What I’ve learned from learning to crochet

I recently took a week off – the second year in a row that my time off has been in lockdown. Not wishing to fritter it away binge-watching Line of Duty and binge-playing games on my iPad, I decided to set some goals for the week. One was learning to crochet.

I’m a dedicated knitter and crochet comes up often as a decoration, or for casting on or various things. I’d tried to teach myself before but knew I wasn’t quite doing it right. So I signed up for a set of video tutorials, gathered my materials and sat down to learn.

Well, pardon the pun, but I’m hooked. I love knitting, but crochet is great. And I’ve had a bit of a think about what learning to crochet at 50 has taught me about a whole range of things, from knitting to project management.

Lesson 1: Knitting v crochet

Remember the Apple ads where Microsoft is the uptight geek and Apple was the groovy young thing (David Mitchell and Robert Webb for UK viewers)? That’s basically knitting v crochet. Knitting is very structured, you have to plan, do calculations, consider 5 steps ahead (amazing that I’m any good at it when you put it like that!). When you make a mistake, it takes you as long to get back to where you were as it took to get there. That’s where tinking (unknitting) is a thing. And it’s all pretty slow.

Crochet on the other hand is fast and fun and encourages you to try things, because if they don’t work, you can just rip them right out and start again. Messing up doesn’t feel like the end of the world because you can just go back to where you were. It’s like taking up sketching when you’ve been a sculptor all your life.

Or to think about it in another way, knitting is waterfall project management and crochet is agile 🙂

Lesson 2: Each has their place

I’m loving the crochet at the moment, but I can already see that there are some things that I will always prefer to knit rather than crochet. Fine lace knitting in high-end yarns, for example. On the other hand, crochet is miles better for bags and baskets – a lot more solid – and heaps better for toys. One of the reasons I wanted to learn was to make amigurumi and I’ve really enjoyed doing that, in a way I could never get with knitting. So the lesson is, have as many tools in your box as you can, because mixing them can bring out the best in both – for example intricate knitted panels on a bag, with a crochet bottom.

Lesson 3: Informal learning is great, but formal learning is important

Over the years I have tried to crochet before, but it never gelled. I kind of knew I wasn’t getting it right, I wasn’t holding the hook properly, it didn’t understand quite what the patterns were telling me to do. But going right back to basics, I was able to build from the ground up (including holding the hook so I didn’t get cramp in 5 minutes). Importantly, I learnt to read the fabric, understand what stitches should look like, get to grips with their anatomy so that terms like front of loop, back of loop, stem made sense. For me, at least, learning something isn’t just about the how, it’s also the why. It’s knowing the grammar of a new language, not just what to say to order a beer (however important that is). Because when you know how it works, you know how to fix it when it goes wrong.

Lesson 4: However long you have been doing something, there’s always something else to learn

The crochet course I did started with the absolute basics, including a section on yarn. My initial thought was, I’ve been knitting for 30 years, I know about yarn. But I reminded myself that I was here as a beginner and should follow everything through. And I learned a few new tricks because I did (particuarly using a ball of yarn from the centre to stop it rolling around, a technique which introduced me to the term yarn barf). Not in this course but separately I learned about the “split and spit” or spit splice method of joining yarn, which has been a tremendous help in my latest project.

I love that there’s so much still to learn. And if it’s true about knitting, how much truer is it about things I have come to much later in life.

Anyway, there you go, a few thoughts from learning to crochet. Watch out for my Etsy shop, coming soon 🙂

Published by Antonia

I'm a British citizen and European Union offical, who lives in Brussels again after 6 years in London and 8 in Melbourne. I went to the London School of Economics and University of Melbourne. In 2008 I took part in the Eisenhower Fellowship Multination Programme, the subject of 3 of my blogs. You can find me on Twitter as @antoniam or on Mastodon as @antoniam@mastodon.scot

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