No one could ever accuse me of being mechanical or having a good sense of direction or of being able to sew. My mother was a great seamstress and her mother could have been a professional tailor (she could sew men’s suits), so Mom had some expectations with regard to my sewing ability. Since my mother never seemed to actually enjoy sewing as I understand some people do, I never had the desire to learn. To say I was unmotivated is an understatement. I also had no ability.
I first became aware of my mother’s plans for me in 9th grade when she made me take Home Economics instead of Art. Since I already knew how to cook (thanks, Mom), learning how to cook bacon and make orange juice from (gasp) concentrate was a big yawn. I cruised through the class until we got to sewing. Our first project was an apron that consisted of a seam at the top for a plastic hoop that would go through it and a hem at the bottom. Basically we had to sew two straight lines with a sewing machine. I got a “C.” The next project was a flip skirt made with a stretchy knit and consisting of 5 identical flared panels sewed together. They were supposed to be sewed on the wrong side and then turned right side out and “voila”–a skirt! Since I can’t even explain it now, you won’t be surprised to know that it didn’t work. But Mom wasn’t done with me yet.
The following summer I was involuntarily enrolled in a Singer Sewing class and I made a (hideous) gold and navy checked dress with an empire waist. My mother ended up making it after several aborted attempts and some hysterical crying on my part. At the end of the classes there was a “fashion show” and we modeled our creations. There were only 3 people in my age group category and 4 awards for each group. One girl received first and second and the other girl received third and an Honorable Mention. Given that they only had one item each, that was an interesting distribution. My guess is that the judges (our hapless teachers) were so appalled with my dress that they wanted to send a clear message to me: “Step away from the sewing machine.” After that Mom gave up and gave in and no one asked me to sew anything ever again.
My inability to read and understand a pattern should’ve also indicated that knitting and crocheting were out of my reach but I have tried both. In college I knitted a gray scarf for my boyfriend. It was approximately 7 feet long and in varying widths. I was done with knitting after that.
Before I retired I was a little worried about keeping busy and so I asked my friend Laura, who sews and crochets and decorates, to teach me how to crochet. Laura brought me a huge hook and some yellow yarn and taught me a basic stitch–a single crochet, I think. That went pretty well so after a few inches I went out and spent $70 on yarn for an afghan for my husband Mike. (It is not my style to start with something small, like a potholder.) I didn’t get a pattern or figure out in any scientific way how much yarn I would need. I just threw several skeins of yarn in my basket working on the “that looks like enough” principal. Then I crocheted a 70 inch row and began. After I’d completed a couple of inches I could tell that none of the rows were the same length so I ripped it out and started over. I did this several times and since I was working with two skeins at the same time, ripping out stitches was a challenge and sometimes I had 4 balls of yarn becoming tangled. The worst time, Mike had to cut me out of the mess. He found it all very funny. I found it reminiscent of the time he tried to put up those Christmas lights that hang down in 3 foot lengths and I later found a ball of lights in the trash.
So I put the yarn away and didn’t take it out until February when we drove to Texas. I knew the terrain in west Texas was not pretty so I decided this would be a good time to try crocheting again. I approached the project with slightly more intelligence than previously, “slightly” being the significant descriptor here. If you’ve read my Walmart rant (“All roads lead to Walmart”) you know I bought a smaller needle and actually worked from a pattern. I also watched video demonstrations of stitches and I found this very helpful. Then I proceeded to make every possible mistake:
- I used 4 different colors, 3 solid and one variegated. The variegated skeins were not the same weight as the solid colors.
- I paid no attention to the gage, just crocheted 16 rows in each color and figured each block would be the same size. Uh, no.
- I didn’t label the 5 strips that would be put together to form the afghan and so I put them together wrong. Twice. The second time I refused to rip out the strips so there is no discernible pattern as you will see below.
- None of the color blocks matched up. None of the strips were the same length. The afghan is more trapezoid than rectangle.
- I forced the strips to begin and end together by “bunching” as I slip stitched them together. I know “bunching” is neither a crochet term nor an approved technique.
- I added a border which let me see up close how inconsistent my stitches were.
But! I learned a lot and Mike loves it. And I’m making another one with a different design and yarn that is the same weight. In fact it’s a lot of the same yarn because it turns out I bought enough for several afghans….