This blog post was meant to be about how I learned to crochet, read crochet patterns and how I ended up ‘hooked’. I think it turned into something else entirely. I like it though so its staying as it is…
When I first started crocheting it was sat with my Nan in her living room as she worked treble clusters into a yet another giant granny blanket. I never saw her make anything else, not ever, just those giant granny squares as presents for various grown up children or her grandchildren. We had scores of crochet blankets in our house, Nan never liked duvets so her bed was sheets with layers of big crochet blankets and a woollen blanket on top. I can’t sleep in a blanket bed now without being instantly transported back to snuggling in my Nan’s bed watching snooker on her little black and white portable TV. Yes, I know it makes no sense snooker on a black and white but Nan insisted she could see it better than the colour TV. She had many oddities like that. I loved them all.
I have gone off track already, I told you this would happen often. It was too delicious to resist though. Those times with my Nan were so special to me.
Nan never had any colour plans she would just use whatever yarn she happened to have to hand. I have no idea where it all came from because I have no memory of her ever visiting a yarn shop. I think maybe people would just bring her a few balls here and there they had left over from knitting project or had picked up in a charity shop. The colour combinations of those big heavy blankets were ‘interesting’, often quite ‘masculine’ looking for want of a better word, I recall lots of navy blue, maroons and greens. New babies always got pastels and white though.
I can’t remember exactly how old I was when she sat me on her knee and let me have a go with the hook. I just learned to work the trebles into the chain spaces of the big blankets. Sometimes she would let me have a long go and I’d sit for ages hooking away in her white painted wicker chair, sometimes I only got to pop a few trebles in whilst she checked on the dinner. Nan crocheted right up till she died even though she was almost blind in one eye and had limited vision in the other. I used to watch her and she did it by touch really it was like watching someone beating out a little rhythm, the stitches always sped up and slowed down at the same point of formation each time. Sometimes when I am working up a simple pattern full of repeats I catch myself sat watching TV and crocheting without really looking, I can feel my own stitch rhythm happening and I wonder if I too will be reaping the joy of making simple crochet blankets till I die? I hope so.
After Nan died when I was about 12 I did not crochet anymore. I am pretty sure one of hooks I have is one of hers though. I have no idea how it came into my possession and is still around. I found it in with some of my teenage belongings. It’s the smoothest hook I own and curiously short compared to all my others. I’ve not seen any like it in the shops. I try not to be too attached and sentimental about it just in case it really is hers because then if I lost it I would be devastated. If I let myself believe it was definitely hers I’d probably never use it for fear of losing it and I’d rather be using it and maybe using something she owned than treating it like a museum piece. Secretly I know it is hers because I have a memory of that hook in the sideboard drawer, I’m just trying to talk myself out of it, because it is in fact missing at the moment and as I seem to use it a lot when teaching others to crochet (its super smoothness and short size seems to make it ideal) I am hoping no one has accidentally taken it home.
I think I started crocheting again when my sister was born, I have a vague memory of making a simple trebles big granny sqaure blanket. I recently found a dress I had been making when I was about 16 for my sisters dolly. Considering I couldn’t read a pattern yet and only knew how to make a granny square I am quite impressed with myself. I don’t think I was hugely obsessed with crochet then though because the dress is unfinished.
My next foray into crochet happened when I was expecting my first baby. I decided to crochet her a ‘special blanket’ as my little sister had one and I felt it was a useful thing for babies and toddlers to have. After the ‘blankie’ was made I was hungry for more. With my little sister sleeping in her buggy I set off to Allders in town, they had a haberdashery department back then (don’t panic, there is a big age gap between my sister and I and I used to mind her whilst my mum worked). I found a blanket pattern I liked the look of and asked the almost stereotypical ‘little old lady’ on the counter for advice about what yarn and hook I needed. I had never read a pattern before so she explained it to me. I stood there at the counter with that little old lady for ages and she very patiently showed me how to make the first square. I could read my first ever pattern (well some of it anyway!).
I made about 30 squares before I gave birth, the pattern required 64. I’ve never completed it. I have this idea now I will finish it for my first born’s first baby, whenever that happens (not too soon please!).
After that my crocheting fizzled out due to the demands of life but has always been reawakened when I have been expecting my next baby. Babies two and three got made a ‘blankie’ I also made a big single bed giant granny squares blanket in yellow and green, I remember sitting heavily pregnant with baby number two in our first home and waiting for my midwife to come and visit and having to put my crochet down to answer the door.
I made a filet crochet cot blanket when expecting number 3 (she still has it on her bed now). That blanket amazes me when I look at it. I had no idea what filet crochet was and that it was filet crochet I was doing. The internet wasn’t something anyone commonly had yet so I made it just from an idea in my head. When I look at that blanket I remember being in bed in the small hours watching cricket (why?) whilst my other two girls slept and being unable to sleep myself as my husband was working in London and only came back home two nights a week.
The more I’ve reflected on it, the timing of the crochet and the intensity of it, the more I have started to feel that with the crochet I was actually renewing that link with my Nan. I feel like pregnancy is a time you start to want to feel nurtured, sometimes you kind of regress into feeling like you need a little bit of mothering. I guess in hindsight that’s what my crochet gave me at those times. It invoked memories of feeling cherished and loved. Memories of being held on Nan’s knee or stealing into her still warm chair whilst she tended the needs of her family by cooking or hanging the washing out. Just the feel of a crochet blanket draped on my knee is to be sat in that chair of hers sneaking in some trebles, hearing her singing to herself or whistling in the kitchen. To snuggle under a crochet blanket is to have my Nan by my side once more, snuggled in her bed, drinking strong sweet tea and watching TV together. Crochet always reminds me of how much she loved me and how fiercely I loved her in return.
I guess I must have needed her more than ever when I became pregnant with baby number four because this is when my now total obsession with crochet took hold. I knew I would make the now traditional ‘blankie’ for the baby but before I even started making that I was gripped by an urge to find my hooks and box of yarn (there was a failed foray into knitting previously so I had lots). It was hats that seem to start the total obsession. I had this need to make the baby a pixie hat. I kept envisioning the baby in it, so I made one. I went to the library and got books out on how to crochet and taught myself lots of new stitches and learned to read the language that is crochet patterns, it was pretty confusing at times but we now have the internet at our finger tips so I googled YouTube videos of stitches I wasn’t sure of. Then came the bootees, so very exciting and satisfying.
Most exciting of all for me was that people wanted to buy the things I made! I couldn’t believe my luck, a self funding hobby. At times I had more orders than I knew what to do with, I think the universe had a plan in making that happen. I couldn’t get around very easily due to a pregnancy related condition called Pelvic Girdle Dysfunction (sometimes known at Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) and spent a lot of time immobile. The crochet orders kept my hands and mind busy even if my body wasn’t able to do much. More significantly crocheting probably brought my Nan back to me at a time I needed that feeling of nurturing. I think of her often whilst I am working, I think of all the baby blankets she made. Sometimes, actually often, I feel a deep sense of sadness she never got to make my babies a blanket, she loved babies (she must have done she had 9 of her own!), she would have loved my girls. I think though that really when you think about it she has made my children a blanket each, every time I made one she was there flowing from my heart into the work in my hands, crochet is what she taught me and I have grown to love it so very much that I can’t imagine my life without it. Everything I make has a little bit of her in it and though I cried several times writing this blog entry because I still miss her so much even after so many years, I also feel a real sense of joy and comfort knowing in some way she is still alive and connected to me every time I hold a hook and begin to work with some yarn. Every time I make something as a gift or someone buys a crochet piece from me it contains a little bit of that love and a happy part of my soul.