I have this theory that if your hands are idle, your heart is terrified. That your brain is left to wander and be plagued by all the inner voices that tell you stupid and sad things. This is why I crochet. I knit for another reason, but I crochet, because in crochet–as with writing–I can create something fresh and work out all the knots that build up inside my chest from the stress I stimulate before I even leave my front door.
This fruitlessness is often blamed on motherhood, marriage, debt, education, occupation, politics, religion, etc…but, really, stress comes from that nagging inner voice we allow to run amok inside our heads. It has nothing to do with being a mother or taking a particular political stand. In America, our world is not falling apart. We aren’t running for our lives or dying of rickets. We are stressed out, because we care what other people think, and we make fruitless circular movements and shove caffeine in our faces in order to stay awake, find more money, and get more done that the next guy, and all in the hope that we will finally find peace. We simply don’t believe that sitting still and creating something will grow our souls and calm our minds. We think it will mark us as lazy, or as a hippy or a that we’ll starve if we embrace an art, and that “nothing important will get done!”
In complete truth–we aren’t stressed out when we don’t care what other people think, and we generally live longer, love more, and make better choices. But when we do care, we start talking to ourselves and exchanging our sanity for a longer work day and more lists. But when our hands our busy creating something, the voices miraculously stop talking. They are immediately silenced. When we’re painting, sewing, baking, playing guitar…We no longer hear our real national anthem, which is less about stars and stripes and more about the voices:
You can’t do it!
You must do it!
You are too inexperienced!
You are too ugly
too used up
too conservative, etc…
Too much of a failure to be anything successful.
If you let them, the inner voices will tear away the fabric of your sanity until all you’re left with is a fresh to-do list every morning, one that you cannot possibly complete. Want to know the great sign of insanity? A hell fire dedication to the to-do list. This is why I crochet.
I begin in the morning on the porch swing when the weather is warm and when the immediate world is asleep. I thank God for the blessings of nature and quiet and good coffee and life in a free country with a beautiful family, smart and kind children, and a sturdy house (even if it’s in a constant state of reconstruction), and then I take out one of my latest projects and I work it. I begin with a feeling in mind, or the image of something I saw while on a walk, on a drive, heard in church. A butterfly, a homily, a whisper. And I start everything at that point in the mystery. The beginning of every artistic endeavor is a great mystery that must be unraveled to be revealed.
Henry Miller said of writing, “The object of writing is to not know where you are going.” I think that idea is very freeing. If I had to know where I was going with every essay or novel I write or interview I give, I’d be bored to tears and would have taken up horse training or body waxing a long time ago instead. The same applies to crochet.
What will this piece be? Who is going to want it? Will it be given away or sold?
Will it so deeply represent my true Self or my family that I have to hang on it on my wall to remind me that life is not made of to-do lists. It is made of flesh and bone, and the joy that comes from taking a new risk in love and sacrifice each day.
When you suffer deeply, you eventually give up. From there, comes the ability to see marvelous things in all of it.–Henry Miller
(Can you tell I have cracked open another Miller book this week?)
And faith. There is that, too, which is also why I crochet. To believe that a little wooden hook and a ball of sturdy yarn will create a blanket that will bring someone warmth and comfort for decades, that it can be something that may very well out live me. This seems strange, and these things were simply unbelievable when I first began to chain in rows and add rows to those rows.
At first, all I made were messes and twists that wouldn’t hold together, but I practiced several stitches and versions of other people’s ideas. And then, I found that inside my own creative process, there was a right way that worked for me and it pushed out beautiful work that surprised me and gave other people joy. I had no idea where this double half chain would take me 15 years later. All crocheters have their favorite stitches that bring them the same familiar comfort of a mother’s tongue. Mine is hdc, the half double crochet. I always start there and build on.
To make plans and detailed sketches is to kill a great idea.
For some people, precision and a clear future is needed for a decent night’s sleep. For me, sleep comes from the faith that tomorrow is a new day, with new creative ideas. It comes from the faith to believe that my fingers can follow the images I have stored in my memory, and that God knows who needs my work most at the moment–someone else or me. The same goes for writing.
That’s why I crochet, to calm the voices that say I can’t or I shouldn’t or I will never get it done. I just knit to make sweaters.