Sunday, October 16, 2016

Craft for thought

Here’s the thing I’ve noticed; crochet is getting better.  Really – the patterns are getting MUCH better.  I fully support looking at a craft in a new light and exploring the options it holds.  I believe Stephanie Pearl-McPhee said something to the effect that every skein of yarn holds infinite potential (I’m paraphrasing here, so bear with me).  But the idea is this – each skein of yarn can be something, anything, that you want it to be.  Whether it’s knit or crochet, lovely and light or thick and heavy, it’s destiny is up to you, the maker.  Using thinner yarn and a large hook, crochet can be lovely and lacy, like a halo waiting to grace the top of an angel.  Using a thicker yarn and a smaller hook, crochet can be thick and armor-like, ready to face a winter in Antarctica.  You can make the same pattern twice, and have two completely different items.  The same generally holds true for knitting, but knitting is usually less armor-like as the stitches are thinner by nature.  There are items that work better in knitting, and some that work better in crochet. 

I wax on about crochet, because I don’t think it gets its proper respect.  I think a lot of people (crocheters included) hold crochet in an inferior position to knitting.  It’s not better or worse; it’s simply different.  It has different uses.  Think of it like a fork versus a spoon.  You can’t say one is better than another, but you can say one is better at a task than the other.  A fork works better with steak; a spoon works better with soup.  You can eat soup with a fork, although it’s ill-advised and horribly messy, and you can eat steak with a soup, but it’s an awful lot of work. 

The reason I say that even crocheters hold crochet to be inferior is because I’ve watched how crocheters react to nicer yarns or to paying for patterns or taking classes.  Some of what I’ve witnessed is limited, but I have friends who work in yarn shops, and they relay back to me some of the attitudes and actions of these crafters.  I am sad that people who crochet don’t think their craft is worthy of the best they can afford – they only want cheap.  Now, I am all about saving money, and getting a great value for what you do spend, but I also know you get what you pay for.  I’ve used (and still do) all kinds of yarn – from alpaca to wool to mohair to angora to acrylic to nylon – whatever works best for the pattern and project.  For example, there are lovely sock yarns out there, and you can make BEAUTIFUL things in knit or crochet with them.  You can actually make more substantial garments with crochet from sock yarn than you can with knit.  Why?  The stitches are thicker.  Don’t discount yourself just because you want to make only blankets.  Make a blanket out of lovely wool sock yarn – it’s not scratchy!  And it’s super durable – think about the pounding your socks take on a daily basis.  Do you really think that’s less than what a blanket would get?

Take a class!  I say this not because I teach (although I will admit some of my encouragement comes from that side, but not as you think – more on that later), but because it’s fun.  Learning something new helps your brain function better.  You stave off mental diseases and have a sense of accomplishment.  Having someone to guide you through a new craft or technique gives you a resource right there to ask if you don’t understand.  My encouragement from the teaching perspective is not for the money of it – that’s nice, but that’s not really why I teach.  If that was the only reason I taught, trust me – I wouldn’t teach!  I don’t get paid nearly enough to sustain me, even if I could teach every day all day long.  I encourage people to take classes because I enjoy teaching.  Really – I do.  I love explaining something to someone, having them try it, and watching as the light bulb turns on for them and they “get it.”  This is exciting to me.  It thrills me.  I get a rush of adrenaline when I can do it.  I love treating my students as well.  Usually when I teach, I bring my students gifts (generally food of some sort).  It’s my pleasure and privilege to teach.  I love having a good time, and teaching to me is like throwing a party.  I get to meet new people, learn about them, have them learn about me, and we eat and have a good time.  Ask someone who’s taken a class with me before.  I love each and every one of my students.  I don’t do it just for the money.  As a matter of fact, I’d even do it for free (and have before), but when you pay, you give more attention.  You have something invested instead of just your time.  Think about when you were in school – you just really wanted to play outside and rarely cared what the teacher was saying when you were 10, did you?  Think about if you had to work a paper route, save your money, and then go to school.  Even at 10, you’d think differently about school.  Most college students don’t think twice about it, but as an older adult who’s gone back to school, I see how most college students waste their time because (for some) they don’t pay for it.  Their parents, or loans, or the state does.  If you have to work and scrimp and save to go, and no one foots the bill for you, you are usually a more serious student.  Same principle here – if you don’t pay, you probably wouldn’t even bother showing up or paying attention.  But paying means you WANT to be there, and you WANT to learn.  So, I say, take classes. 

I hear from a lot of knitters that they just don’t “get” crochet.  It doesn’t “work” for them.  I think that’s a cop-out.  You can – it just takes more work on the front end.  It’s new, and it’s different.  It uses different motions.  Think of it like this: crocheting is like driving a car, and knitting is like riding a bicycle.  Both are modes of transportation, and one can go faster than the other, but one takes more experience and you have to work a little harder at it.  I know I’m going to make someone mad with that, but it is what it is.  Knitting goes slower – the stitches are smaller, it takes less yarn, it uses two needles, and there are TONS of patterns out there for it.  Crochet goes faster – the stitches are thicker, it takes about 30% more yarn, it uses one hook, and there are still TONS of patterns out there for it, but not all of them are good.  There, I said it.  There are BAD patterns in crochet.  And there are a lot of them.  But I’m telling you – sift through.  Get specific on Ravelry with your searches, and you will find lovely crochet patterns.  TRY THEM.  Don’t be afraid – you can rip back.  And you know what?  Unlike knitting, when you rip back, you don’t have to rip back the whole thing and then pick up a whole bunch of stitches.  You only work one stitch at a time, so you only have to pick up one stitch.  Easier! 

I know a lot of crocheters don’t like to pay for patterns.  Why?  Do you think it took the designer any less time to work on it?  It didn’t – as a designer, I know what goes into pattern making.  There’s a lot of work that goes on.  You should seriously support the designers.  Don’t just scour the internet looking for a “free” pattern and then use it instead.  Again, I wholeheartedly agree that we all have to watch our budgets and carefully consider our purchases, but look at it this way: if you spent $5 on a pattern and made it twice, then the pattern cost for each item is only $2.50.  You spent WAY more than that in time making the item than you did buying it.  Even if you only made one of the item, you still spent more than $5 of labor (unless you would only pay yourself $.05 per hour to crochet or knit something) to make it.  I currently have no patterns for sale, so by advocating for purchasing patterns, I make no profit.  I have no ulterior motive for this one.  I have several patterns in my favorites that I will pay for, when I get ready to make them.  Like you, my budget can only stretch so far, and I have to carefully weigh my purchases, so I usually don’t purchase a pattern online until I’m ready to use it.  I know that a magazine is a “better value” for patterns, but I have also heard that designers don’t get nearly enough from a publication to make it worth it, other than the publicity.  I will make the disclaimer that the previous sentence is all hearsay.  I have not had a magazine publish a design, so I don’t know how they pay designers.  I will say however, that many people are self-publishing patterns now, because magazine or periodicals aren’t purchased like they once were, and the submission requirements are usually tougher, and it can be difficult to get a pattern published.  So, people skip the middleman and publish them personally.  It’s not hard to do, and it can get someone’s work out much quicker than going through someone else. 

So, here’s my goal for the next 6 months: I want to create some classes to help you learn to crochet or knit.  Let me know what you want to learn.  Is it simply a matter of practice?   Is there a technique you want to learn?  Is there some burning question that you’re just dying to ask?  What about sweaters in crochet?  Or combining knitting and crochet?  What about just the basics?  Need some practice ideas?  Have trouble with tension and need help getting that under control?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

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