The Holy Grail of Beginner Crochet Projects

Once upon a time I taught crochet classes at my local Jo-Ann Fabrics store. I think the only reason they gave me the job was because my compulsive yarn hoarding was quite likely paying off the manager’s vacation home in Mexico and/or putting his kids through private boarding school. I had no experience teaching anything—let alone crochet—but I did have marketing experience, and I was pretty good at turning unsuspecting shoppers into unsuspecting hookers-in-training.

The first thing I learned about teaching structured crochet classes was that no one really wanted to make the projects they signed up for. And when it came to the structured crochet classes at Jo-Ann’s, I couldn’t really blame them. After all, who really wants to make a wearable crochet flower necklace or a starfish-shaped dish cloth? The “Crochet 101” course was problematic in a similar way, but for the opposite reason. There was no advertised project. The entire three-hour class secretly consisted of nothing but making practice swatches. Naturally, everyone showed up with pattern books in tow, totally punch-drunk on new yarn smell, expecting that they’d be halfway to a finished throw blanket before lunchtime.

This was the second thing I learned about teaching crochet: the only thing more certain than death and taxes is the blind ambition of someone who picks up a crochet hook for the first time. In fact, it quickly became clear that nearly all my students intended to begin their crochet odyssey the same unfortunate way that I began mine: tempted by that infatuating siren of the fiber world—the afghan. I still have the failed trapezoid that resulted from my very first afghan attempt.

fail blanket

My twelve-year-old self was clearly too in over my head to keep an accurate stitch count.

If ever a melancholy Sarah McLachlan PSA could be justified, it would be to demonstrate the tangible regret of adopting overly ambitious crochet projects. Learning to crochet is frustrating enough as it is without complicating it with unreasonable expectations. There’s all the hand positioning, tension adjustment, stitch identification, and pattern interpretation—all while silently counting to yourself. It’s a small miracle anyone makes it through this juggling act without opting to braid a noose instead. Not to mention that trying to learn how to crochet confidently in three hours is like getting my cats to learn how to brush themselves. It’s just not going to happen. Because Leo said so.

leo with brush

But it’s hard to explain the concept of baby steps to a room full of hopeful people paying for my guidance on how to make their lofty crochet dreams a reality. So at first I humored new students with granny squares. But they’d usually finish one or two by the end of class and then wearily ask for the fifteenth time, “How many of these do I have to make again?” What they really wanted was something to show for their work—something that they wouldn’t feel embarrassed unveiling to their friends and family members who had long ago graduated to crocheting flawless afghans in their sleep.

So I drafted an ultimate beginner pattern wish list:

  1. Quick design (Basic stitches only and easy to finish in just a few hours.)
  2. Teachable pattern (Short, but with several common pattern conventions, like skipped stitches and working in chain spaces.)
  3. Not god-awful ugly (And at least a little bit practical.)

Thus, the Revolution Cuff Bracelet made its debut, and my Crochet 101 classes were never the same again.

beanstalk cuff cropped

Finally people could practice crochet basics, learn to read a pattern, and finish an entire project in just one class—with plenty of yarn and ambition to spare. It was a less dramatic journey than Indiana Jones’, but I still like to think I helped save the world a little bit. Or at least helped save a handful of people from embarking on ill-fated afghan adventures.

Unfortunately my local Jo-Ann store did away with all its classroom programs last summer, but the silver lining is that I can share this pattern with everyone now. ♥ Download it for free here or click the photo link on the Pattern Gallery page. Feel free to leave questions or feedback in the comments. Happy hooking in the meantime!

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Pom-Poms: The Stuff of Dreams and Cat Toys

The origin story of this blog begins with a big honking box of pom-poms.

pom poms

Two years ago I vowed to ditch my awful day job, have a baby, finally publish my crochet patterns, and blog about my adventures along the way. It seemed like a simple enough plan, but by then I had already started spending all my money on prenatal vitamins and ovulation kits instead of gin and vermouth, so I was probably a little definitely delusional at the time. . . . About a zillion negative pregnancy tests and freelance query responses later, my ambitions to blog and publish started to accumulate dust faster than my liquor cabinet, and my frustrations manifested into an ungodly hoard of pom-poms.

Some of them were put to good use.

pom pom flowers

But my cats borrowed a lot of them without asking. Cats are jerks about borrowing things.

dead pom pom

The rest ended up as various garlands, hat embellishments, and rainbow-tinged hairballs outside my bedroom door. Four hundred and sixty-three pom-poms later, things finally started looking up. I secured a few sources of steady freelance work, politely told my bosses to suck it, and this drooly little miracle happened:

baby1

The moral of the story: sometimes getting from point A to point B in life just requires some intensive, semi-neurotic pom-pom therapy. And a really big bottle of cat puke stain remover.

Now that I’ve finally arrived at my point B, operation “Publish Crochet Patterns” can commence—mostly in the middle of the night. It’s a stealth mission that involves sleep deprivation, yarn camouflage (to make it look less like cat spaghetti), and avoiding eye contact with the baby monitor. Seriously, NEVER MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH THE BABY MONITOR. I’m pretty sure it triggers a silent alarm that really pisses babies off. The end goal is to share my patterns/patterning adventures with the world and hopefully inspire an army of flying birthday pigs. . .

100_1727

or a bunch of crochet duckling clones. . .

Ducklings

I have the blueprints for a whole crochet zoo floating around in my head, but there’s some practical stuff in there sometimes, too:

legwarmers 2

rug1

I believe anything is possible with a hook, a little imagination, and a lot of experimentation, and my crochet design philosophy is equal parts quirky and eclectic. A sleepy baby, well-behaved cats, and a few adult beverages tend to help the creative process, too. So whether you stay for the crochet shoptalk or my random late-night musings, I’m grateful for your company as I begin this adventure in blogging. Here’s to crafty camaraderie that never sleeps. ♥