Hello there. I hope Monday is treating you well. I have two announcements to share with you.
First is that I am slowly but surely adding my patterns to my Ravelry shop. My patterns appeared in Jaarn Magazine, so you have the option to buy the magazine itself, which is a bundle of patterns, or the individual pattern at a lower rate. There are some new patterns in development, and I cannot wait to share them with you.
I recently discovered The Lekker Podcast. Jalene is a local crafter who brings out a podcast roughly monthly. She is so lovely and relatable. Give it a watch, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
I thought it would be fun today to share a bit of info about myself so you can get to know me better. Some things you already know from reading my blog, but some not, so here goes.
1. I learned to knit decades before learning to crochet
It’s true. I was six years old when my Ouma taught me to knit and Tunisian crochet. She was a good teacher and I never forgot the basics, nor some of the finer points that she taught me.
I was 37 years old when I learned to crochet. It was at a particularly difficult time, and it really helped me center myself, and relax. My great-grandmother was an incredible crocheter, and there’s obviously something in the genes because it came really easily to me. I continuously stretched myself (still do) and learned new crochet skills and techniques. Once I got going I never looked back. I have also taught numerous people to crochet, and some of them have, in turn, gone on to teach others. It’s been really rewarding to know that there are people out there who crochet every day, and love it, all because I took the time to teach them. The power of sharing our skills cannot be underestimated.
2. Crochet helps me cope with chronic illness
Many people don’t know this, because I don’t always talk about it, and it’s not immediately obvious, as is the case with these illnesses. I have auto-immune issues, the primary one of which is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. A mouthful to be sure, and quite a huge issue to cope with. I also have other concomitant auto-immune issues: Sjögren’s, Raynaud’s, Antiphospholipid Syndrome, polyarthritis, and then some. More recently I have nervous system damage which has led to dysautonomia. This affects my blood pressure, heart and breathing. The point of sharing all this with you is that I think it is important for people with what are known as ‘invisible’ illnesses to raise awareness around their struggles. Not for pity, rather for understanding. I look quite fat (thanks cortisone) and healthy, but it really belies what is just under the skin.
The other thing crochet makes a massive difference to is my ADHD and OCD. Both are well managed, and the crochet really helps me reign in the attention and focus it on one thing.
Having crochet during the really rough times makes the world of difference to me. The meditative and repetitive quality of it can make it very mindfulness-inducing. If I need to meditate I choose a pattern that has easy repeats, little to no counting, etc. If I really need a mental break and need to tune out a bit, I choose difficult patterns. They consume my attention so fully that I can’t think of anything else. This really makes a massive difference to my ability to cope, especially with severe chronic pain. I work on my designs a great deal and really enjoy the process. I do find that sometimes, though, I need a break and would like to just work on something that someone else has already done the thinking and calculations for. I can occasionally be found working on a knitting project, but it’s about 20:1 crochet.
3. My favourite thing to crochet is amigurumi
I love blankets and other homewares too, but hands down ami is my fave. Garments are my least favourite, but that doesn’t mean I don’t make them.
With amigurumi I love seeing the characters emerge. It can be very structured and mathematical, but once you’ve done some basic calculations it’s generally pretty easy from there. When you are creating a character, and the cuteness exceeds even your expectations, it’s a thrill. Seeing others enjoy your work, well, that is on its own level.
I am half logical, systematic, and detail oriented. The other half of me is creative and rebellious. This combo can make things interesting sometimes to be sure. I try to avoid getting too bogged down in the logical brain, but really let the creative brain out to play. Ami gives me the best of both.
4. My favourite place to buy yarn
This was probably the hardest thing to narrow down. Until recently I lived in a remote part of the platteland and didn’t get to the cities as often as one needs to keep your stash running smoothly. The result is I got to know online purveyors of yarn pretty well. Some of them are Jaarn, Be Inspired, Colours of Amalfi, The Yarn Room, and others. Forgive me if I didn’t mention you.
Nothing beats the real, tactile experience though. My daughter lives right around the corner, so with visits to Gauteng I couldn’t miss this destination. There is a shop in the heart of Linden in Johannesburg called Arthur Bales. This is a jewel. As a fairly visual and tactile person, nothing gives me more pleasure than walking down the steps from the fabrics into the yarn section. It is a joy from the moment you behold it. Shelf upon shelf of yarn you can only dream of. The colours! The textures! Local and imported yarns practically burst off the shelves begging you to give them a squish. I can spend absolutely hours there. The staff are so friendly and helpful, and they really know their stuff. If you want to spend a morning escaping from the world, this is the place for you. Visit. You’ll be so glad you did. Afterward you can have coffee at one of the many cafe’s in the area.
Hasten to add this mention is not sponsored. They don’t need to pay me to sing their praises. They are just that good. Just up from cnr 7th St and 4th Ave, Linden, Johannesburg. Tel: 011 888 2401 https://www.arthurbales.co.za/
5. Crochet technique I think everybody should learn
Hands down, for me the technique we should all know is the double magic ring. Many have heard of the magic ring. This takes it a step further, and a step sturdier. I always use the DMR for my ami projects, and other projects where I need to start with a ring. It is very important to remember that whether you are using the normal magic ring, or the DMR, it’s magic, not a miracle. It doesn’t stop you from having to weave in the ends. Please do not just crochet over them or think the ring is done once you’ve closed it. We spend so much time on our projects. Using these techniques properly will ensure work that lasts a very, very long time.
Look out for the video I’m making about amigurumi tips and tricks. It’ll be out in 2022. Can’t wait to share all the things I’ve learned over the years of making ami, including the DMR.
The other thing that was almost a tie for first place is corner to corner. I do it in knitting and crochet. I am obsessed with C2C. My one friend always teases me that if I can find a way to corner to corner it, I will.
If you’d like to share info about your five things, and a pic, use the hashtag #5thingsaboutmefs on Instagram. I’d love to get to know you better, and see your photos. You can find me on instagram as @ginaandthefunkysheep.
I started to knit very early in life. At the grand age of six I was wielding those knitting needles, and Tunisian hook like a tiny little savant. I have my extremely patient grandmother, whom I called Ouma, to thank for that. Even though my great-grandmother, Oumie, Ouma’s mother, was a crocheter who was talented beyond imagining, I did not learn to crochet from her, and didn’t learn until I was in my thirties. I applied dogged determination. I was going to learn to crochet if it killed me. My first fiddly attempts did not scare me off. In fact they galvanized my stubbornness.
At first it was excruciatingly difficult. While knitting gave one the idea of tension, it was rather different. Tunisian crochet was a sort of knitting / crochet hybrid, and was a tad helpful. I started to immerse myself in crochet magazines, books, websites, blogs, the whole lot. The one thing I did that was the game changer was crochet every single day. I would challenge myself constantly, and in so doing steadily increased my skillset.
I read a book a while back, when it first came out, called Atomic Habits by James Clear. I recently reread the book, or rather listened to it on Audible. I’ve been mulling it over in my mind for some time, and there are principles that apply to pretty much anything one wants to do, or learn. The book deals with some ideas that I found quite fascinating.
The first of these is the idea of 1% improvements, the rule of marginal gains. You may also see it referred to elsewhere as “microexcellence”. In the book James talks about the British cycling team, and how this theory was applied, and how it moved them from mediocrity to stellar performance. Often we think that focusing on just the big things will lead to the biggest gains, but small and consistent tweaks can make the real difference. The rule, or theory, of marginal gains relies on small but consistent improvement over time. It was Albert Einstein who stated, “Compound interest is the greatest force in the universe”. This applies to effort too.
To put this into practice, let’s talk a bit about crochet (or knitting, etc). When I first started out everything seemed so intensely difficult. I looked at patterns and wondered how on earth I would ever get to that skill level. By my reckoning the only way I would get there is by sticking with it no matter how hard it was. Crochet would have to be a habit that I practiced every single day, so that’s what I did. As I gained skill I kept challenging myself to continuously improve by attempting ever more difficult techniques. It has gotten to a point now where, when paging through a crochet mag, or book, there usually isn’t a pattern I don’t have the skill to take on. It doesn’t mean I know everything. I don’t think any of us could live long enough to know everything about our chosen craft, but by challenging ourselves all the time we can learn a staggering amount.
The next thing James talks about is the “plateau of latent potential”. This is an interesting phenomenon. I think it is best described as where you don’t always notice how far you’ve come, because your improvements are small, but one day you have an epiphany, and realise that you have made incredible progress. You have arrived at a skill level you didn’t think possible. It takes a little time to realise that potential, and it won’t usually happen over a short period. Over the longer term, looking back you will be amazed at how you have mastered your art.
In order to become something you must take on board the identity of what you want to become. You have to consider yourself a crocheter, knitter, weaver, whatever it is. Then you do what crocheters, knitters, weavers, do. The outcome becomes a byproduct of the identity you’ve adopted.
Practicing your fibre art means turning it into a habit. The four laws of habit creation are described in Atomic Habits as follows:
Let’s start with the cue. The cue must be obvious. That’s super important. Place your work where it is easy for you to pick up and work a few rows. The cue will trigger the craving. “Ooooh, I’d love to work a few rows! It’s so relaxing.” The response to the craving must be clear and obvious. Pick up the work and satiate the craving. The reward must be satisfying. I have no doubt that when it comes to fibre arts that the enjoyment, and relaxation, as well as the visible result of your effort, is a huge reward. This habit loop, practiced often, will lead to the consistent effort required for mastery. The reward will make you want to perform the habit over and over again. Making the hobby a habit may sound formulaic, and risks boredom, but it won’t. In order to become really good at anything you need to put in the time so that it feels natural. Mastery is the outcome, but with fibre arts you get the double pleasure of enjoying the journey too.
One of the easy ways to incorporate a new habit into your life is to habit stack. Habit stacking is where you tack on a new habit to an existing habit so that it’s easy to work it into your day. Maybe a few rows with the morning cuppa. That’s twice the enjoyment. What a pleasure.
To become really, really good at anything requires hard work, and consistency. With fibre arts mostly being skills-based, it is essential that the movements become as natural as breathing. The only way that is going to happen is if you do it every single day. I often tell those I have taught to crochet that it’s fine if they don’t have a lot of time to practice. Fifteen minutes a day is enough. Consistency is critical. I cannot emphasise this enough. Do as much as you have time for, but make sure you make it a habit. This may sound like it would take away from the pleasure, but on the contrary. By mastering the movements and skills required, you will take your journey to places you couldn’t have imagined. One day you will be quietly sitting with a cup of coffee (or whatever beverage pleases you), and you will realise you’re not a beginner anymore. You are very, very good.