+44 7879 440170 helen@unlikelygenius.com
A new badass is in town. And by badass I mean a 36 year old going on 90 who likes nothing more than crocheting under a blanket in a comfy chair.

Once considered the hobby of the grandmas, crochet has taken something of a rightful resurgence in the last few years, and after a previous failed attempt to pick it up, I have recently taken to it with a furious intensity. It is one of few things that takes me away from my reading habit that I am okay with, having previously read 90 books in a year, and now averaging a paltry 25-30 as a result of many an hour with a hook attached instead.

I’m going with a different format this week, just because I felt the need to mix it up. (Sort of) acrostic goodness here I come.

 

Cool and collected? Nah, I’m calm and creative.

Although I have to be creative all day in my job, it’s also nice to still be creative in my spare time, just with a different type of creativity to that which I use all day for work. I have dabbled in many crafts over the years, including printing, photography, mixed media, textiles and more, but this is the one that has stuck. Really stuck. And I can’t see it going away.

Plus, it is nice to have an end result that I can gift to others or a good cause, and due to my slight obsession with animals and anything cute or fluffy, the range of critters you can create keeps me going. I will not rest until I have made an entire zoo.

 

Relaxing repetition

Though it can have its frustrations (see evidence below), there is something about the counting and rhythm to crochet that soothes and relaxes me.

Tangled ball of yarn​The whole concept of mindfulness revolves around living in the moment, which it is impossible not to do when keeping track of where you are. There becomes a point where you can totally zone out and sometimes don’t have to even count, you just get a feel for where you are up to, but it is certainly difficult to start pondering on your latest anxieties or whatever happened at work today when you are following a pattern, keeping rhythm and trying to remember your stitches.

At the other end of the scale, you can sometimes get fed up with doing the same stitch over and over (like I am currently getting with a blanket I am making) so it is good to mix things up, and is also one of the reasons why I have so many things on the go. But as long as I have music or my latest Netflix series on in the background I am usually away with the fairies, hooking until my hands go numb.

 

Octopus observation

The first thing that set crochet in motion for me.

A couple of years ago I saw a post about the charity Octopus for a Preemie UK who create octos and jellyfish comforters for preemie babies, to give babies something to play with instead of pulling their tubes out when incubated, and to replicate the umbilical cord which they would usually cling to in the womb. I desperately wanted to make some of these little critters and enviously kept track for about a year, watching in awe as others produced some fabulous creatures for this very worthy need. I had previously had a failed attempt at picking up crochet and so I was slightly put off trying again.

There is a significant challenge in creating the octos due to tight regulations that you have to pass when sent to an assessor, and very specific materials it needs to be made from. But those that don’t pass are sent off to angel babies and their parents, to either be buried with them or to be kept in their memory boxes. It is a beautiful cause that means I do not care if mine never pass, (only my jellies so far have ever passed, though the octos are getting close). I am happy knowing that they have gone to a baby in need and may provide some comfort to a distraught family.

I also now crochet for Blankets for Baby Rhinos (BFBR) charity and am about 5 months into making a blanket for a SanParks ranger – the guys who protect the rhinos from poachers. Whereas previous blankets were knocked up in about 3 months due to the chunky wool, this one has to be made in the thinner DK wool. I did not account for how much longer this would take. Or the number of balls of wool. It is taking much longer than planned but it is certainly a labour of love. It’s not perfect in any way, but I will be so chuffed when it is done and keeping a ranger warm, on duty in the desert at night.

2 crochet octopuses and a jellyfish

Cute creatures and cuddly creations

I was soon knocking out creatures great and small, a recent addition being a blue whale, which was, well… blue whale proportions. Meet Betty. I have made so many animals that I am now banned from keeping any more that I make. Spoilsport. So my nephew is about to have an influx, as well as the BFBR store.

Having something come out well gives a sense of pride and achievement, especially if it has been a challenging make. To start with the duck was no mean feat (see T for TOFT), he was certainly not beginner level. But in at the deep end and all that.

Other creatures since have not been quite as complicated, but the Angora rabbit I have sitting waiting to make an appearance is going to be a challenge. But what a fun challenge it will be.

Huge crochet sperm whale

Habitual, hoarding hobby

Crochet isn’t just something you can pick up and put down, you have to keep going or else you end up forgetting the stitches, losing your tension and never finishing your makes. It does take a lot of practice for most people, including me – and I am still learning – but there is a great army of people out there to help if you get stuck, on Facebook groups and the like. These wizards can look at a blanket and immediately identify what you did wrong and where in my case usually accidentally adding in a stitch somewhere. Damn me and my easily distracted mind when counting.

I have MANY projects on the go, developing the stereotypical habit of a crocheter; a total inability to complete one WIP before getting giddy about another. So I have unwittingly developed what my other half calls ‘craft corner’ in the front room (in other words, ‘put this lot the hell away’ corner) which consists of a half-complete snow leopard, a pile of granny squares, an 80% done rhino blanket, many octos and jellies who currently have between none and half of their allotted tentacles complete, a bunny in parts who needs a face and tail, a rhino that just wasn’t going to plan, and the huge Betty the whale, who guards her vulnerable half-completed chums along with HipHop the Hippo.

I like my little corner. It is quite the sanctuary to curl up in my PJs under a blanket and zone out. As my laptop is now usually upstairs in what is now my office, it is even more of a sanctuary as there are no emails and messages pinging to distract me.

 

Expensive but enjoyable experience

So, it’s turned into an expensive hobby.

I like wandering wool shops. It is something I can do on my own and in peace, and I am lucky to have a great one in our village. I am also lucky that my chap is traumatised by being dragged around yarn shops in his childhood and so will not come anywhere near. So as with my bookshop visits (see last weeks post), I park him somewhere or leave him behind, with no complaints from him.

However, in addition to my book hoarding habit, I now have a yarn obsession. I buy skeins with no particular project in mind, just because something has caught my designer’s eye, usually the colour schemes. A beautiful ball of yarn is like a gorgeous book cover to me. I can’t resist. Luckily, the man has not yet found my stash.

After months of pondering over my habits, Graham finally asked how much this was all costing (ever the frugal honorary Yorkshireman), how much time I had spent so far and why I didn’t just buy and send a blanket/toy, etc to the charities. But that’s not the point. Aside from the good cause, I benefit so much from crochet myself, finding it a very mindful, and de-stressing activity. Most of the time. When things at least go vaguely to plan. And seeing as he has banned me from making and keeping any more animals, I have to make things for other people. Whilst I have the ability and (sort of) time, I may as well put my newly acquired skills to good use.

 

Truly terrific TOFT

It isn’t my fault, I found a TOFT kit.

This is what finally got me to pick up a hook and give it a try after watching the octo creations for a year. TOFT is a company that specialises in yarns, patterns and a menagerie of crochet animal patterns.

Wandering through John Lewis I spied a kit to make a fabulous duck, which I promptly purchased, much to Graham’s usual despair. You could see the sceptical, terrified gleam in his eyes, wary of where this was heading. I had to learn quickly (or quackly…boom boom), and despite it not being the most straightforward of patterns, I discovered it was not as difficult as I had previously thought. Especially with the help of YouTube. It turns out I had been confused due to the difference in UK and US terms all along. Who knew the same term means 2 different things depending on which side of the pond you are on?

So now I also have the TOFT book (plus many others that have lured me in), 3 kits I have purchased (2 of course as yet just sat there looking pretty) and these are the source of many of the half created creatures in my corner. If you want to give crochet a go, I definitely recommend TOFT. With 3 different levels to get started with, they are a great skill builder. But maybe don’t start with the duck.

And the new book is out soon… and has the sloth pattern in it. Hurry up Christmas! If you need me, you’ll find me in my craft corner.

 

#Write 52: Week 7
​Theme: A few of my favourite things