Crochet crochet everywhere, everyday

So here I am, merrily knitting away charity squares for no particular charity.  When I’ve made enough for a parcel they will get sent.  I do maybe 5 rows of an evening, with short bursts of more intense sessions every now and then.  My first 25cm square took me a few months to complete.

My group, Knit 4 Charities, publishes a calendar of monthly charities and the items they require.  When I first joined, I had a quick squiz and loosely picked out one to aim for - one that was far off into the future enough to give me plenty of time to learn how to knit and crochet the items. 

I routinely check in on the group for news.  I suddenly see the charity I had chosen was due!  I couldn’t believe that 6 months had passed and I had nothing to donate.  I had one week to whip something up.  Could it be done?

Thanks to a friend who had been posting pics of her charity scarves, I thought I’d follow suit.  But I’d never made a scarf before – it was my largest piece of work yet.  I was only making one scarf, but her goal was 15!  I marvelled at her speed and she said she’d be working at every opportunity.

So far I’d crocheted in public sitting in at piano lessons,  and in cafes over a cuppa.  So then I accelerated and started crocheting in places like standing at the bus stop.  Very easy to do with backpack (basket, cloth bag) worn on the front holding the yarn.

Girl Knitting Albert Anker

You’d be amazed how many rows flew by on the bus, waiting at traffic lights.  And the 10 metres before my bus stop when I considered finishing, but pushed on to see how much more would get done.

The best thing about working on the bus was a fellow passenger who started talking to me about crochet.  I’d read about Craftivists using public making as a way of opening dialogue, so this was a delightful thing to experience.

photo: Richard Hamm

Seeing me crochet brought back memories for her – of family traditions, crocheting baby blankets.  How all her children cuddled them whenever they were poorly.  And that they still treasure them as adults.  About her own crochet and what she use to make.  It was lovely to hear her brief stories and I felt warm that I had brought something to her day.


The road to charity

One of the things I dislike about being creative is the trove of stuff that goes with it.  I fantasise about ‘just chuck it all out!’  I am not driven by selling work.  I also believe that we ‘have enough’.  Perhaps I’m not advanced enough to want to make something to wear or to decorate our home.  Maybe this will come later.

Then I found knitting for charity.  I had knitted in the past, but never got very far.  Taking on something like a garment never really appealed, and I know I had some unfinished legwarmers somewhere.  I’d started this tea cosy around ten years ago!

I’m not really sure why it hasn’t been finished.  Sometimes I resent that thing on the shelf that I ‘have to do’.  Snowflakes, on the other hand, are really not something that I need to get done.  Which is why they become irresistible.

The main charity I joined is Knit4Charities Inc, a very active group based in Australia led by a wonderful supportive team.  I have received much warmth, welcome and reassurance which is great encouragement for a novice like me.  Then I found lots more organisations on the web, in many different countries (links coming soon).  It is really lovely to see this trend growing.  And what inspirational people these charity makers and organisers are!  Tirelessly working to get all these crafted donations out to those in need.


My concept of charity opened up enormously when I lived in London.  At that time I was a young career-builder, and one day  I asked a colleague what they were working towards.   Her reply was, “I want to work for a charity.”  This was the first time I’d met with charity as a life goal, career path … a whole world in which one could work.   It made such an impression on me, I’ve never forgotten it.  And as so often happens when something new is discovered, I found that charitable organisations were every which way you turn.  I admired this heartfelt tradition in Britain.  Even despite the fact that many charities were founded on old money made from colonial exploitation.  It gives me pause for reflection to this day.

Rochester UK
So, making for charity.  Somehow this is different still.  It is not something that I have to do, like the dishes, or sewing on a button.  It isn’t something I am making for my own reflection to admire.  It is not urgent (although K4C does work to a schedule,  I’m not productive enough to be part of this yet, so I’m working to my capacity and will donate when it’s finished.)  And somehow, I am more motivated to make now than I ever was with that tea cosy.

I’m so content with my choosing.  The fact that you can enjoy the making, and then you won’t have it cluttering up around you.  That it is helping those in need.   Volunteer work that I can do in front of the tv when too tired to do anything else.  The wonderful souls all doing the same thing together.  The comfort in knowing that the energy of this work is being directed toward unconditional love for a stranger.


Trying new things

People ask me what I am going to do with my snowflakes.  They quickly move on to suggest “you could make a hanging”.   Another said “But what’s it for?  Oh I know, it’s a coaster!  But I was quite pleased to be making ‘useless’ snowflakes rather than headbands and cushion covers.
One of my weaknesses is being pragmatic.  If it’s not practical, bin it.  So for the first time, there is great meaning in making something purely for pleasure and nothing beyond that.

But I wanted more!  Now that I was into crochet, it was time to poke around the net, first stop being Ravelry, and then following on with the plethora of endless blogs and tutorials.
One very exciting venture was cutting up rags (reclaiming yarn) and crocheting it into a bowl.  I found this pattern by Lisa Tilse here via Homespun.

Then I got hold of one of my favourite fibres, hemp, and made a swatch, which I later decided to use as a skin scrubber in the shower.   It has a lovely raw grassy scent when wet.

I also chose to make this collar by Crafty Queens as a project while I was away travelling.  It had easy stitches and I could use my snowflake yarn.

Anything was possible now.  Which way next?


Not without mistakes.  Many pieces I make contain mistakes.

This is because by habit, my method of working is to push through a mistake and see what happens.  In some mediums this is a very good thing indeed, leading to happy accidents and surprises of great excitement.

But crochet is a somewhat mathematical discipline where a lack of imperfection is more pleasing to the eye.

As you trawl the net, you will see crochet presented in all its perfect symmetrical glory.  How come my crochet never looks like that?

Well I am actually taking pleasure in all those niggly little mistakes created by my own hands.  Here is my snowflake that looks more like a sea creature, and one with 5 sides

Why do I like mistakes?  Because my unhealthy perfectionist tendencies are getting beaten back with a stick.  A humble reminder that I am human, and humans make mistakes.

On a recent trip, I picked up this

Mistakes CF Hankinson  Leeds Postcards

It made me smile and drew a nice connection to my experiments in learning crochet.

So how do all these people turn out such utterly flawless finished work?  One of the best things about crochet is that it is so easy to rewind, undo and start again.  You just have to pull a string.

Crochet starts here

I discovered crochet quite by accident.  One day whilst shopping in a trance of boredom, I decided to buy 100 Snowflakes to Crochet by Caitlin Sainio  Took it home, sat down, followed the instructions.  And so this world started opening.

Some years earlier, my mum had shown me how to do double and treble crochet.  I liked her idea of getting her rug done whilst waiting for dial-up pages to download. "Look how much I've been able to get done!" she proudly says, holding up the huge granny blanket.

My first snowflake astounded me.  It was easy (not without mistakes), satisfying to look at, and finished in one evening's tv sitting.  I was turning and working thread and suddenly I had a snowflake in my lap.

As I made more, I realised the appeal was in the process of work.  I am really not bothered about the box of snowflakes on the shelf, except maybe as a way of explaining what I do.