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.