As a child, I loved doing jigsaw puzzles.
I sorted through the pieces — pulling out the edges first and assembling them — then I moved onto the inner images, pulling out pieces and organizing them first by color and then by shape. From there I would use a trial and error method to see what fit together.
I loved watching images emerge from the rubble of the puzzle pieces.
As the puzzle got closer to completion, it would become increasingly easier to find which piece went where, and I would keep at it until every piece had its place.
Some puzzles resonated with me more than others, and I would put them together multiple times. Still, no matter how many times I did a puzzle, there was always that satisfaction of taking the inchoate pieces and turning them into a unified whole.
As an adult, I still like doing jigsaw puzzles, and I think that propensity is connected to my interest in crochet.
I was 37 when I finally picked up a hook and began learning the stitches that would transform my life, but the seeds of this transformation were planted three years earlier when I spent a summer in Omaha, Nebraska.
Marooned halfway between Greenville, North Carolina, where I had been living, and Bella Vista, California, where I would be living, I spent the summer in an un-airconditioned apartment, in downtown Omaha. Fortunately, the apartment was located near a lot of businesses and services that were airconditioned.
The public library was open seven days a week, there were theaters with double feature matinees, and I was just blocks from the Old Market that offered a view of the Missouri River and the great beyond of an eastern vista that was Iowa.
But the routine of my Omaha summer was broken one day when I got an invitation to dinner, and while I have no memory of what dinner was served that night, I have a vivid recollection of my hostess working on a thread crochet doily after the meal was done.
She was, she explained to me, teaching herself to crochet.
I was transfixed.
With some thread, a steel hook, and a pamphlet outlining the steps to be followed, she magically transformed the line of the thread into a circular piece.
She made her stitches deliberately, often referring back to the instructions before moving forward, and that image of her working on her crochet stayed with me.
Inspired by that after dinner entertainment, I spent the next two or three years buying crochet books with projects far too complicated for me to decipher.
Not only could I not fathom the directions which seemed to be written in code:
Starting at center, ch 8 and join with sl st to form ring. 1st rnd: Ch 4 (to count as tr), 19 tr in ring (20 tr in all). Join with sl st to 4th st of ch-4 first made. 2nd rnd: Ch 4 (to count as dc and ch-1), * dc in next dc, ch 1. Repeat from * around. Join with sl st to 3rd st of ch-4 first made (20 dc with ch-1 between).
I had no idea what materials and tools I needed to get started, but the seed was planted, and one day I would meet someone who could bring my dream of crochet to fruition.
I first met Edith through mutual friends. She was in her early 80s, and took me under her metaphorical crochet wing, quickly becoming a fixture in my life whose influence was profound.
Edith taught me how to crochet, and in the process, opened up a world to me that I hadn’t known existed.
The first few lessons, I struggled. My hands had difficulty coordinating with my brain, and all of my movements were awkward; that awkwardness, in turn, was reflected in the stitches I made.
While it seemed there was only one “right” way to do things, there were seemingly infinite ways to do them wrong, and my hands and fingers were busy discovering them all.
Toward the end of one particularly discouraging lesson where I had struggled to insert the hook into the impossibly tight loops of a chain I had made, Edith advised me to make my stitches looser.
When she found my efforts insufficient, she slapped my hand until I was forced to loosen my grip on the hook, and I began making stitches that, if they were not loose, were at least not as tight as they had been.
Crochet did not come as easily to me as I had hoped, but while I lacked skill, I had loads of determination, and I kept working on my new found craft until I began to get closer and closer to a more perfect crochet stitch.
One stitch at a time
This is a fundamental truth of crochet:
You can only work on one stitch at a time.
It might be a complicated stitch with multiple yarn overs and loops taken off in varying numbers, or it might be a simple single crochet, but it doesn’t matter if a piece is composed of 100 stitches or 100,000, each of those stitches is worked one at a time, and I remind myself of this truth every time it feels as if I have gotten in over my head.
A degree of mastery
Somewhere into my third or fourth year of crochet, It began to feel as if I knew what I were doing.
I was more proficient at reading written directions, I had a basic understanding of how to read charted patterns, and I was beginning to make forays into the world of crochet design.
One day I set a goal to make a blanket that used one hook, one motif, and yet — like the puzzles I still enjoy — was composed of hundreds of pieces that fit together.
After an afternoon or more playing around with various options, I eventually arrived at was something I came to call the “Bauhaus Block.”
It is, as the name suggests, a simple and versatile crochet square that you can use to build whatever your heart desires, and over the years, I have made purses, blankets, dog coats, coasters — any occasion you can think of that requires a square or two or several hundred.
When I accepted that now long-ago dinner invitation, neither I nor my hostess had any idea that she was planting a seed that would take root and set my life off in a new direction, but I have learned that small, seemingly insignificant moments can create large changes that reverberate through time.
chain one, and then turn the piece counter clockwise (this will create a straighter edge). Continue until you have completed 8 rows of single crochet. Fasten off, leaving a second tail of approximately 36″
Figuring out how the pieces fit together seems to be part of my DNA, and my restless soul will not rest until I have them all put together.