wax on, wax off. That makes it sound so boring.  The word practice has such negative connotations.  Visions of working back and forth and back and forth with the same stitch though a gazillion yards of yarn.  Sort of like {shudder} swatching.   I prefer to say play.  Take up your hook and yarn and play, play, play.  The more you play the closer you’ll get to nirvana.

Melisande, Crochet Lace Innovations, April 2010

And then you can start feeling cocky.  Don’t worry about what you think you know or what skill level you’re at.  Pick a project that appeals to you.  One that has you drooling.  Try it.  Wing it.  Fly.  So what if you mess up.  So what if it’s not perfect.  So what if you have to learn stuff as you go.  There are all kinds of ways to find help, online tutorials, pattern support from designers and other crochters.  I hear all the time from fans on my forum at Ravelry, Doris Chan: Everyday Crochet (where I lurk), that sometimes the first time through one of my patterns is the learning curve.  They work and rip, work and rip some more and beat themselves up all the while. But, watch out!  The second one be brilliant.

As for how long will it take, it depends.  I have taught knitters to crochet in 15 minutes.  On the other hand it might be better for a student to approach crochet without any particular yarn experience or bias.  No habits to unlearn.  But here’s my belief.  If you can tie your shoelaces, you can crochet.  And when crocheting feels as natural as tying those laces, then you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. Do you trust me?

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14 thoughts on “>New to Crochet?

  1. >What a great post, Doris! I teach people to crochet a lot now that I work at my LYS and am re-connecting with how it feels to be just beginning. My goal is always to hold their hands long enough for them to make it to the part where it's fun! I always say that even a 5 year old can crochet: it's about not being afraid to fail. I love showing off your books as an example of what can be done once the basics are learned.

  2. >at first my lovely insecurities were telling me your article was swaying me away from my new-but-scary love for crochet…glad I didn't listen! Thank you for your wonderful insight but mainly for giving me hope that I can do it.(-:

  3. >Doris As per usual your talent never ceases to take my breath away.Where was the crochet world before you took it by a storm.It is a pleasure to indulge ourselves curled up with our crochet hooks when we have so many great patterns and a wide selection of designers now a days, although you are still number ONE

  4. >I learn to crochet when I was 10 years old (I'm turning 25 in May) because my mom knew how to. I started a blanket that took ages to finish and I can tell ya, it's still not finish; it's better off a scarf now. But last spring I had the crochet fever, or was I bit by the crochet bug. But I felt like crocheting and I decided to do something…daring. So I made a gauntlet without a pattern, which was more daring than I have ever made to commit. I would never imagine I could crochet without a patter. Before than I hardly crochet, only a beanie and a tam, nothing much. I rated myself beginner. Recently I picked up the crochet hook again and let me tell you I am hooked…maybe forever this time. These past few months, I crocheted hats, armwarmers, and fingerless gloves. Currently I'm working on a cardigan (this is my first time making a clothing item), along with it a pile or two of projects waiting to be crochet while growing in number. Your post describe almost everything that I feel about crochet, from "just do it" to "tak[ing] up your hook and yarn and play, play, play. The more you play the closer you'll get to nirvana". I didn't not know there was such a thing as National Crochet Month! Go figure. Now I'm totally excited. I've been having this fever since I realize that I can take my skill to a new level. And I must add, you have really fuel this girl to go even further (just the other day, I was trying to figure out what I can do with crocheted lace like doilies and then you came along).Thank You a lot for everything. P.S. Sorry for the lengthly comment. I'm just too excited

  5. >I was thrilled to order yet another Doris book, but now that I see those beautiful photos heretofore unseen, I am soooo "glader" that I ordered your book. Twice. Accidently. However, I can give the second one to my friend who crochets and I will be the heroine!Also have to tell you how happy I am that Naturally Caron has some of your patterns for FREE! I love their site and the fabulous patterns, and have been stocking up on their yarns just to make some of those gorgeous items.Many Thanks!

  6. >I sometimes wished I could crochet with my both hands to make my mittens perfectly symmetrical. Your article gave me the courage to try and crochet with my left hand. And it gave me ideas ! You could actually crochet flat fabric that looks like it was crocheted in the round without cutting the yarn, and you could alternate and create texture patterns a bit like knit and purl except it would be left hand and right hand !Haha my hands feel wierd after forcing them to switch, my right hand is not sure wether it is normal for it to hold a pencil !

  7. >What a wonderful blog. I have crocheted a great deal over the years, but not alot lately. Your inspiring designs make me want to start again.Thank you for letting me visit.Susanhttp://amazingcouponanddiscountdeals.blogspot.com

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