As most things do, it started with an idea. The idea grew into the purchase of a book and then an invitation. My friend Crystal had been crocheting since she was a kid and thought it would be fun for us all to get together and crochet. She promised she’d teach those of us who’d never held a crochet hook in our lives how to do it. The inaugural Stitch and Bitch session was set for a Thursday at the end of June in the year 2012.
Before you can even start stitching and bitching, you need the appropriate crafting supplies. I found myself wandering the aisles of Michaels, painstakingly considering the various colors and fibers of brands like Red Heart, Bernat, Sugar ‘n Cream, Caron, Loops & Threads, Patons and Lion Brand. Even Vanna White has her own yarn! I felt a bit like Goldilocks: this yarn is too coarse, this one is too fuzzy, this one is too thick. I finally found one just right in colors I approved of, selecting it in two shades of blue, a gray and a teal.
Yarn in hand, I moved to the hooks and chose the gauge indicated on the package wrapped around the skein of yarn. I’d read that you might need to adjust the hook size depending on the size of your stitches. Since I didn’t know what size my stitches would be, I selected the hook it recommended and hoped for the best. I left Michaels feeling a little overwhelmed and a lot uncertain.
I come from several generations of women who sewed, crocheted and knitted. Even my dad had sewn clothes, made stained glass lamps and furniture from pieces of wood. I’m not sure what I expected, but I hoped crocheting would come naturally if other relatives had done it before me.
On the night of the Stitch and Bitch, six of us gathering in Crystal’s living room. We shared pizzas. We drank a few margaritas, to either give ourselves the courage to start stitching or the boost to start bitching. Crystal passed us photocopies of the granny square pattern we were going to learn and we started the lesson.
I quickly discovered that the blood of my crafting ancestors may not be the same blood coursing through me. I was all thumbs as I tried to hold the hook the right way in my right hand while finding the right amount of tension in the yarn I held in my left hand while also using that hand to move the yarn over my hook. I felt like I needed two more hands. I kept twisting the yarn around the hook the wrong way. When I went to pull the yarn through, all that lay in front of me was a tangled, knotted mess. This is when I discovered the size of my stitches: they’re small and tight.
My fellow stitching comrades in the room possessed various skill levels. Hannah, like me, was a beginner, but I soon shot her envious glances as she picked up on the motions quickly, deftly negotiating her hook and yarn into real stitches. If she was authoring this piece, she’d tell you that she wasn’t that good and that she ripped out half her stitches. Utter nonsense. Hannah was doing a lot better than me by the end of the evening. Anna and Ali, on the other hand, were crochet professionals – Ali more so. Anna said she’d only crocheted scarves before, but that was still leaps and bounds more than I’d done at that point.
Crystal realized that I was either a hopeless case or in need of individualized attention. Ali stepped to my side. She had me stop following the square pattern. “Let’s just practice single crochets and double crochets,” she suggested. I nodded mutely, too frustrated and annoyed to speak.
That night, I bitched more about stitching than about anything else.
By the time we disbanded, Crystal had made a few more margaritas for us, Hannah had a quarter of a recognizable square and I had what can only be described as a small kite – or a fuzzy sperm.
I’m sure you’re thinking I came to terms with the fact that I’m all thumbs and I gave up, my crocheting days numbered before they even began.
Au contraire, reader.
I persevered. A few weeks later, Ali and I sat in Crystal’s backyard on the fourth of July, our feet in a paddling pool as she reviewed stitches with me. I felt optimistic that day. Maybe I could get the hang of this and coordinate my hands and fingers in the right way…
Both Crystal and Ali continued to tutor me, answering my questions as I attempted stitches on my own, without supervision.
I quit the granny squares and crocheted a heavy, winter-weight infinity scarf in a pattern I created, alternating single and double crochets. This helped me perfect the basic stitches and become comfortable with the movements and the rhythm. I even added a ruffle at the ends!
I went back to the granny squares, selecting different patterns out of the book and not the one Crystal had originally tried to teach us. She later admitted that particular square was rather advanced and maybe not the best one for us to start out learning. I called it the square of hell and wanted nothing to do with it. I’m happy to say that I finished 72 granny squares, five of them with a 3-D flower in the center.
I didn’t stop there.
In the autumn of 2013, I started my first full length, consecutively stitched afghan as a Christmas present for a friend. Watching the friend’s honest reaction of surprise, I was grateful I didn’t quit.
To date, I’ve crocheted 72 granny squares, two scarves, two adult-sized afghans and three baby blankets. I’ve kept that fuzzy sperm, too. Mostly because it makes me laugh and more because it reminds me of where I started – from the beginning, from knowing not a single, blessed thing about crochet. And now I can read a pattern.
I showed many of my projects to my grandma, crocheting in her presence a few times. She knits and crochets and creates beautiful work, including leg warmers I used to wear to dance classes and winter hats with a bobble on top I secretly hated as a little kid. She meticulously folds and wraps every bootie, shawl, afghan and sweater just so. I used to think it was a little over the top. Now I understand. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time to make each and every one of those pieces.
My grandma’s critical eye scanned my work and then she asked me questions about the yarn I used and my hook gauge.
I smiled. I knew I’d made her proud.