Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Perpetual student

As preparation for the course on the handcrafting movement that I'm teaching this fall, I've asked all the students to learn a new craft. Those who don't know how to knit are teaching themselves basic knitting. Those who know how to knit but don't know crochet are teaching themselves basic crochet. And those who answered my questionnaire with the information that they know both crafts already, I'm asking to up their game on the craft at which they consider themselves less proficient.

I didn't exempt myself from the requirement. And so I'm teaching myself crochet this summer.

My experience with crochet is almost non-existent. I never picked up a hook as a kid, while my grandmother did teach me enough knitting for me to work on the traditional trapezoidal swatch while onstage in a kindergarten play. I did some sloppy work around the neckline and armholes of a top for Cady Gray a while back. And lately I made a couple of chain loops for washcloths, feeling my way through it with more instinct than technique.

I know a lot of people who consider crochet easier than knitting. I don't get that. First off, in knitting there are two stitches -- knit and purl. There seem to be dozens of ways to put various numbers of loops on the crochet hook and draw them through, confusingly named single, double, half-double, treble, etc. In knitting, the stitches are all there on the needle waiting for you to knit them. You know what your next move will be -- it's the next live loop on the left needle. No ambiguity. In crochet, though, there are no stitches waiting. You create the next stitch into whatever space you choose. The loop on your hook is the remnant of the stitch just made, not the road map to the next one. It's a vertiginous experience. There's no clarity about where to go.

I've been watching and reading carefully about crochet, and some things are starting to make more sense to me -- or at least, I can see the outlines of the sense they might someday make. But there's no substitute for grabbing a hook and some yarn, and making some mistakes. I'm hoping that if I work steadily this month on mastering some basics and wrapping my head around the process, I'll be able to work my way through a simple pattern -- like a granny square -- before class starts in the fall. The prospect of having enough crochet skills to make something has made me greedy; I'm marking lots of crochet favorites on Ravelry and dreaming about the things I might make. For now, though, the first steps still await me.


The Sensible Seamstress said...

Thank you for putting into words why I haven't wanted to learn how to crochet!

Ali said...

I always thought the hard part was hitting the ball with the mallet in such a way that it goes through that little metal archway.