How I Learned to Crochet (Sort of)

Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Videos: Getty

The first time I tried crocheting, I was 10 years old. It happened exactly as you’d expect: I couldn’t figure out the instruction booklet that came with my purple yarn and matching purple crochet hook, and I gave up on my new hobby almost as quickly as I had started it. No matter the hobby – making jewelry, playing guitar, knitting – I never kept one long enough to get good at it. Then, just by luck, crochet became a thing.

It’s on TikTok. On the catwalks (see: Spring-Summer 2022 shows by Chloé and Jacquemus). On the skulls of celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Sophie Turner in the form of the trendy crocheted bob. And in real life, in the hands of my expert crochet friends who say it helps them focus and relax.

While there’s no shortage of crochet cups available for purchase right now, this is the kind of thing I wish I could do myself. Being able to personalize my clothes, produce handmade gifts for my friends and family, recreate Harry Styles’ infamous JW Anderson cardigan because I can’t afford the $1,560 price tag. So obviously I decided to give crocheting another try.

Like all good, nifty attempts, I started in the aisles of Michael’s, pondering the right yarn color and amount for a beginner who might drop everything in a few weeks. I settled on two rolls of multi-colored yarn (I thought the color variation would make my projects interesting without having to do anything technically different) and a pack of crochet hooks. Upon checkout, the cashier asked me if I wanted to join their rewards program. “Yes!” I replied enthusiastically. I am a crocheter now.

I had big dreams for my first project. I was starting from where I didn’t know how to tie a slip knot (a supposedly simple knot that starts many crochet projects and I forget how to do it every time), but how hard could it be? ? With the YouTube tutorials, I didn’t understand much. I picked one (for a “mini single crochet crossbody bag”) that had the right balance of a cute vignette and “for beginners” in the title and got to work.

Crochet is intricate and requires a little more attention to detail than you (me) might expect. Patterns (hook-talk for piece-making instructions) require you to count stitches, alternate the number of hooks you place in a hole, and overall be precise in your weaving. What I thought was a crazy activity to do while watching TV or listening to a podcast was just me rewinding a YouTube video over and over. Wait, where does the hook go? Does this count as a point? Did I make a full turn around my bag? Finally, my “simple” “hook” “mini shoulder bag” looked too misshapen to save.

Nevertheless, I was now part of the crochet internet, which encouraged me to continue. (Well, that and this mission.) I’ve seen other people in their twenties on TikTok proudly sharing the cozy cardigans, abstract dresses, and animal figurines they’ve made. I laughed at suddenly relatable crochet memes. And, through the videos, I came across my favorite recurring crochet joke: crocheters sharing the terrible first projects they made as if it were a rite of passage. There were crooked scarves, tops that didn’t fit, and a really creepy bag with a pumpkin face on the front. It turned out that I was on the right track.

I decided to start over smaller, practicing stitches on little hearts, crochet flowers and stars, decals to attach to other projects, learning how much I had to pull my yarn. After a few days, I decided I was ready for something bigger (admittedly, bigger is easier to crochet): a blanket.

After dropping two projects, I was determined to complete my third. I took my yarn on the bus, I wanted to crochet during meetings and I even managed to do it while watching television. Once I found a pattern that was difficult enough (so not difficult at all) and gained enough confidence that the blanket didn’t turn out to be totally terrible (I mean, how could I mess up a blanket?) , Crochet has become a fun, relaxing hobby my friends said it was. I was, if you will, addicted.

Thinking back to all the abandoned creative pursuits of my past, I realize that, yes, it was my fault. I wasn’t interested if I wasn’t producing great results. If I couldn’t be the greatest jeweler of all time at 14, then why take my pliers? The urge to compare and compete was always there, even when it made no sense. But now I’m just excited to have something to improve on – not to be the best. Maturity! And I’m proud to say that I have no financial aspirations for my hook. In a world where the first thought is always How can I monetize this? I’m happy to have something that’s just for fun.

My blanket isn’t perfect – it has a big bulge in one place since I was still looking for the pattern – but it’s soft and functional. It’s physical and inevitable proof that I’m not good at everything I do and a tangible manifestation of time spent sitting in front of a screen playing games. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills – another one of my hobbies that goes against all my instincts based on the culture of productivity. Every time I show it to someone I like to recount the high stakes drama of going back to the store multiple times to find more of the great yarn after running out (it was on clearance and sold online and in the first store that I checked – what race). I feel like a kid, proudly showing my friends and family what I’ve done and enjoying their enthusiasm. Eleven years later, I’ve come full circle, finally proving to young Olivia that she can finish an art project for once.

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