Everyday Crochet: Crafting for Others
Helen Wyatt learned to crochet when she was about eight years old. Her teacher was her paternal grandmother, whom she calls an “amazing lady.” “Grandma was fiercely intelligent and remained so right to the end—reading the newspaper, keeping herself informed, and completing challenging crossword puzzles,” Helen says. “Every year until the age of ninety she made a homemade Christmas cake and pudding as well as knitted toys and jumpers (as sweaters are called in England) for each of the kids in the family.”
And a big family it was. Helen’s grandmother raised seven sons and one daughter. Crafting for others for Christmas began in January and continued all year long. She lived to the age of 101.
Strength in Crochet
The first thing Helen crocheted was a scarf, followed by a baby blanket. She had trouble counting the stitches correctly, so the blanket curved in at the middle; she went back in later and filled it in freeform. “It must have looked dreadful,” she says, “but I was so proud of it!” Helen says she also remembers creating a skirt and top sometime in the early 1980s that she eventually got rid of, although she now wishes she had kept them.
Helen tried to teach her own daughter to crochet but says, “We both agree that it’s perhaps not her thing.” Still, Helen found crochet to be a comfort throughout her parenting. “I’ve used craft over many years as a way to relax and to feel grounded and centered,” she says. “My son, who is now twenty-eight, was diagnosed with autism when he was six. For many years, his behavior was extremely challenging to deal with. Being able to put the ‘hard stuff’ into a box and focus on creativity for a while helped me to process difficult situations and emotions.” After concentrating on crochet for a time, she says, she could go back to deal with the difficult things when she was feeling stronger.
A Crafty Life
Helen has done many different crafts over the years. She created a collection of lavender-and-lace cross-stitch angels, which she says was the most meditative of her projects. She also sewed clothes for her kids when they were small, crafted rag dolls and rag rugs, assembled and dressed china dolls, and slowly completed a doll’s house. These days she enjoys creating fabulous patchwork throws by felting.
Helen adds that she also cooks. In addition to crafting and cooking, she goes to the gym and enjoys walking, spending time with her family and dog, and reading books, especially science fiction and fantasy, which allow her to disappear into an alternative world every now and then.
Although Helen knits, she prefers “the control and speed of crochet” and says, “I’m also better at crochet, so it allows more freestyle expression.” She really loves to be creative in her crochet work and doesn’t like to follow patterns. Instead, she’ll learn a technique well enough to be able to reinterpret it. She loves to play with different yarns and textures.
And she has a lot of yarn to play with. “The gran of a friend of my daughter passed away, and when her family cleared out her house, they brought me two bags of yarn,” she says. “The girl was expecting a baby, so I made a pram blanket for them as a thank-you, using a lovely, fluffy cream yarn that was in one of the bags. Two weeks later they returned—with ten big bags of yarn! Some of it is very thin—on cones and meant for machine knitting—so I crochet with several strands held together and make things like scarves and blankets.”
Crafting for Others
Although she keeps many of her craft items in her own home, Helen really loves to crochet for others. “I love to be able to give gifts that I’ve made,” she says. “I often feel that I don’t have enough time for friends and family. I might not be able to visit with them during my spare time—which often seems to come at ten at night—but I can sit and make something for them.”
Sometimes she knows who a project will be for when she starts it, but often she just creates the item, “banks it in the stash,” and waits for the right person and time to appear to give it away. She also donates some gifts to charity, saying she wants to “pay it forward.”
Kathryn Vercillo is the author of Crochet Saved My Life. You can find her online at www.crochetconcupiscence.com.
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