When I was about seven or eight, my mom tried to teach me to crochet. Mom was a master at it, making doilies, cozies, centerpieces, and even window sheers with the thinnest of crochet threads and the tiniest hooks.
I tried to crochet like she did, but I didn’t have the patience for the thinnest of crochet threads and the tiniest hooks. My pieces came out gnarled and tangled, and Mom got frustrated with my frustration. So I dropped it.
I re-acquainted myself to crochet when I was a college student, studying abroad in Europe. I was on a train from Roma, Italy, to Nice, France. Sitting across from me in the train car was an Italian grandma, crocheting a shawl. I dug out some thick string from my backpack and finger-crocheted a little bracelet. The grandma saw me do this, and she smiled when I gave it to her.
“Grazie,” she said, and she told me her name, Hidola Sabatini. I never saw her again after that train ride, but that moment when crochet — of all things — connected two strangers together stuck with me.
A few years later, when I was cooped up in a cubicle, fighting with a centralized database network that seemed to go down every two hours, I took up crocheting again to pass the time. One day, I brought a skein of medium-weight yarn and a hook that hit the Goldilock spot: not too big, not too small. A fellow cubicle-mate — a forty-something African-American woman — showed me the ropes of keeping the chain loose and springy, of keeping the stitches even and straight. The network went down a lot, so I kept adding more skeins. When I would wait outside for my carpool ride, I crocheted. Older women would notice my twenty-something year old self and smile.
By the time the network stabilized, I had gone through twenty skeins of maroon yarn and inadvertently made a king-sized bedspread.
Since then, between grad school, teaching, marriage then divorce, and parenting, I would turn to crochet when I needed to slow down, when I needed to see something tangible progress before my fingertips. Sitting down with hook and yarn, my fingers repeating movements like a nun before her rosary, is the closest to meditation that I’ve gotten. It’s a form of mindful giving, as I make these crocheted pieces and give them away.
I’m not a master like my mom. I still have no patience with the tiniest hooks and the thinnest threads. But medium and bulky weight yarn, the size G-N hooks, are my elements where I don’t have to think about anything except for the chain and the stitch for a while.