Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Zen of Crochet

I've seen books about the "The Zen of Knitting", "The Zen of Eating", "The Zen of CSS Design" and even "The Zen of Blogging" but I've never seen one about the Zen of Crochet.

This is going to highlight my crochet/knit bias. I'm very pro crochet and don't quite understand the appeal of knitting. Don't get me wrong, I can knit, and believe that in the hands of experienced knitters, you get some absolutely wonderful items out of it. However, it's always seemed so cumbersome to me with having to juggle two needles, the yarn and your pattern. The way you wrap the yarn and then bring it through the stitch always seems somewhat counterintuitive to me. I know it's a block I have and not a fault with the craft, but I haven't figured out how to get around it. My one true abiding obsession with knitting however is knitting with double pointed needles. I taught myself to knit that way and love it. I can rock out on that much easier than I can if I have to knit with regular, straight single point needles.

Knitting isn't zen for me, even when it's a "mindless" or easy pattern. I have to pay too much attention to my tension or what I'm doing with the needles. Dropped stitches are the penalty when I don't. I know it's possible to not have to frog the whole bloody project if you drop a stitch... or the horror of ALL stitches being dropped because the needle decided to be slippery and fall. ...yes, that happens to me regularly but I'm the girl that can accidentally flip a pen ninja throwing star style at someone when I only mean to hand it to them. It's a weird dexterity glitch ever since I tore the ligament sheath in my right hand. But I digress. Even knitting socks, which I love to do now, isn't relaxing for me because I have to pay attention to pattern, increases, decreases, etc. It's an enjoyable craft but not one I can have a soft focus "in the moment" mindfulness with.

Crochet. Now there's an entirely different kettle of fish. I find a stitch that my fingers memorized years ago, that's now the equivalent of muscle memory to do and I can just flow. Scarves become an exercise in Zen, or as the DBT therapists here at work would say, an exercise in mindfulness. I can just sit and enjoy the way the yarn flows through my fingers, the growing soft texture of the scarf as it slips down to puddle in my lap, the silken slide of the hook darting through stitches to catch the yarn and "tangle" it into something that will be both pretty and useful. Time stops, becomes unimportant, my breathing slows, tension melts out of my neck, back and shoulders, relaxation sets in almost in spite of myself. I can truly be still and not have to think about things. Crochet is my meditation and some days, my salvation.

That being said, there are some caveats to it. The stitch can't be boring. There needs to be a softness and texture to it or I get frustrated. An item made up almost entirely of single crochet will not work. Between the inflexibility of the stitch and the lack of interesting detail in the fabric it creates, frustration would be a given. The yarn needs to have an appealing feel or again, frustration sets in. The color of the yarn is generally the least important item, but it does play a factor. If I'm working on something with a varigated yarn and discover that I absolutely hate the way the colors are pooling, the project gets frogged. I had a scarf 3/4 completed yesterday, took a look at the way the stitch and the colors mixed, hated it, frogged it and restarted. The new version is much more appealing to me. :)

Complex patterns are not good for a day I need zen crocheting. If I have to be focused and pay attention to stitch counts, there will be no relaxation that day. Well, not unless I set the complicated pattern down and pick up something ... simpler. The project also needs to be something that produces fairly instant gratification. While I could come up with a stitch for an afghan that would be "zen", the length of the project would lead to boredom which kills the whole meditative factor for me. This is why I have my little "stash buster" patterns. They could just as easily be called "boredom busters" or "meditative tools, it really does equal the same basic thing. In the end, I have a quick, cute something that is useful, be it for one of the littles in my life or a charity donation item. The "ata'girl" from either is simply icing on the cake. :)

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