I think I already mentioned how I learned to crochet. It was more than a little bit magical. The first magical thing about it was that it was a class run by an amazing local children’s centre, so it was not only freefreefree, but also had a creche. But I remember clearly sitting in the first class, looking through my small bag with some excitement, finding my ball of wool, holding my hook with fingers that felt suddenly clumsy thinking to myself, ‘I have literally no idea how this works. But in just a few weeks, I will. This is all a total mystery to me right now, but soon all will become clear.’ It was a great thought; knowing I would learn something entirely new. (When I was younger and complaining about school, my Mum told me that it was actually very enjoyable to learn things. I think my reaction at the time was something like, “Chuh! I can’t believe you really THINK that. Ohmygod. School is SO boring.” But on this topic, as with so much else, it turns out that my mother was in fact right about everything.)
So I learnt to crochet. I started off by making Persephone a hat. I went into John Lewis and bought the most beautiful ball of wool I could find, then started searching ravelry for a pattern. I painstakingly hooked up this hat, willing it into existence against the opposing forces of newborn demands, and my lack of proficiency. I loved the hat. I will try to hunt out a picture of Seffie wearing it to show it off. I continued to squish it onto her little head far longer than I should have done, just because I was so proud of myself.
Having made the hat, I made a few other items: beanie style hats for the big girls, a doll’s blanket. Then I bought Kat Goldin’s wonderful book ‘Crochet at play’, and my mind was tempted by bigger projects. I decided to make a cardigan. I chose the cabled yoke cardigan, and resolved to make it in ’1 year old’ size to give myself some time to complete it. Even though Seffie turning one seemed hilariously far away, I reckoned it would be good to give myself some time in hand. Turns out, this was a good thing…. But – look! Isn’t it great?
I chose this cardigan partly out of fascination. I had no idea it was possible to ‘do’ cabling with crochet, and even as I followed the beautifully clear instructions, I still really had no idea whether it was all going to work. I have tended to make things in the round before, so crocheting long lines of stitches was also something of an education.
I also liked that it’s worked in double crochet, which I think personally produces a lovely, textured, dense fabric that is warm and snuggly and modern looking. I find some crochet a bit leggy, a bit holey and lacey, and whilst sometimes you’re in the mood for a bit of lace, sometimes I find I quite definitely am not. This cardigan is for those times. It’s snuggly and warm and solid. I love the wool too, which is a Sirdar ‘click’ one in Indigo. I know that modern crafter’s parlance requires that I call it ‘yarn’, but I can’t quite yet. Give me time. It’s all wool to me at the moment. I like how the colour is slightly variegated, enough to give it some texture and interest, but not so varied that it becomes a bit gnarly.
These lovely buttons might be my favourite bit. It needed more buttons than four, really, but I had this pack of four which I found at an antiques and craft fair, and I was so desperate to use them that I just went with it. I think my favourite one is the heart with the polka dots, but all together they are so completely charming that it’s hard to imagine I shall want to use matching buttons on anything ever again.
So the cardigan was complete! This was an important part of my ‘making things’ ambition for 2013. I wanted to make Rosa a dress, to make Seffie a cardigan, and to make all three girls Christmas stockings. I set these rather lowly ambitions in about May, realising that I needed to keep my sights realistic and achievable.
So what next? Well, I learnt some things whilst crocheting that cardigan. One was that I am not really a crocheter who makes items of clothing. It was hugely satisfying to learn so much and to complete it, but it was also in parts a bit frustrating, and often seemed interminable. The sleeves, for example, should have been soothing and meditative, but I found them a bit of a chore. So I think on balance that I am more of a crocheter of ‘novelty items’, of multi-coloured things, and – strangely specific this – of things that are crocheted in the round. What can I say? Self-knowledge is a wonderful thing.
For my next project I drew joint inspiration from a group granny square blanket that we made together, from the increasingly chilly evenings, from the heaps of beautiful blankets on the ever-wonderful Attic24 blog, and also this rather fabulous blanket which I found via Pinterest. I love the way that the plain granny squares combine to look almost like a patchwork quilt. Just lovely.
I went and bought some beautiful wool. Cheap enough to buy without wincing, with just a bit of merino in it to give it a lovely squidge, and none of that nasty acrylic squeak. I decided to crochet my squares small and dense, so that they wouldn’t be too holey, and the colours would show up well and maybe give me that patchwork look. So off I went.
I haven’t yet decided how many squares I will need. Truthfully, I am kind of putting off the decision, as I don’t want to spook myself and abandon the project before I’ve started! These pictures were taken a week or two ago, and at the last count I reckon I have about 35 squares. I am aiming for a blanket that can live on the arm of the sofa during the winter, and is big enough to snuggle under when it’s cold… so it’s possible I might need around 200 squares.
Here you can get a sense of my colours. I was all set to do something in a sort of dusky rainbow: maroon, mustard, sage green, etc. Then my eye was caught, and my wallet drawn inexorably to the kind of purpley palette that I always seem unable to resist. I think it’s meant to be.
So my plan is, as I discussed with a wise friend, to try this time around to enjoy the process. I am going to try to be less impatient, less goal-orientated, and instead just enjoy the stitches. Because these little squares are actually very soothing to make. Small enough to be manageable, and carry around with me. Big enough that I can see I am making progress. The looping of the treble stitch is in fact quite meditative, if I can stop myself from grumpily counting rounds and trying to hurry myself up. The awkward truth is I like to crochet granny squares, but I often don’t like how they look, and this plain colour patchwork affair might be the perfect way of combining what I like to look at with what I actually enjoy making.
We’ll see. I reckon with the paucity of free time around here right now, it could easily take me a year to complete it. And that would be ok. Square by square, cluster by cluster… trying to focus on the task in hand, and on small victories rather becoming despondent about the magnitude of all of it. Hoping that by chipping away, square by square, I might reach my overall goal without even realising…
I realised as I was thinking through this post that my blanket really represents what I’m trying to do to the house, but in microcrosm. Which feels quite appropriate, really.
I will report back on the blanket. Don’t be surprised if my progress is slow. But I will be making progress. Bit by bit. Square by square. Stitch by stitch.