The zen and balance of yarn


Work has been killer this week. After leaving the office each night, all I want to do is collapse with an overflowing bowl of brownie batter and eat. the. whole. thing. I totally eat my feelings — and they’re delicious.

But eating a bowl of batter would require me to get up and make the batter, or otherwise bribe my boyfriend/sister/dog to do it for me. So I’ve started crocheting instead. I mean, I crochet all the time — but for my Etsy shop. And I love it. If it’s possible to have a true passion for Gryffindor and Ravenclaw scarves, I’ve got it. I’ve created more than 60 since opening up a few years back, and I still find it as fun as I did in the beginning. Even when orders pile up near Christmas and I have to stand in the black abyss that is the post office and I want to cry or run away. (But I don’t. Because I am reliable!)

My mom and sister recently came home from a jaunt to Hobby Lobby, land of joy and peace, with a present for little ol’ me: rust-colored yarn. A burnt orange, if you will. It inspired me. I haven’t crocheted anything for myself in so long, save a skinny scarf I’ve worn a few times. But that took about an hour to make, so I don’t really count that toward my “personal projects” goal.

And I would like to actually have a personal projects goal. Just like my attempts at balancing review copies vs. personal books read, I want to make time for more of my own “fun” crochet projects that serve no purpose other than I . . . like them.

Balance, I keep telling myself. It’s all about balance. As complicated and tenuous and difficult though it may be.

Yarn is very zen for me — and many other knitters/crocheters, I’m sure. The feel of wool or acrylic, the click and slide of the hook, the happiness that accompanies seeing your lap fill up with row upon even row of stitches — and the joy of declaring a piece finished. I love holding something and thinking, I made this. It’s a sense of tangible accomplishment so different from anything else I do.

When I worked at a craft store, a young woman in scrubs walked timidly up to my customer service desk. She asked if anyone there could help her choose yarn — “for an absolute beginner,” she said — and a hook. She explained about her long commute each day, noting she had been feeling stressed and anxious. A doctor recommended she pick up a hobby, something to keep her mind occupied on the train, and she thought about crochet.

The store was really busy that day. It was probably around the holidays. Though I didn’t have much help at the registers and knew I would probably get in trouble for stepping away, I walked with her to the yarn department and helped her choose a basic hook and skein of yarn. She knew nothing about crochet, but she looked so hopeful — and there was no way I was turning her away. No way. I had her stand at my register while I helped other customers — and when there was a slight lull, I tried to show her the basics.

I don’t know how much she picked up that day — and she might have been better served watching videos on YouTube than instructed by a frizzy-haired cashier fresh off a long day of college classes. But I’ve thought about her over the years — about whether she stuck with it.

In my mind, she’s sitting on the Metro somewhere with the makings of a blanket in her lap. Everyone else is on their iPhone, reading a Kindle, staring vacantly into the dark train tunnel. But her blanket is growing, row by row, stitched together in reds and grays and whites. One long and flawless piece.


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17 thoughts on “The zen and balance of yarn

  1. I would love to pick up crocheting again. My grandmother taught me how to make a granny square a bazillion years ago. Of course, I’ve forgotten everything I once knew.

    It is awesome that you took the time to teach that woman the basics. Hopefully she did stick with it and has passed her knowledge on to another.

  2. I crocheted when I was younger, and my grandmother helped me. But I got busy and dropped the hobby. (I wasn’t very good at it.) I’ve thought about picking it up again someday. I’ll put it on the list of things to do when the kids move off to college.

  3. Ooooh I love this post! I hope that woman is still crocheting. 🙂
    I tried to pick up knitting when I was 40 weeks pregnant and on maternity leave…seemed like a good idea at the time (I was 5 days overdue and mentally convinced the baby was never coming), but obviously was not enough time to learn. Now the skein of yarn mocks me from my craft table, and I really want to eventually pick it up and try again.

  4. I so agree with you about yarn being zen! Is the burnt orange HL’s ‘I Love This Yarn’? That is my FAVORITE brand! I’m in the midst of finishing a giant Granny blanket for a silent auction at my kids’ school. It’s so much fun! Also, do you know about Ravelry? It’s a great site filled with fibre enthusuasts from around the world. Be careful though, it is an addictive place.

  5. I am in college, I cashier at Jo-Ann, I crochet, and helping the few people who genuinely want to learn every blue moon makes my job so much easier. I hope you take the time to make something beautiful just for you with your yarn! I love making people things but if I don’t crochet myself something every once in awhile, I feel empty.

    It’s awesome to know someone was in the same position that I am now! Thank you!

  6. What a beautiful story. I can picture this exchange between you. I hope she is crocheting too. And that is a lovely color for a lovely Meg. You have to show us the finished product 🙂

  7. When I was in grad school for mental health counseling, one of our professors was going to teach us how to knit because relaxing activities like that really can be part of a plan to calm anxious nerves! We never got around to it but I’d love to learn how. Technically I’ve crocheted before and even made a blanket for a friend, but I only learned a couple of the hook things and would love to learn how to do it for REAL!!

  8. So now I know who I’m going to come to next year when I pick up this hobby. 😉 I’m definitely making needle arts one of my things in 2013–I LOVE sewing and quilting but the sad truth is that I hate being alone up in the sewing room in order to do it. I guess I could bring my machine downstairs–and have in the past–but it isn’t practical. Needles, though, I could do while Scott is watching mindless TV.

    I’m sure you helped that woman in scrubs and I’m sure she will always remember how you took the time out to help her that day.

    Although…as an Aggie, I’m not sure I can forgive the burnt orange yarn. 😉

  9. What a great post! My daughter wants to learn how to crochet but I didn’t have any idea how to help. After reading your post, I think I’ll surprise her with a book, some yarn, and a basic hook. Thanks! 🙂

  10. I can’t read on planes.

    I hate flying. I hate the preparation for most traveling: did I pack everything? will I miss the bus? will the train be late? But once I get underway, I’m usually okay. Except on a plane. I know the statistics, but my brain just doesn’t care. All I can think about is every sound, every bump, everything that seems unusual. Though I fly so infrequently EVERYTHING is unusual. But, I like going places that are far away, so I”ll probably keep flying. But I always bring a book to distract me and it just never works. I read a few pages and that’s it.

    Finally, on my way to a business trip, I decided to bring some yarn and hooks. It helped that it was a knitting and crochet conference! (One of the perks of my job.) Nothing has helped me calm down like that. I didn’t even actually make anything. Just crocheted around and around in a circle. I had something to focus on, something to do.

    Anyway, I adore this post! Enjoy crocheting for yourself.

  11. Ah yes, the feel of fiber ‘neath the needles/hook compares to no other quite the same. I was a wee pup when my mom taught me to knit; I prefer crochet and have just recently bought a couple cheap sewing machines and am quilting for fun and fiber therapy. A few months back I found a shop (with the endearing name “A Verb for Keeping Warm” in Emeryville CA and have fallen in love with the women and the fabric and the yarns and the raw alpaca shearings. I have been in there spending my bread and butter money as often as I can get to that end of my street (fifteen miles away!)

    Love your blog, thanks for sharing with us your adventures thru the yarn world.

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