Crochet isn’t so hard to learn after all

Crochet love hearts
Little crochet love hearts

I’ve wanted to learn how to crochet for ages but have hidden behind excuses like “I don’t have a crochet hook” and “It looks hard” and my favourite “I’m terrible at knots.” Despite my desire to learn, I wasn’t ready to learn. That all changed last week.

Mum came to visit last month and for some inexplicable reason she brought with her a crochet hook and a ball of fuchsia coloured wool. It was inexplicable because whilst Mum has passing phases of craftiness, I’ve never actually seen her crochet anything. Knit yes, sew absolutely, crochet never. She had even taken it on as carry-on (I would have thought a crochet needle, despite being blunt, would have gone in the same bin as tweezers and pocket knives at the security screen) although she had barely 30 stitches finished.

When I saw her started project I mentioned that I really wanted to learn. My Nan is very talented at working with wool and even had a loom with which she made all her 15 grandchildren a tartan blanket, so I thought maybe she had been crocheting with Nan lately. Mum started to explain the process to me and then added “Except I don’t know how to turn”. Perhaps she hadn’t been getting crochet help from Nan after all. Turning seems to be a critical element and is probably why she hadn’t gotten very far into her nebulous project. She showed me how to hold the hook and wool and to make chain stitches except my brain wasn’t open to learning and I found it awkward, uncomfortable and frustrating. So I gave up. Lucky for me, Mum decided to leave behind her hook and ball of wool for me to practice, and on Thursday last week I idly clicked on a link in Pinterest with a tutorial on Maybe Matilda on how to crochet and decided I wanted to give it a go.

First dodgy piece of crochet
First dodgy piece of crochet

I had pinned pictures and links to beginners crochet instructions before, but this time, with a hook and wool at hand, I decided to see if I could follow the instructions and get the hang of it. I learned how to chain, create a slip stitch, do single crochet, half double crochet, double crochet and treble crochet. I also learned that there are different stitch names for different areas, and these US terms may be different to the Australian ones which makes it slightly more confusing for a beginner looking for free and easy patterns/descriptions on the internet.

My first piece of finished work was just practicing the different types of stitches and getting the hang of holding the tools. Parts of the square look pretty good and neat, and then there is the big stuff up in the middle that looks like a dogs breakfast.

But it wasn’t as complicated as I had expected and I figured out different dos and don’ts courtesy of the time-old trial and error method and by observing the process carefully to understand the stitches better.

After finishing the square I was high on achievement and decided to press my luck and try crocheting in the round. I found another tutorial and tried a couple of different methods of creating a circle and ended up with a little purple cone that looks slightly rude. Convinced I was ready to move on to greater things, I decided to make a beanie using my new-found skills. I was following a pattern for a premature baby beanie, yet as I crocheted I decided I wanted to make myself a hat. Hmmmm. So I just kind of followed my nose and stitched my way round and round and round and into the night while mi novio slept.

Pink crochet hat
Pretty in pink

After more googling I figured out how to decrease the huge circumference I’d stitched and give it sides. Consulting the mirror a few times to get the length of the sides right I finally tied it off and grinned proudly at the result, something I would actually wear and that looked fancier than a regular beanie (thanks to my ignorant freestyling which thankfully worked out for the better).

Next on the learn list were crochet flowers. I had two different pinks, a red, a green and a Christmassy multicolour wool in my craft box from earlier pom pom and craft projects so I used the other pinks to create two different flowers and made a tiny fuchsia coloured one to pin to my new hat. I love crochet flowers. They look fabulous but are definitely more difficult to do because you really have to count stitches, something that is tedious for me and I think I ended up going off pattern again a few times.

Baby headband in progress
Baby headband in progress

Three more little things followed, crocheting the headband for a brain-squasher (with mi novio‘s baby niece in mind), making some cute little hearts that could easily be turned into Christmas tree ornaments or stitched onto something like a headband and a curlicue, a crochet firework-like spiral.

I’ve been lucky to have the time and finally the ganas (one of my favourite Spanish words indicating desire, will or energy to actually do something) to practice and create and in the space of 4 days I managed to produce a number of little things and my hat. I don’t think I have the patience or passion to become accomplished at crochet and I doubt I will remember how to do all these things without following instructions every time, but I’ve found another way to be creative and to produce and get that great sense of achievement when you finish something you didn’t realise you could do. I’ve also received requests for hats from mi novio, D and la suegra, so I guess I have more practice coming up. I just hope my beginner’s luck continues!

Crochet flowers
Pink crochet flowers

I’ve discovered that crochet requires you to look at what you’re doing, so it’s difficult to use it to occupy your hands while watching TV, unless you just listen and watch half-heartedly, but it is a great activity to do while listening to your favourite podcasts.

If you are a beginner too or want to learn to crochet, check out my Crochet board on Pinterest for links and pages I’ve found for these projects and others I’d like to make. I think granny squares are next on my crochet learn list.



Do you crochet? How did you learn and what do you like to make?


Knows how to do things

Ladybird cross-stitch
Ladybird cross-stitch project

I think this would be the modern-day description of ‘accomplished’.

If we fast forward Jane Austen to the twenty-first century, her characters wouldn’t be praised for their accomplishments but for knowing how do to things.

Last week we had three visits from mi novio‘s younger sister (my cuñada), her older husband and nine-month old baby – all visits by virtue of the La Suegra staying with us – and on all occasions she said “Camille sabe hacer cosas.” (Camille knows how to do things). It only struck me the third time in a short period of time that she is in awe of what I do and I realised that almost every time she visits she says the same thing.

She comments on little things that to me are the product of a little bit of curiosity or interest in something. On the third visit I was decorating La Suegra‘s birthday cake and accompanying cupcakes when they arrived, yet later when I opened the fridge to take out the giant cupcake and the other normal cupcakes, she asked in the most surprised voice if I’d made them myself and was I sure I hadn’t bought them. She then went on to say I should open a cake shop, a comment which her husband seconded heartily.

I should note that I used a packet cake mix and the decorations were not as I had hoped because I messed up the ratio of cream to white chocolate so the ganache was runny and hardly stayed on the cake as I’d envisioned. I guess by Colombian standards, my cakes were pretty special because I made them myself. I don’t know any Colombian who bakes a birthday cake. Birthdays always mean a trip to the cake shop to buy an overly creamed cake.

My other accomplishment, in the eyes of my cuñada, is the cross-stitch I am working on. While sitting around on the couch during these visits, in order to be at least partially social and keep my interest piqued in something, I have taken to working on my cross-stitch. I hadn’t done any cross-stitch since high school, but recently the desire came over me, so I bought a little colour-coded kit of a ladybird to work on. Apparently knowing how to do cross-stitch is also something amazing, even though I’m just following the instructions and have ignored the suggested stitches for large areas because they look too complicated.

What would also be amazing is if I knew how to knit, crochet and embroider, but alas, this fair maid knoweth not these feminine arts.

I have always wanted to lead an interesting life, and I think that for my cuñada, my life has been like a fantastical latino soap opera that flirts with the borders of the possible. In contrast to her, I’m not content to sit and do nothing except watch soaps on TV. I like to explore, travel, learn new things, experiment, be creative, read, write, get crafty, visit museums and I like to work.

To her, my inspired, but lacking in finesse, activities and crafts are the most amazing things. However, it’s all about exposure and experiences, and based on my experiences I admire and am awed by my friends who post elaborate and perfectly decorated cakes on Facebook, who produce the most darling little crochet and knitted pieces, who can sing or play a musical instrument, who can design and make their own clothes, who can take and edit incredible photographs, who envision and create films, who are disciplined and prolific writers, who renovate and decorate their homes, who are talented sportspeople, who have beautiful and paradisiacal gardens, who can paint or draw, who can fix machinery or make anything they can imagine, who plan and prepare extensive dinner parties, who can prepare a perfect latte, who can make a divine floral arrangement, who can speak other languages fluently, who commit to further study, who can design memorable posters and documents, who can build their own furniture and who live their passions.

I’m most interested in giving things a go, it’s not so much about the quality of what you are doing, but rather that you are actually doing something. Particularly if it is a creative pursuit, there are many benefits to be gained by exercising that part of your brain and it makes life enjoyable. I mean, I like watching television, but I don’t gain any enjoyment out of it. I get enjoyment and satisfaction out of baking, making some little craft, reading, wrapping presents and the like.

My dad always says that a man’s got to have a project. This is coming from a man who has many, many projects (both completed, uncompleted and pure ideas) and this from a man who knows how to do lots of things. I agree with him. Having personal projects is productive and enjoyable, it is interesting and most of all, it is a great way to continue learning and growing.

So whilst the nineteenth century term of accomplishment has gone out of fashion, it is still very much alive. So don’t be shy, don’t say you don’t have time to follow your creative pursuits. Make the time, try your best and keep learning new techniques and ideas. You never know who out there will admire your efforts.

For a little bit of fun, here’s a quiz to find out which Jane Austen heroine you are….

What are your accomplishments (or what you know how to do)? What accomplishments do you wish you had?