That’s right, it’s been two years this month since Yarn and I fell in love, and I wanted to take a moment to celebrate our relationship. We’re very close now, but it wasn’t always that way. Another title for this post might be “Why did you learn to crochet/knit?”
In March of 2012, we lost my father-in-law. The next month, my father. The month after that, I left my full-time job to stay at home. My mother would be moving home from Arizona and I wanted to be there for her, and my kids were increasingly busy and I wanted to be there for them too. Mostly I simply couldn’t handle the job anymore, or didn’t want to put in the effort. You might say I had a wee breakdown, or whatever. In any case, after seven years I suddenly had A LOT of free time.
That first summer was delightful. We’d adopted my father’s dog, so I spent a lot of time hanging out with him and the kids and just being quiet and peaceful, trying to process all the crap going on in my head. There was little stress; I truly enjoyed having so much time to spend with my family.
Then the kids went back to school, my mother was settled into her new house, and it was just the dog and me. Samson was older, quiet, didn’t need much interaction throughout the day. What was I supposed to do? Sure, I did grocery shopping, started cooking dinner. I cleaned (occasionally) and I ran errands. But none of those things filled all my time.
I read a lot, of course. Lots of light, fluffy novels because I couldn’t handle the darkness in the mysteries I used to love. I shared book ideas with my mothers and my sisters. My daughter takes piano lessons from my BIL, so I’d sit there once a week and chat with Pam, my SIL, about books and her homeschooling and whatnot. In one conversation, we were talking about the struggle to find challenging, age-appropriate books for our kids, who are gifted readers. She mentioned a series she’d recently found called Chicks with Sticks by Elizabeth Lenhard, about a group of high school girls who start a knitting group. I love YA books so I read them first, and loved them. But more than the stories or the characters, I was entranced by the descriptions of the yarn, the yarn stores, the act of knitting, and most of all, the soothing, healing quality it had for the main character.
I wanted that. I wanted all of it. The yarn, the beauty, the healing. Soon after I finished the books, I went to a used-book sale with my mom. Laying there faceup in the crafts section was a book called The Cool Girl’s Guide to Crochet. I’m not a superstitious person by nature, but this had to be a sign. I bought the book. The next day I went to Joann and bought a learn-to-crochet set and two skeins of cheap yarn and set about teaching myself to crochet.
I did a lot of little squares as I learned each stitch and how to change colors. Then I learned tunisian crochet so I could make the cutest project in the book: a cell phone cozy with a long strap. This was for my daughter for Christmas.After that I was on a roll, whipping up presents left and right. I won’t say they looked good, even though I thought so at the time. I made several scarves, a baby blanket, and a Kindle cozy. I was a woman obsessed. My stash grew quickly as I discovered the benefits of yarns beyond the cheapest, scratchiest acrylic. I branched out into purses and shawls and baby bibs. I craved the challenge of new stitches and harder patterns. I spent hours with an F hook making this multicolor wave scarf.Within a few months, I’d finished my first yarn garment, the Chevron Lace Cardigan.The yarn was a wonderful distraction from my grief. I still felt it, but it was muted. As soon as I mastered something, though, it didn’t distract me anymore. That wasn’t okay. So eventually crochet wasn’t enough. No, I watched my SIL wield those two needles and I wanted that. Knitting produced a softer, squishier fabric than crochet. I loved the feel of it. So during one piano lesson, I sat down with my SIL and she taught me the knit stitch and got me going on my first knitting project. She was a great teacher, patient and thorough, and soon I had a completed cup cozy.Impatient to wait for another lesson, I taught myself the purl stitch and boy, was that awkward. I remember sitting there trying to knit a dishcloth and it was going SO SLOWLY and it was SO HARD to get my needle into the stitches. I was frustrated but I was determined to master this knitting thing, and hey, you can bet I wasn’t thinking about being sad!
Over time my tension eased and the purling came smoothly. In fact, I love to purl. I love seed stitch, switching from knit to purl and back again. Yarn fills my life now, even as I’m coming back from that deep valley of grief. I’m learning to consider myself a fiber artist, though it’s hard. My yarn has been with me on hard days when all I could do was watch TV and crochet. My yarn has been with me on happy days, when I’ve gone to family parties and chatted while knitting. I’ve made things that my family loves (I think) and things that strangers love and are willing to pay money for. I’ve petted alpaca and angora, mink and merino, bamboo and cotton. I’ve got a large, enviable yarn stash and a diverse collection of hooks and needles, but it’s never enough. I still want more!
I know all you other yarn-lovers have seen the articles proclaiming the health benefits of knitting and crocheting. I can’t say much about the physical benefits, because my wrist definitely lets me know when I’ve been crocheting too much. But the emotional benefits are huge. Yarn cushioned my fall and helped my pull myself back up. I’m not at the top yet (are we ever really at the top?) but I’m so much closer than I was two years ago. So thank you, Yarn. I owe you a lot.