27 January 2010

cracking the crochet code

When I learned how to sew, I did pretty well. I could sew by hand or by machine, and as long as I took my time with it and didn't take shortcuts, whatever I made would turn out fairly well. With practice, my stitches grew smaller and more even, and my skill using the machine got better.

When I learned how to knit, I'd been struggling with crochet and knitting was so much easier (I can think of at least two people who had tried to teach me to crochet and I had failed to learn). I was invited to my very first knit and crochet night. The evening I picked up those needles, my friend Sherie showed me how to cast on, and then how to make my first stitch, and all of sudden, I was sitting there on the floor of Emma's living room, knitting. Everyone around me was either knitting or crocheting and doing it much better than I, but I will always remember that moment. It was like magic.

I finished the scarf I was crocheting as a Christmas gift, tried to figure out how to crochet a hat, and then just gave up and concentrated on knitting. Periodically, I would pick up the hook and try it, but the most I could manage was a chain and what I now know was slip stitch (not single crochet, like I thought it was). I tried reading instructions and I tried watching videos. Nothing seemed to help.

Since I wasn't particularly interested in crochet for its own sake, it didn't seem important to learn. Then I got Wrap Style from the library. I loved most of the patterns for their quirkyness, their beauty, and the challenge they would pose for knitting. Then I turned a page and saw it. Chanson en Crochet is a crocheted capelet that made me forget my dislike of the look of crochet. I wanted to make it. So I filed it in the back of my mind ("I will learn to crochet enough to make that") and let it go for the moment. I was working on a lace shawl and some socks and a few other things.

A few weeks ago, I tried to learn again (New Year's goal!) and felt like pulling my hair out. It was so frustrating. Why had someone invented this blasted craft and why did so many people crochet like there was no tomorrow? So I set it aside once more, figuring that I could ask a friend at knit night sometime to give me a hand. Maybe what I needed was a real live teacher, not a video where a right-handed person did it so fast I couldn't see what was happening.

Three days ago, something happened. I had gotten Wrap Style out of the library again, and was looking at the instructions for the crochet project. I turned to the basic crochet instructions in the back, and read through them. And it clicked. Something, somewhere in my mind made the connection I'd been waiting for. Later that evening, I picked up a crochet hook, and I picked up a ball of dishcloth cotton. I made a chain. Then I made a few rows of single crochet. A few rows of double crochet. A few rows of half-double crochet. Some slip-stitch. To use up the last of the yarn, I single-crocheted around the edge.

It's not pretty. I skipped a few edge stitches by accident, so one end is wider than the other. It's reminiscent of the blob I made last November that turned out to be slip stitch, not single crochet (the blob is now a rice pillow). But it is, unmistakeably, crochet.

Obviously, I need a little more practice before I can get going on the actual project, but I will do it. Crochet is no longer my Waterloo. I'm positive it will never replace knitting for me, since I prefer the look of knitting to crochet, but I will no longer fear the projects with the crocheted edging.

22 January 2010

I haven't had as much time for knitting in the last couple weeks as I did during the holidays. It's been back to work and school. I do spend more time on campus now, which reminds me, oddly, of the hours spent on campus when I went to community college. Back then, I spent a lot of time in the ceramics lab or in the language department (which was in the same building as the machine programming department where my dad works--never quite understood why). Now I spend most of my time at the linguistics building, of course. Today, for example, I have class at 9, I'm done at 10, but since I also work the closing shift at the university library on Fridays, I have this enormous gap of time until 3. It's good for doing homework in. I have some writing to do today, some reading, and some math (acoustic phonetics is forcing me to remember algebra and trig, and making me wish I had taken stats when I had the chance). And, of course, I always bring my knitting.

Right now my project of choice is a pair of entrelac socks. My sweater is too large to bring with me and the mittens are too complicated, since I spend most of the time working on them staring at the chart (past the thumb gusset and working on palm, but not to the decreases yet, and still on first mitten). Entrelac mostly doesn't take a lot of concentration. I don't have a picture yet, but I'll try to take one when I get to the heel. The yarn I'm using slowly changes colour, and the colour change usually hits about when I start the next entrelac row, which is what I was hoping for.

And that's about all for now.

09 January 2010

day trip

J. and I spent most of Friday and Saturday with his family. We went down into Vancouver today, and we made several stops, mostly along Broadway. Mine was supposed to be at "Three Bags Full," which was having a sale. It must have been an awesome sale because we got there and the line was out the door and down the street a ways (I've gotta wonder if they were selling Malabrigo half-price or something crazy like that). A guy half-way down the line said he'd been waiting for about an hour, and since none of the family really wanted to wait two hours for me to get in, we left. If it had just been J. and me, I would've done it, but it wasn't really fair to ask them to wait. I'll have to check out the store another time, when they aren't having a sale. Or, the next time they have a sale, I'll get there early.

So we left and got lunch instead. Then we went to a tea place, as my SIL wanted to stop there. That was fun. I got a couple new teas to try, and J. and I shared a pot of their Earl Grey. It was beautifully understated. There was enough bergamot flavouring to make it a proper Earl Grey, but not so much that it obscured the taste of the tea leaves (one of my biggest complaints about cheap Earl Greys).

We went to a music store so my MIL could look at harps, and I ran across a book I've been keeping an eye out for. Rise Up Singing is a collection of lyrics and chords for over a thousand songs. I know quite a few of them, but I often forget the lyrics. With this, I can have a reference for the lyrics, and I can work on learning to play chords properly on my mandolin. I kept trying to follow J. around the store with my head buried in this book, humming along with different songs. I ran into a couple of people doing that.

And I fell asleep in the car on the way home.