Tying Strings

A Metaphor for Leaning into What Seemed Difficult . . .

There was no particular reason to have made seven sweaters but I had time and initially I wasn’t sure that I could do it. That was reason enough.

The year 2020 was intense.

Because of the pandemic, I was home more that usual, and mostly learned about the world that was literally exploding outside around me (I could hear it) through social media. Arguably, this perhaps was not the best means of information gathering given tendencies of media to skew information for the sake of commerce, but it was what I had. Among the black square movements and people trying to prove that Black Lives Matter, I was confined within the proximity of my neighborhoods, wearing medical-grade face mask that gave the additional effect of making me feel like I was constantly on-guard like a ninja. Returning to a simple, meditative, craft like crochet was a nice thing to do to keep my mind off the world as it was at the time.

I remembered that crocheting is cool.

My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was eight years old. I’d spend time with her in the afternoons and watch her “tying strings” as my grandfather referred to it, while she watched soap operas on network television. I could tell it was a way for her to unwind. I watched her unwinding herself by winding woven threads. She ran a preschool in our neighborhood, and as the owner and principal, took the opportunity to take time for herself during the middle of the day because she could.

One afternoon, seemingly out of the blue, I asked her to teach me, “How to do that, gramdmommy?” Without any hesitation about my sincerity or concern for whether I’d stick with it, she said “OK” and gifted me one of her larger crochet hooks. The hook was easy enough for me to hold with my then, not yet so long and elegant fingers. My grandmother knew that with the large hook I could confidently find the exaggerated stiches it produced. I could begin with the clunky hook and as I kept learning and practicing, and as my curiosity and interest developed move onto more intricate and nuanced work. I started with a long row of chain stitches, the most basic of all crochet stitches, and a red acrylic yarn. The stiches were wobbly and uneven, but I enjoyed it because as far as I knew I was directly mimicking my grandmother even though I’m pretty sure she might have been working on a delicate doily or intricate tablecloth for her dining room. It felt like we were just two gals hanging out. Like “two peas in a pod,” she might have said.

Tying My Own Strings

Fast forward a few decades. I now live in a different city, and my grandmother has long since passed. The world felt like it was unraveling into a tangled mass of knotted confusion from people pulling too tight and speaking past one another. So, I made sweaters.

Needless to say I learned a lot about myself and techniques, fabrics, and community in the process. I now have six, 100% handmade by me, organic cotton, machine washable, sweaters to remember last year’s lessons by. I gave one of the sweaters away.

Even after last year, I think that I’m still learning about myself through the process of crochet; especially since, now, I get to bundle myself in all of last year’s work and try more delicate projects as my skill improves. I’ve since dabbled with varying types of materials like raffia and twine and I’m learning about dye and thread production methods. In essence as metaphor, what last year taught me was that with a lot of thread, time, and a pattern, I can learn how to create warmth and I can share that warmth with others. I’m glad that last year was a catalyst of sorts to help me to think about leaning into the discomfort of not knowing how to create a sweater. I didn’t know how to make one, let alone seven, and nevertheless by being willing to learn how to understand with practice, I found success.

Here are some blogs that I found useful for learning techniques and finding new projects if you’re curious yourself: TLYCblog.com and Megmadewithlove.com.

My grandmother’s favorite saying was, “Nothing beats a failure, but a try.” And she was right. I have six sweaters, a few scarves, and a couple hats in my closet to remind me of this very fact.

Tunisian crochet sweater in process with yarn bowl.
Six crochet sweaters folded and stacked on a wooden table.

Published by rosnolia

Budding cross of desert rose and steel magnolia, settling roots among cherry blossoms.

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