Ravelings on Left-Handed Crochet
I am left-handed. That’s fairly uncommon. In fact, it’s one of the qualities that has always set me apart from others. Only 8 to 15 percent of the human population is left-handed, making the trait far less common than blue eyes and nearly as rare as red hair. Although on some days I would be just as pleased to write with my right hand if I could trade left-handedness for a head of red hair, most of the time it’s something I don’t even think about. Once I learned to write and how to deal with scissors, each their own awkward battles, it was rarely an issue.
One of the few times it did come up was when I was about ten years old. I took a crocheting class at our local 4-H chapter, and because our chapter was so small, my mother was conscripted to teach the class (consisting of me). She didn’t know much about crocheting—just how to chain, single crochet, double crochet, how to increase, decrease, and make a shell stitch—but she undertook the task with determination. My mother is right-handed like everyone else in my family, and the question of how to teach her left-handed daughter posed a bit of a puzzle. After a few failed attempts, she hit on the plan that brought us success. We sat together on her bed with our hooks and yarn, and I watched her movements reflected in the mirrored headboard as she formed her stitches.
That was all it took! Soon I was cranking out yards of chain stitches and rectangles of various sizes. My mother doesn’t use patterns, so she didn’t teach me to follow them. She taught me how to shape the stitches and told me to make pieces the shape and size I needed for what I wanted. I soon progressed from pot holders to more ambitious projects, even saving my allowance to buy an undressed fifteen-inch doll (affiliate link) to make clothes for. It was not long before that doll had the most amazing wardrobe, complete with dresses, blankets, a bulky purple coat, and a white purse, all made from acrylic yarn (affiliate link) scrounged from my mother’s stash. I still remember taking that doll, dressed in a lumpy, mint-green dress with one asymmetrical strap and a frilly skirt, to the fair in the summer. I was so proud of that dress, but the judge was not impressed—until she learned that I hadn’t followed a pattern, a fact that earned me a blue ribbon.
I noticed that my crocheting didn’t look as nice as my mother’s nor as smooth and professional as the other pieces I saw at the fair. At first I chalked it up to my inexperience, but as I got better and faster and my work stayed lumpy and “wrong looking,” I decided it must be because I was left-handed. It was an easy answer and explained to my satisfaction why my finished crochet looked different than everyone else’s. It wasn’t wrong; it was different, and that was that.
As I got older, I gradually stopped crocheting. I gave my doll to my little sister and forgot hook and yarn amidst the homework and chaos of high school. It wasn’t until after I married that I revived the skill, partly to pass the time and partly because I wanted to make baby things—something that few can resist. Feeling rather daring, I followed my first pattern out of an old booklet purloined from my mother’s shelf. The hat turned out comically large; I knew nothing about gauge, but I was encouraged enough to keep going.
No one I knew crocheted, so I turned to the Internet for more patterns and design inspiration. While scanning the directions for a pattern one day, I had a revelation. The pattern specifically directed that some of the stitches should be made through the back loop only. I was making all of my stitches through the back loop only. Suddenly suspicious, I scoured the Web for basic crochet tutorials with photos. Sure enough, another mistake: I was holding my yarn in front of my work, inserting my hook into the back of my stitches, and pulling loops through from the front to the back. Since then, I’ve had several people comment that it must have been terribly difficult to work with the yarn in front, but I had become expert at doing nearly the opposite of what I was supposed to be doing.
I called my mother, trying to be more casual than accusatory. “I’ve been crocheting wrong all this time, Mom,” I said. “Did you know that?”
She laughed. “I tried to show you, honey, but you were too stubborn to pay attention. You wanted to do it the way you wanted to do it, and you wouldn’t listen when I tried to help you fix it.”
“Oh.” I was a little deflated—I certainly didn’t remember anything of the sort. “Well, I know how to do it now.”
“That’s the important thing, honey,” she said. “I’m glad you figured it out.”
Ever since, I have been pleased to see that my crocheting is as smooth and clean as anything that a right-handed crocheter can produce. Being left-handed is no longer my excuse for inferior work. It’s gone back to being a piece of trivia or a small, secret superpower that no one would guess at unless I’m holding a pen, a fork, or my hook. Then someone will invariably ask, “Oh, are you left-handed?” “Yes,” I reply with a smile. “Yes I am.”
Originally published in Interweave Crochet Spring 2007[link: https://www.interweave.com/store/crochet-spring-2007]
Featured Image: Left-handed crochet in action CREDIT: sabinevanerp/Pixabay