Let Me Tell You a Yarn

Yes, I mean yarn.  It’s actually an old term for tale or story, and I chose to use it because I thought some of you might like to hear the stories behind the different hobbies I have.  My last post talked about the piano, and now I’ll talk about crochet, knitting, and tatting.

When my family first started homeschooling, my mother formed an informal support group with two other ladies, each of whom had a daughter close to my age.  We girls grew to be good friends.  I loved visiting the other girls’ houses, especially the Princess’s house.  The Princess was and still is an only child, and she could tend to be a little bossy at times, but since she made up better stories than I could, I let her.  She was a year older than me and a grade ahead of me, and she often showed me things she was learning.  For instance, she learned to read Braille, even though she was not blind (I think they either had a relative or a friend who was).  Then one day, she showed me something she was making.

I don’t know if it was for art, or even if it they were counting it as school, but the Princess was learning to knit.  At the time, I couldn’t follow what she was doing, so I wasn’t all that interested, but I stored the information away in my brain.

A few years later, I was visiting another friend, whom I’ll call the Mathematician.  She told me about a recent visit from her grandmother, and how her grandmother had wanted to teach her how to tat.  I didn’t have the foggiest idea what tatting was, but again, I stored the information away.  From my friend’s story, tatting was something pretty girly, and I sometimes didn’t like girly things.

Fast forward several years.  I had to do practical arts in 7th and 8th grade, and Mom wanted me to do some baking, cooking, and gardening, but she asked me if there was anything else I wanted to learn.  I remembered seeing the Princess’s knitting.  I asked if I could learn to knit.

My mother suggested that crochet might be easier and more fun, and that she had an aunt who crocheted, so I would be able to ask her questions should I need to.  I didn’t have any reasons why not, so I agreed.  Mom found a teach-yourself-crochet book (Susan Bates) and got me some variegated yarn to use.

During the first few weeks, Grandma came for a visit (this is prior to my grandparents moving into their apartment on my house), and we told her what I was learning.  Grandma told me that her mother was always disappointed that neither Grandma nor her sister ever learned to crochet, something Great Grandma did very well.  Grandma was very pleased that I was now learning the skill.  Later on, Grandma passed down two sweaters, crochet-work of her mother’s.

I quickly mastered the basics and moved on to making things.  One of my first projects was to make two stuffed animals; a turtle and a giraffe.  I used the patterns in my book, and the turtle was pretty simple.  The giraffe, on the other hand, was a learning experience because I wanted it to have spots.  I used two colors and quickly decided that switching between colors was not for the faint-hearted.  I have learned better ways to do it since, mostly in response to that first attempt.

Today, I love to crochet.  I have made a variety of things, from dish cloths and pot-holders to a baby afghan to book marks to refrigerator magnets.  Sometimes I use a pattern, sometimes I make things up as I go along.  Sometimes I use a drawing and lay my work on it to give me an idea of what to do next.  When I make doll clothes, I often use the doll itself to help me figure out a pattern.  Sometimes I use yarn; for my magnets I use embroidery thread or bedspread weight cotton.

After I had gotten pretty good at crochet, I decided to take a whirl with knitting.  I got Susan Bates’s knitting book and started working in knit and purl.  Knitting never came as naturally to me as crochet does, but I learned the basics and can pick it up when I need to.  Some projects are better done in knit than in crochet, but for the most part, knitting is more limited than crochet.

Later still, I was shopping in a craft store and found a book on tatting.  Remembering my conversation with my friend the Mathematician, I picked up the book and investigated.  Tatting looked interesting, so I bought the book and the materials.  At first, tatting gave me trouble.  I couldn’t keep track of what was going on because my thread was so thin and the stitches so small.  I set tatting aside for a while.  Last fall I came back to it, and this time I made sense of the stitches.  I used a slightly bigger thread and tatted some lace edging for a handkerchief (which my grandmother displays rather than hiding in her pocket!).

Maybe you’ve thought of learning one of these skills.  Maybe you think you don’t have the time or patience.  Maybe you do.  Crochet especially can be learned quickly, and you can make some pretty useful articles even with the easiest stitches.

At least you can store this yarn away and pull it out someday when you are given an opportunity to learn something new!

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