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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Learning, crochet, golf and yes I can single crochet - it took 10 hours

O.K. where do I start?

Well, with golf. 

The thing is when you are learning anything completely new you have to have time to build new neuron channels in your brain (to paraphrase that reliable medical source CNN's health page). As far as I can understand it, once those paths are built you have muscle memory in place which means you can do things like knit and watch TV or ride a bike. (BTW that thing about riding a bike being something you never forget is only partially true, I have found that riding a bike at 57 on a sidewalk is like riding it up a steep hill when you are a kid- why does the body come with a full warranty and knees have only a 25 year manufacturer's warranty?)

If you are doing something really new to you my idea is that not only do you have to build a new path but you have to also buy the land, blast the rock, and move in the heavy machinery before any little roads are laid down. This is my explanation as to why it sometimes takes me so long to learn some things, I really have to stick to things before they stick to me.

Take golf. 

I have figured out why learning golf is frustrating to both the new golfer and the new golfer's spouse. The "advisor" looks at what is wrong and provides advice that matches what they see. I would call this observational instruction. The trouble is for the learnee is that they don't see or observe themselves - they only know how it feels to be inside the learnee body, and trying to see yourself and adjust yourself is distracting and moves you outside the body that you are supposed to be 
using properly.

Am I making any sense at all so far?

So if you want someone to learn something you have to feel it like they feel it and talk to that. Not "bend your knees and sit down slightly while you swing" observational, but " stand so you can feel more of your weight on your heels" and just swing. How it feels from the inside.

Now this brings me to trying to teach yourself crochet from written instructions and even YouTube videos.

Who writes or broadcasts these?

People who have been crocheting for about 40 years and can do it in their sleep who function entirely by muscle memory and back out and observe what they do and describe this, not see it as a complete newbee would.

This makes it hard.

For example " take the yarn in your left hand and thread it over the fourth finger, under the third and around the index finger - this gives you tension". This instruction means your new crocheter can spend a lot of time figuring out which is the fourth and third finger when really all you need to say is " your yarn needs to feed evenly into the hook, experiment with ways of holding the yarn with your left hand until you find a way that you can control the tension evenly."

O.K. again.

I cast on 6 feet of foundation chain stitch and decided to work away on it from Virginia to Maine until I got it, the plain and simple single crochet. I know I have a slow learning curve time so I always allow myself lots of time to practice and learn. The results are pictured above.

I am pretty tired out but happy. My head hurts as it always does when my brain has been building and blasting new paths. I always tell my students if you head doesn't hurt you aren't learning anything new.

This is what I learned today and what I would tell a new aspiring crocheter as a supplement to the usual instructions:

1. You make a chain of simple stitches from an initial slip stitch and this is called a foundation chain because everything else is built up from it. It is really, really important that you don't make this chain too tight or everything that comes next will be a fight. Nice loose relaxed stitches.

2. Row two, the one after this foundation one, is unique. All other rows subsequently will have a nice V shaped complete stitch to dig your hook into but the first row you make into the foundation row only has a simple set of loops to work into, so make each stitch by putting your hook into the middle of each stitch on the chain. (lots of instructions go straight into putting your hook under both loops of each stitch and in fact you aren't going to be seeing this until row three.)

3. Each single stitch in single crochet is in fact a two step process, involving two yarn overs. You will begin of course with one loop already on the hook, you don't work with that right away. Step one of two is to put the hook underneath the little V shaped stitch in the chain of stitches you have already made (we are talking row three here and those thereafter) and both loops (each side of the V). BTW don't make yourself crazy trying to find these two loops by looking at the top of the chain - there is a tiny hole under each stitch if your tension is loose enough - just stab your hook into that little hole and you are in business.

Once you have stabbed your hook through this, make a whole yarn over, back to front over the hook, and pull the yarn through the stitch of two loops to make the first step of the single crochet stitch (refer to many good illustrations as on Lion Brand's site on what this looks like).

Step two of the stitch is to do another yarn over and put that yarn through the two loops on the hook (one created by step one of the stitch and one the first loop that was already there before you started to make this stitch). You have now made on "single crochet" stitch.

4. So the ends of your rows do not all squish up you need to make a step sort of hinge stitch at the end of each row, just single loop to move you up to the next row. Don't work into this stitch, consider it a hinge only.

So that's what was going on my section of the I-95 today.


jemilyea said...

Your single crochet looks good--nice and even. This is a site that I found very helpful when refreshing my crochet "memory."

The site has good clear pictures which I looked at over and over.

LindaNan said...

try this site for videos as well as instructions.

LindaNan said...


Kathy said...

I have been trying to learn to crochet all of my life (a long time) and the instructions never made sense. I think you may have just straightened it all out for me. Hooray!! :)