Saturday, March 30, 2013

Knitting Snobbery? Why?

Knitting Snobbery? Why?

This sign appears in the window of my local yarn shop:



Oh, that’s nice to know, was my first thought. But the next instant I realized that a sign like that shouldn’t even be necessary. Shouldn’t both crafts be equal in yarn shops?

However, I wasn’t surprised. It just underscored a phenomenon I became aware of once I started crocheting: the strange sort of snobbishness some knitters seem to have toward crocheters, at least in the professional yarnworking world.

One would think that we would be sisters- (or even brothers-) in-arms. After all, many people do both crafts.

But I began to get enlightened on my first visit to a yarn store. A group of women were seated around a long table, knitting—a common sight in yarn shops. While the knitting friends I had come with browsed, I asked one of the employees for information about crocheting. She cut me off rather quickly: oh, we really don’t have any crocheters here. Well, do you sell hooks? No, no hooks. She did direct me, rather cursorily, to the type of yarn I was looking for but wasn’t overly interested.

Nor was this an isolated incident. In nearly every yarn shop I’ve been in, the focus is on knitting. Every piece on display in the shop is knitted. In my LYS, with the sign displayed above, there is one crocheter among the employees, and she is still primarily a knitter. This shop doesn’t display any crocheted pieces, either.

So what’s going on here? Are we crocheters consigned to being second-class crafters? Why does crochet seemingly have a poor reputation?

I wonder if it’s because there are so many visible “kitschy” crochet patterns, things like coasters and baby hair bows and tissue box covers. Do many people think that knitting is for making beautiful garments and crocheting is for knickknacks?

But just check out a few issues of, for instance, Interweave Crochet magazine to see patterns such as these sweaters that are as beautiful as anything knit.

 Designed by Anastasia Popova

 Designed by Annette Petavy


Furthermore, the possibilities for delicate lace patterns in crochet are nearly endless.

Designed by Doris Chan

 Designed by Vashti Braha

 Designed by Kathryn White


So are there any knitters out there who can tell me why crochet shouldn’t be considered just as beautiful and valuable a craft as knitting? Or am I forever destined to be a tea drinker in a coffee drinkers' world?


Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Hook and I

TheHook and I: How I Became a Crocheter
(in honor of National Crochet Month)


During the summer of 2011 I decided to teach myself to crochet. Now, I’ve never considered myself to be a “crafty” person. Oh, I’d loved doing arts and crafts as a child, but when I grew up I decided I had no talent for it. Around college age a friend taught me to knit. I started off enthusiastically, attempting to do a sweater (really) for my first project. As I remember, I actually finished the back panel, but then inertia (and pain in my shoulders and back) set in, and I never finished it. That was the extent of my needlecraft for about forty years.


I began to find myself attracted to crochet. Maybe it was the lacy, delicate patterns. Maybe it was my fascination with how it could be done with only one hook. Maybe it was the notion that it would be less physically straining. Even so, it still took a while for the creative desire and the actual motivation to finally collide. When my mother was in rehab after her hip surgery, I began to notice that some patients there had beautiful afghans and quilts for their beds. Others didn’t. And I began to think idly, someone who knew how to crochet could make blankets for them. That’s when the lightbulb went on. Hey, I can learn to do that!


I didn’t have anyone to teach me this time. No one I knew, at least close by, was a crocheter. I seemed to remember that my mother had talked about doing it when she was a girl, but now, stricken with dementia as she was, I couldn’t turn to her as a resource. So I did what I always do: I looked for books. In the course of that, I found a lot online—lessons, tutorials, diagrams, super-easy patterns. I decided to start with the easiest thing possible: a single-crochet dishcloth. Just a square. Just row after row of one stitch. What could be easier, right?


I printed out a pattern and enlisted my knitting friend to take me to her favorite yarn shop, where I picked out my first skein of yarn, a soft, blue cotton, and the proper size hook. I went back online and looked up tutorials: how to make a starting chain. How to do the single-crochet stitch. I sat in front of the computer practicing the slip knot, the chain stitch.


And how did I make out? Here’s my first try at a dishcloth. Don’t laugh.



            Okay, laugh. But it taught me something. It showed me I didn’t know how to count stitches and handle the turning chains. I was adding stitches to each row without realizing it. Clearly it was much easier to count stitches in knitting than in crochet. But I was not discouraged! I just knew I needed more learning and more practice. I went to my local yarn shop for some pointers. Several dishcloths later I was doing much better.





(But I still use the hourglass cloth--it’s nice and thick and the single crochet makes it effective and durable.)


In the meantime I picked up several more projects--scarves, fingerless gloves, a capelet.



I was surprising myself with how much I enjoyed this craft. I tried to learn something new with each project. By that Christmas my mother was in assisted living, and I found the opportunity to return to my original intention: I decided to make a Christmas-themed lap throw to donate to the memory unit.

And here it is: my first ripple afghan. It was very gratifying to see it covering and warming a resident in her or his chair.




I’ve been happily crocheting now for a year and a half. I think I’ve come a long way, but I know I have much more to learn, and I’m looking forward to it. It’s the wonderful kind of hobby that you can keep on learning and improving at. I expect to be a crocheter for many more years. So maybe I really am a “crafty” person after all!