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The Joy of Hooking
Celebrating National Crochet Week/Month
March is National Craft Month and, in 2012, National Crochet Week runs from March 16-22.
Did you know, however, that March is also National Crochet Month? March is just chock-full of hooky goodness!
So what is crochet, anyway? And why do crocheters get so upset when people ask them what they're knitting?
I've heard a lot of descriptions over the years, but I think my favourite one is this: where knit fills in space, crochet frames space. Though you can make solid fabrics with crochet, it's truly ideal for creating open, lacey patterns.
Crochet is a relatively new craft, as such things go, and like all crafts, its popularity has waxed and waned. Today, crochet is seeing a resurgence in popularity again, and deservedly so.
Whether you're an old hand at crochet, or if you've never picked up a hook before, now is a great time to discover - or rediscover - the Joy of Hooking!
The photo above is of some of my own hooks in a range of sizes, resting on a thread crochet cushion cover
What is crochet?
The word crochet is the French word for hook. Which means whenever we talk about using a crochet hook, we're actually saying we're using a hook hook! Crochet is, in essence, using a hook and strand of fibre, such as yarn or string, to create a fabric.
Though there is archeological evidence of techniques similar to crochet that goes back centuries, there is no evidence for crochet as we know it today that predates the 1800's. Some believe it goes back to the 1500's, and there are theories that it was inspired by a type of embroidery done with a hook called tambour, but in reality, we don't know when or how crochet first developed.
Some early hooks were expensive luxury items only the wealthy could afford. The hooks, mounted into handles, were made of steel, brass, bone, ivory or even mother of pearl. Over time, crochet became a way for the less affluent to recreate the more expensive bobbin lace. Ireland became famous for its crocheted lace industry, as women made lace in their homes as businesses to survive the Great Famine. People carved hooks out of whatever material they had in hand. I have even seen a photo of a hook that the owner's grandfather had carved out of the leg of a chair for her grandmother.
Crochet can be worked using the finest of threads with the tiniest of hooks, or by hand using thick rope! It can be used to make delicate wedding gowns or life sized sculptures. Of course, there are always hats and scarves to make as well! With the variety of hooks and new yarns available today, as well as the many creative patterns available, there's no shortage of inspiration.
In this photo, my daughter is modelling a lace patterned Moebius shawl, which can also be worn as a cowl or neckwarmer.
So... What are you knitting?
One of the things I love about crochet is how portable it is. I keep several project bags handy, depending on where I plan to go, with a WIP (Work In Progress) inside. My daughter's guitar lesson is half an hour long - just enough time to start and finish a 8x8 inch square for Blankets 4 Canada. There's plenty of room, though, so I like to bring along a shawl I'm working on that has a more complex lace pattern. The doctor's office has a tiny waiting room, however, so only small projects that fit in a small bag go along there. The coffee shop? A big project is fine, but preferably one that doesn't require a lot of attention, so I can chat with my companions.
Crocheting in public is a lot of fun! Especially if you like meeting new people. Just about anywhere I go, I'll have some friendly, curious person come over and ask me...
"So... what are you knitting?"
At which point I look at the single hook at my hand, blink a few moments as I mentally shift gears, then politely tell them that I don't know how to knit.
I don't mind it, really. A lot of people simply don't know the difference. They see yarn, they think knit. I actually enjoy explaining the difference and talking about all the interesting things you can do with crochet.
Like this little guy in the photo that I made a while back. I found the pattern in an amigurumi book I borrowed from the library. As soon as it was finished, my younger daughter fell absolutely in love with it, and it now resides in her bedroom.
When I started to do a lot of crochet and discover all the wonderful websites out there, I discovered something else. Apparently, even though a lot of people do both, there's some sort of rivalry between knitters and crocheters, and people can get pretty miffed when someone gets them mixed up!
So, if you don't know how to knit or crochet and you see someone sitting somewhere with yarn in hand, working on a project, take a closer look. If you see a pointy stick in each hand, they are knitting. If you see a hook in one hand, they are doing crochet.
Feel free to say hello either way. Us crafters tend to really enjoy sharing about what we're doing!
Do you crochet?
Say what? - Learning to Read Crochet
Photo is of a lace poncho my younger daughter made for her sister.
Have you visited your LYS recently?
Did you make a mistake and have to frog your WIP?
Have you seen the latest CACK on Ravelry?
Here are just a few of the shorthand and abbreviations you might come across in crocheting (and some knitting) circles.
LYS - Local Yarn Store: a magical place filled with yarny goodness, tools, and wonderful, knowledgeable people. Enter at own risk, as there is significant danger of spending many hours fondling luxurious fibres and spending way too much money on the most delicious of yarns.
WIP - Work In Progress: any project that is actively being worked on. These breed secretly in the night until you find yourself surrounded by WIPs, wondering where they all came from and how you can possibly finish them all. Some of them will, sadly, become a...
UFO - UnFinished Object: any project that is tucked away in a dark corner, sometimes for years, haunting you, saying "finish me! finish me!" in a sad, tiny, delicate voice every time your eyes fall on it.
FO - Finished Object: formerly a WIP or UFO that has finally been completed. They then tend to disappear into the magical vortex of gift giving, hopefully to recipients who appreciate the many hours of love and labour that went into making it.
CAL - Crochet A Long: A project chosen by a group of people to work on at the same time, to be finished within a time frame. Some groups have mystery CALs where only part of the pattern is revealed each week and no one but the organiser knows what it will look like when it's done.
CACK - Crime Against Crochet and Knit: Those projects that should never have been made. The ones using the worst of yarns, the most eyebleeding colours or are just plain inappropriate! There used to be plenty of examples at "What Not To Crochet", a blog which is, sadly, now defunct. I must warn you before clicking on that link. Eye bleach may be necessary, and not all photos are safe for younger audiences!
Frog or Frogging - This is what you do when you discover you've made a CACK and have to undo it, so you rip it. Get it? Rippit... ribbit... frog...
Spreading the Joy - Ideas to Celebrate National Crochet Week/Month
If you are already an avid crocheter, here are some ideas on how to share the Joy of Hooking!
Crochet in Public - what better way to introduce people to a wonderful and satisfying hobby!
Teach Someone to Crochet - even learning a few basic stitches will allow people to make all sorts of wonderful things.
Show and Tell - wear something made in crochet and be prepared to get plenty of compliments and answer questions.
Push Your Limits - if you're already an old hand at crochet, this is a good time to try something new, like hairpin lace, broomstick lace, double ended crochet or Tunisian crochet, or if you usually work with yarn, try thread crochet. There are just so many wonderful things to try!
Crochet for Charity - many charities, hospitals and shelters would love to have some crocheted hats, scarves, blankets or more. Groups like Warm Up America and Blankets 4 Canada accept crocheted blocks that volunteers then put together into blankets of various sizes, which are then donated to those in need.
Hook Up with your fellow Hookers - find out if there are any meet up groups in your area, or start your own. Some groups I know of meet monthly at a local pub, while others meet weekly in different coffee shops around their city. It's a great way to connect with other crocheters for ideas, inspiration and friendship.
Make Gifts - it's never too early to start making Christmas gifts! Don't forget birthdays and anniversaries, baptisms and weddings. Hand made gifts are once again becoming popular, but do be sure that your intended recipient will indeed appareciate it. Some folks still think "hand made" as somehow being inferior to store bought. Nothing wrong with that, but it can be pretty disappointing to discover something you've worked so hard on ends up treated badly.
Photo is of a crocodile stitch hat I made, using my own pattern, modeled by my daughter.