Crobotics: Automatic Crochet

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.


20 thoughts on “Crobotics: Automatic Crochet

  1. I could seriously use some crobotic activity. I love the idea of that. Sadly, I too have not been able to do any sort of crobotics in what seems ages. I can’t even recall the last time I crocheted just for the love of crochet.

  2. Chickee says that you are more than a crochet fanatic, you are a Cronatic. 🙂 Enjoyed your post. I’m off to practice being a crobot in hopes that I develop a cromance and become a crostar. Ok, that’s enough. cro’night.

  3. When I was a young girl, I remember watching the ladies knitting and carrying on a conversation, without looking down at their needles, and wished I could do the same thing. I think I’m halfway to being a crobot – love my new word of the day, by the way. Not for extended periods, but I have stitched a few rows every now and then, with my attention elsewhere. Also done it with knitting, but only with the all-knit or all-purl row stitches. And definitely a cromance – I’m working on a fourth project with the same design, and already planning on starting a new design for two other projects. Maybe I’ll get better at being a crobot.

  4. Love this article. I’d recently been thinking about some of the psychological aspects of crafting and the potential for getting into a zone known as “flow” in positive psychology. I’m still a newbie in the world of crochet, but I had a feeling it would be possible to almost get into a meditative state with it. Thanks for articulating it so wonderfully.

  5. After learning your name and going back over all the patters I had saved, almost 90% were your work. Now I know why they are my favorites. I can pic up on the zen of crochet in yor paterns faster than any others. You are a creator that I look up to Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. Just LOVE this post! You crack me up! And mostly because I have had the same thoughts!
    I have been enjoying “mild crobotic-ness” as I am making my second Möbius scarf. Hubby and I are taking an Alaskan cruise early next month so it still may be chilly. Thought the pattern was perfect. Made the first one out of a super soft wool blend, slightly furry. Black with a bit of gray. The problem: it looked like I had gray hair when I pulled it up like a hood! So I am making another I’m plain black. The upside is that I can add Möbius #1 to my Christmas gift stash! 🙂

  7. I am determined, determined I tell you, to still crochet for the love of it, despite my increased interaction with editors and deadlines. I’ve seen you crochet with a deadline looming (like, in the few hours!) – you appear to do it with grace.

  8. I knit and crochet and am not insulted in the least. I don’t do the crobot thing at all, I have to look! I look at my knitting too. Itg would be nice to be able to do that but like you I am too much of a control freak. Have a great week!

  9. Even though I also work on deadlines – many of them that occur at the same time – I try to reserve some time each week for crobotic activity. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. My latest crobotic activity I thought ended up with a wearable, fashionable garment for me. Unfortunately, after I got all the ends woven in, I found a big mistake where I joined two pieces together. So – I have to frog some parts, and it’s going to be a mess. Not something I look forward to – and definitely NOT crobotic activity any more. So it may have to wait!

  10. Nice read as usual. Perhaps that is why I am enjoying knitting so much. I’m with you can’t afford to miss a crochet stitch. I think it is the fact that your stitches on a knitting needle are predetermined from the time you cast on. Not so with crochet, miss an edge and all of a sudden…well you know. But your patterns are the best for me, I love seamless garments. Speaking of which, I think it has something to do with this guy who wore a seamless robe and so they cast lots for it before crucifying Him. Yeah seamless crocheting is divine my dear. And btw even though I sew and can sew things together pretty well, no I prefer the fact that no one can tell where you started and where you end. Better to take your time and get it right the first time than speed along and have to start over, though with afghans I have found myself reaching that zen place, then getting bored out of my skull.

    • I love the last line because I’ve been there too: when that zen feeling crosses over into “bored out of my skull” LOL.

  11. I am totally a crobot and often prefer and seek out crobotic patterns. Since I can’t seem to put the hook down I crochet in the car, at church and every night in front of the tv. In fact, watching tv without crochetinglooking just seemslooking so unproductivenow now. I even finished 2 baby blankets while watching a marathon of oscar nominees. Easily memorized patterns where my fingers can find the right hole are my faves and keep my fingers going. I’ve gotten very fast and amaze my friends with my fancy parlor trick of crocheting without looking. Thanks for giving it a name!

  12. I love this post. I finally have a word to describe my zen moments, sometimes hours. I really needed a good belly laugh. Thank you! Leena

  13. Thank you Doris for so eloquently expressing my fears of what it would be like to be a popular crochet designer. I really love writing up patterns, but the deadline thing gives me anxiety and sucks out some of the joy. I appreciate your dedication and hard work. As I firmly believe the world needs many more awesome crochet patterns, I will perservere and continue creating at my own pace, perhaps working up the courage now and then to submit. Sincerely a fan and admirer of your amazing work and bloggage – MsBusyFingers

  14. I enjoy your posts the mosts….uh, I tried to be clever. When I see your name on an article, pattern, book, post, etc., I go straight to it. Thanks so much for your inspiration. I knit and crochet, have since I was a child, and I’ve learned that there are times when one is good for some things and the other is good for other things. I’ve even combined the two. And finally, I too zen-out at times with both. Throw in macrame and my head begins to clear and I’m reminded that all is well in my world.

  15. I love this article—currently working on your “All Shawl” which is crobotics for me since I’ve made so many of them. I definitely have a cromance going with the All Shawl. It amazes me how it looks so different depending on the yarn and weight.
    I’ve made so many of these that I made a chart of the rows and how many stitches are in each row.
    From there I figured which rows that the long or short version of edging could be done.
    It’s been very handy when I was worried about running out of yarn. The strawberry stitch is on of my favorites so I love doing the edging.
    I have all your books and I can hardly wait for your next one to be published.
    Thank you for all the wonderful patterns and all you do for the crochet world.
    Susan Parker

  16. Pingback: Crobotics « Bitter o'Clock

  17. This is funny, since I learned to crochet without looking (well, barely looking) with YOUR patterns Doris! The All Shawl, Runaround, Haru and a bunch of others. I guess when you design you have to look, but when you’re crocheting someone else’s designs, and the pattern is simple and the repeats are many – why look?

  18. Pingback: crochet quote by Doris Chan | crochetkarma

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