Sunday Spark: The Magic Of Yarncraft

I talk a lot here about my issues with PTSD and the resulting anxiety. Even before I really realized that that was what's "wrong" with me, I talked about depression and the impact it's had on my life and my relationships over the years.

When I look back, I can see all the ways I found coping mechanisms to help me survive what I was going through. I was writing seriously by the time I was in fifth grade, making up poems and stories, not only to help me cope with my life, but to help me live with my own sense of helplessness. When I was younger, I was very close friends with a person who had also undergone long-term abuse, and I hated how powerless I was to help my friend or change things for them. Maybe I was projecting - it was easier to hate not being able to help her than it was to face my own rage over being unable to help myself. But I hated the people who hurt my friend just as much as (or more than) I hated the people who hurt me, and I lost faith in the court system that couldn't - or wouldn't - step in in big enough ways for us. I hated the way we felt like no one listened to us, and I hated the way we remained unheard for so long. Even now, as adults, we often still feel that way.

I turned to writing to restore my faith in the world around me. To write people who DID see each other and who DID care enough to step up when someone was in need. To write parents who protected their young. To write girls and women who were strong and powerful and able to stand up for themselves. To write girls who were loved and protected ... and heard. To reclaim my belief that what I was writing could be real somewhere, for someone - even if it wasn't and might not ever be for me. I'm still doing it too - every one of my books features a woman struggling to overcome something. A woman who, in the process of overcoming, stumbles upon the love she was so hungrily in search of. Sometimes she's seeking family, other times she's seeking romance. Often, she finds a bit of both.

But I needed more than imaginings. I needed more than fiction and fairy tales - I needed something beautiful in my reality, too. So I fell in love with crafting. I fell in love with the way I can sit in the middle of a cold and sometimes ugly world, and I can choose to create something warm and comforting and beautiful. Slowly, bit by bit, I could create beauty in a place where there wasn't any. I could draw (though not well), and by middle school, I learned to sculpt. I remember staying after school for hours whenever I could, sitting in the art room with a lump of wet muddy solidity in my hands while my eclectic art teacher worked on ending her long workday, her wildly patterned maxi skirt just grazing the ground, equally wild curly hair spilling down her back.

I still love clay. But clay wasn't something readily available to me at home, and so I went in search of something else to meet the need.

My paternal grandmother's name was Jeanne. At face value, she was stern and strong, a tall woman with large bones and a very sturdy disposition. She wore cat-eye glasses regardless of whether they were fashionable, and she always wore her fine, brown hair in a very short, very tightly curled perm. But beneath the surface, she was a troubled person, an injured woman with soul-deep wounds that bled into every aspect of her life and secrets that poisoned her right up until her last day.

I wish I had known her better. I wish I was better able to understand her stories - stories I learned largely through the generosity of others, because she was so private she wouldn't even confess her birthday - she even directly denied having siblings, aunts, uncles, etc. Now that she's gone, the knowledge that all of her stories and secrets are gone with her is ... troubling. Like I said, I wish I had known her better.

I was in middle school when I found out she knew how to crochet, and I begged her to teach me. She tried to get out of it, said I would "get bored" - and I insisted that I wouldn't. The next time I was at her house, she set me down on the couch with a ball of soft white yarn and a crochet hook, and she taught me how to make "granny squares." She said when I made enough, she would teach me how to sew them into strips, and how to sew those strips into a blanket. A blanket of plain, snow-white granny squares.

I think I made four or five that day, and then I got bored and moved on to learning the next thing. I never did make a white granny square blanket.

But within another few months, maybe a year, I missed the feel of the hook working through the yarn. I missed the fibers sliding through my hands. I missed the coolness of the way just one little bit of string wraps around itself in such a way as to create a fabric one could use to ward away the chill of night or the emptiness of feeling alone.

I started crocheting again, and eventually, I even taught myself to knit. I've made blankets in the years since, and scarves and wraps and washcloths. I've made headbands and shrugs and boleros, and even a sock once - but just one because knitting socks is a b!tch. When I'm knitting, I like hats best; they're quick and simple, relatively mindless, and with the advent of circular needles I don't have to wrestle double-points. Or scarves - more versatile but still relatively quick and simple, and you can work flat.

But in crochet? In crochet my world opens up, because I don't have to juggle two needles. It's just me, the yarn, and a hook - darting in and out of the fabric that wasn't fabric until I created it. Every stitch is a reminder of my ability to change and create the world around me, every movement purposeful, every row an accomplishment.

At one time in my life, I just kept my crochet basket at the foot of the couch, right beside where I would usually sit. I loved that basket - I loved that it started with just a few balls of yarn inside, and over time it slowly filled to overflowing with the results of my determination. One stitch at a time, that basket filled with stripes of blue that bled into white and back to blue again - stripes of warmth that grew visibly more real with each session I put in. A place where I could make things happen, where I could get results. Maybe not instant gratification, but tangible progress at the very least.

I don't have that basket anymore. Years of change and challenges wrought by time have removed that basket and its sense of peacefulness about as far from my life as they can get - but I envision them still, and even their memory brings me comfort. One day I will have that again, a basket of fiber sitting patiently at my side, waiting for magic to happen - unhindered by other things, and fully comfortable in the place where it belongs. This chapter of my life doesn't allow it ... but the next one will.

In the meantime, I still keep a yarn project going almost all the time, taking it out and putting it away as  time allows. Here are some others I'd like to get to one day, in a mix of both my favorite yarncrafting varieties:

Maybe I'll start one of those great projects this winter, when the cold sets in and time seems to slow down a little. If I featured a project here, what would you guys like to see me make?

Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is a great way for you to get yourself into crocheting as a hobby if you've never done it - and it's a great way to remind yourself how to do it if you've crocheted before but haven't picked up a hook in so long you've forgotten how to do it (like I did once). This Learn Crochet! Kit is a great one because it comes with literally everything you could possibly need to get started except for the yarn, and that's just because each yarncrafter tends to like choosing their own style and color.

It even has some great starter projects in it that'll help you practice what you're learning in a way that's productive and useful - and what better time to learn than now, when winter is on the way and so is Christmas? Plus it's only a little over $10 - well worth the cost for the skill and the peace it brings once you've mastered it. But if you already know how to crochet and you're just looking for some new ideas to bring back the enthusiasm (or use up your stash), check out Crochet One-Skein Wonders®: 101 Projects from Crocheters around the World, which at just under $15 is a great little book of projects you can make quickly with only one roll of yarn! This particular book has a great mix of projects for all levels of crochet experience too, so I like that it'll meet you wherever you are.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links, remember that if you choose to click any product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with on a more regular basis, click here.)
It's amazing how much I don't realize I miss yarn until I've gone a little while without it and then sit down to write a post about how magical it is to me and how relaxing it is to craft something with the softness of simple fiber. Thanks for hanging with me, but now I'd love for you to drop me a comment about yarn! Are you a crafter, and if so, which do you prefer - knit, or crochet? How did you learn, and what projects have you made?

And while you're here, if you'd still like to hang with me and follow more of my journey as a writer, a mom, and an abuse survivor with PTSD, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar. This blog may not always be easy to read, but I truly hope we'll learn from and inspire each other along the way.

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  1. I looked through your Pinterest and I like what I'm seeing. I also looked at some of your other pin board and you have a great selection. Good post and keep it up!

    1. Thank you! Pinterest and I have sort of an on-again-off-again love affair going on - it's such a great place to find new ideas, and I love that there's always something just right for anyone.


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