Learning to Crochet: My book reviews
In 2012 I learned to crochet. Some exceptional human beings who I greatly admire got me going and helped me along the way, but the confidence to tell people I “can” crochet was significantly helped by three books, a vintage one stuffed with specific patterns, all in black or white, plus two gorgeous new ones hugely different from one another. The vintage one got me going because a phrase I’ll tell you about in a minute, but was broadly beyond my initial skill level, so I’ll review the newer ones here.
A vague interest in working with wools and yarns was catapulted from “resistance to learning a new craft and taking on the associated costs and desires of another hobby” TO “I must do this” when I read the phrase: “To make your fabric.” You see, I love fabric. I had never thought of knitting or crochet as “making fabric.” To the contrary, I had thought of them as ways of making things: tea cosies, mittens, jumpers, coasters. I figured if I was to make one of these, I’d patchwork them. I love patchwork.
However, the concept of using yarns to make fabric to represent something significant – well that is right up my patchwork street.
In the beginning I had a distinct knack for making bowls – whether I intended to or not. I also seemed to only do trebles (thats one of a handful of basic stitches that are the infastructure of crochet) reliably.
However, the colourful and upbeat “Cute & Easy Crochet” by Nicki Trench inspired me to come to terms with doubles, and granny squares, and begin to understand yarn terminology. The projects are organised in an really helpful way, by both skill level – and what type of project will help you progress to the next level. For example the chapter called ‘practice makes perfect’ includes projects with lots of repetition of the same stitch. Doing them in succession (or even just starting them as maybe I did) helps you start to understand what is happening with each stitch, for you to start to develop ‘muscle memory’ and rhythmn, and if you pick just one project and then overly confidently move on to the next chapter because you like the look of a project there, know where to go back to if you get in a muddle. Hypothetically speaking of course.
This book has a gorgeous and cheery palette that I found really tempting, cheery, and encouraging – however the highlighted yarns are not among the most easily available in my experience – and I found that annoying – particularly because I knew nothing about yarns – bought just by colour – and then discovered different sizes, make-up (acrylic, wool, cotton) lead to all kinds of complications – and this book omits any information to help understand yarns and what to choose. Thank goodness I had Debs and Mark to explain why my first granny squares were so odd.
Erika Knight’s Crochet Workshop does a bit better at addressing this newby’s impressive naivite to the world of yarn – in part because she tends to stick to one natural fiber at a time, including some very inexpensive and unusual ones – like twine. She also offers a bit more insight into materials, but still not as much as I’ve learned this year – and wish I could have crash coursed with a good book.
Crochet Workshop is definitely not a crash course book – it is serene and reflective, like the peaceful mood that does start to settle on me as I find a crochet rhythmn. I have found a number of Knight’s projects especially inspiring to my love of the idea of ‘making fabric’- the laptop case and flower cardigan in particular. The hand drawn pictures – of stitches and patterns – also encourage the possibility of writing one’s owns patterns which also appeals to my patchwork-y-ness. Finally, this was the first book where I found free form crochet garments, made with a variety of motifs in an organic – not grid – assembly – which also hugely appeals to my patchwork love.
I am finding I refer back to these two books often – which one depends on my mood. I have others full of projects I want to tackle, including the fabulously fun and liberating new “Geek Crochet” and the decadent “Loop-d-Loop Crochet” but these two will always have a special place in my heart because they were so instrumental in helping me become a crocheter – in conjunction with advice from friends, and quite a few mistakes that helped me learn. So, I’m not sure either gets a “10” as the learners book – and they might not even together. Nonetheless, they both capture what it feels like to crochet and make, albeit different aspects – so they are brilliant inspirations.
Catherine West is the Significant Seams founder, a quilter, and now crocheter. She will be helping with the “Yarnscape” Community Project – workshop participants will be crocheting and knitting flowers for an art installation and fundraising campaign.
Members of E17 Designers, students at Waltham Forest College Fashion department, and residents of Chapel End and Wood Street Wards who are on ESA, job seekers allowance or in receipt of housing benefit are eligible for free membership.