One Stitch at a Time

How I Crocheted a Scarf

The plan: to knit a scarf that I'm proud of.

Seems simple enough, right? We'll see.

Day 1

So I've decided to take on crocheting. I keep seeing my friend crocheting, and every time I thought I can’t do that. But soon, this turned into hey, I could do that! Anyway, she said she’ll teach me, so I’m excited. And let’s hope that this whole thing goes a lot better than when I tried to learn how to knit earlier this year, because that was pretty much a disaster. I was always dropping my stitches and forgetting how to hold my hand. My goal was to make a scarf but I never even knitted enough to make a sampler. (Slow clap). So this time around, I’m going to make a scarf. It. Will. Happen. Which means I'll need a lot more patience and determination than when I tried to knit. Sigh. Now, off to the store to pick out some yarn and needles.

Day 2

Ok, so my first day of knitting went pretty well. I mean, I don’t feel like I’m ready to give up already, so that’s something, right? But then I look over at my friend’s patterns and color changes and perfect little squares and think, why am I doing this again? And then I have to remind myself that the comparison is ridiculous. It’s like an amateur basketball player questioning their talent just because they don’t have the same skill level as Derrick Rose or Michael Jordan. It’s absurd to think that you can be perfect at something that you’ve just started - so why do so many of us make the comparisons anyway? I know I’m not the only person who does this - and that wasn’t my first time, either. The most we can do while in the earliest stage of learning a new skill is to just picture what the finished product could look like. This is not supposed to make us jealous of those who have dedicated hours upon hours of their time and are now considered an expert or a professional. Nor is it intended to make us realize how much work it will take to accomplish our goal. Instead, if that goal is something that we actually want to achieve, then imagining that achievement should only serve to make us more dedicated, to be more motivated, and to remind us that we need to be patient with ourselves. At this point, I’ve finished two rounds of a square. Well actually probably more than that but not every stitch goes according to plan. If you make a slip stitch where you should have made a double crochet stitch, well then you just lost some prime crocheting there, buddy. Looks like you’re gonna have to start that round over. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with crocheting terminology, that basically translates to yay I finally finished the introductory paragraph of my doctoral thesis! Okay, well maybe not, but that’s pretty much how it feels like. It’s like, whoop dee doo, I got so much accomplished in those four hours we were sitting there. Then again, I kinda did. At least I know how to hold my hands while I’m crocheting. Well, actually, not really. Whatever. I need a break.

Day 3

I feel like I’m starting to be able to fix my mistakes. Which, of course, has something to do with knowing when I’ve messed up. There was a time (which was, like, a whole week ago) when I could barely tell one complete stitch from the next. I still have trouble - and a lot of it - telling when I’ve finished a round. But I don’t always have to rely on my friend now to tell me my mistakes. Mostly, yeah, I do. But sometimes I crochet a few stitches and I look at it and go, something’s wrong with this picture. And then I feel pretty good about myself. On the other hand, I feel like it’s easier to just redo something than to go back and find your mistake. This is especially true in the beginning stages of learning a new skill, because you are so unfamiliar with this new activity that it’s not always obvious when you make a mistake. So instead of retracing your steps, sometimes it’s more simple to just start over.

Day 4

I’ve finished my first square! It feels good to have finally accomplished something concrete. Because until you have finished that square, you never know when your teacher is going to tell you that you have to take out the stitches from the last two rounds because you made a mistake somewhere between the second and the third rounds. If crocheting were the same as riding a bike, then it looks like I’ll be taking off those training wheels pretty soon.

Day 5

This session was really difficult. For some reason, I had a lot of trouble starting this second square. No matter what I did, I just kept dropping the first stitch. I felt so stupid. I was losing my patience, and I could tell my friend was too. “Are you sure you don’t want me to start this one off for you?” I shook my head, insisting that I start this square on my own. I wanted this scarf to be something that I had made, that was a creation of mine and mine alone. I didn’t want this to be a project that, whenever I was struggling with section, I just let my friend take over for the hard part. Then I’d have to say, “Did I make this scarf? Yeah, actually, I did. Well, I mean, my friend started these squares for me. And, uh, she finished off those squares over there. But, I mean, I claim at least eighty percent of the scarf!” Nope. Not gonna happen. So instead, I sat there and struggled for at least ten minutes. Which may not sound like a long time, but, come on, one stitch? And when I finally figured it out, my friend was like, “what were you doing before?” I just rolled my eyes, shaking my head at my own inability to understand what should have been a simple concept. The rest of the session pretty much went downhill from there. I lost just about all motivation to keep going. My friend was nice about it, but it was still a long night for the both of us, and a pretty unproductive night at that.

Day 6

Okay, so we usually meet weekly and then crochet for about five hours, but this time I decided to try something new. Because this time, I am going to finish up this second square. That’s right, ladies and gents. This square is being completed by yours, truly. I’m ripping those training wheels off! No more going around the block. I’ve got this. I know what I’m doing. At least I think I do. I have to know what I’m doing - it just looks right.

Day 7

Wow. Fail. (And yes, that was a Lecrae reference). So, I came back to my friend for our usual crocheting session, and was like hey, thought I’d surprise you with some work. Ba-BAM! And she takes the square and she just kind of frowns. And then she squints and leans her head forward, trying to get a closer look at my work. “Oh,” she says. And I’m just sitting there trying to pretend that nothing is wrong with my work. And she’s like, “Ohhhh, oh no, you - you messed up here. This - wait, what did you - oh, I see. Okay, you - I’m so sorry.” At this point, there’s no way that I can keep pretending - it’s clear that I messed up somewhere along the way and will have to take out some of the stitches. But I really couldn’t care less, because t was so fun to crochet all by myself that having to redo some of it is worth it. And then she looks me in the eyes and tells me that I will have to redo everything but the first round. So basically, everything that I did by myself, I had done wrong. I just sat there for a moment, mouth open. “Seriously? Wow. Okay.” She just gives me this look, mouths “sorry,” and then asks if it’s okay to undo the yarn. I nod. “Yeah, I mean, either you do or I would, so yeah, go ahead.” And then I get this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watch several feet of yarn being unraveled. I am so disappointed. I had really thought that I would be able to come back and she would go “Wow, perfect!” Wait, I had really thought that? What is wrong with me? Just because she produces these perfect squares doesn’t mean you have to. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you are able to, because news flash, you’re an amateur, and let’s be real, half the time you don’t know what the [insert curse word] you’re doing. I couldn’t believe I had expected to do perfect work without any guidance, especially since I was working for about two hours unassisted. I shook my head, silently steaming, as I restarted the stitches. Wow. Fail.

Day 7, Part 2

So that was a lot of fun. I just redid the work with my friend, and it was so frustrating. Since I failed so epically, she had me stop after every single step to make sure that I wasn’t messing up again. So much for riding without training wheels. And when you’re on training wheels and you have to check in after about five stitches, it takes the fun out of crocheting. Because the other day, when I was crocheting without help, I was having fun. Sure, I was screwing up royally, but I was enjoying the process. I used to think that the only things you could enjoy were the things that you’re good at. And that’s mostly still true, but I think it’s a little bit different than that. I think that as long as you can fool yourself into thinking that you are doing whatever it is that you’re doing the right way, then you can enjoy it. Rather, if you are experienced enough with an activity that you can just work, or at least experiment, without having to look at a self-help book or ask a friend, then you are able to immerse yourself completely in that activity. And at that point, you can truly enjoy yourself, whether or not you are actually doing this activity the right way.

Day 8

Okay, so today’s session went much better. It wasn’t great, but at least I feel like it was productive rather than being a waste of time. I’m still waiting for that moment when I can immerse myself into crocheting again. I’m still waiting to be able to take off these training wheels. For now, though, all I can do is to take it one stitch at a time.

Day 9

My friend said that she has a crocheting book, and that she will let me borrow it to use during break. I’m a little nervous on how this will turn out. I mean, what if when I get back she takes one look at my work and says, “Oh, this doesn’t look good”? That would be so disappointing. I’m more reluctant to take off the training wheels this time. It’s one thing to fail. In a way, that big failure of having to redo several hours worth of work actually helped in the sense that the smaller failures don’t matter as much. If I realize that I have to go back and redo a few rounds, it doesn’t seem to matter as much. At the same time, as I progress, it takes me less time to get the same amount of work done, which means that as I go along, each mistake costs me less time than the last one. So hopefully I will be able to finish these squares up over break, or at least finish several more of them. At this point, I’ve made three squares, and I need eleven in order to make this scarf.

Day 10

Today was really fun. I feel like a true crocheter. I was watching tv for several hours with my parents, and I was crocheting the whole time. And yesterday, my mom and I were watching a movie that she had rented from the library, and I was crocheting that whole time as well. I felt like I really knew what I was doing, like I was finally off the training wheels and was now enjoying the freedom of it. It’s a beautiful feeling. Now obviously I’m no expert. But, one can pretend. I’m proud of myself. I only have to make two more squares, and after that I just have to put them all together and add some fringe. This is really coming together! I have to wonder though, what went wrong with knitting? And what is it about crocheting that makes it so that I am actually able to make something tangible? I think that perhaps I was more patient with this project. Maybe I wanted it it more. Or maybe it’s just that I really wanted to crochet for me. The only reason I was trying to learn how to knit earlier this year is because my twin sister had learned, and of course I have to be able to do everything that she can. I felt left out, so I tried to jump on the bandwagon. It didn’t work, though. That wagon was already moving at a fast pace, and I kept falling off. Eventually I got tired of falling, even though nobody seemed to get tired of helping me back up. I just lost motivation. So maybe the reason that I seem to be succeeding, slowly but surely, at learning how to crochet, is that I wanted to learn it for myself, neither to impress anyone, nor to prove anything to anyone, nor to be like anyone. And I think that my past failure with knitting has also given me more motivation to keep on crocheting, even when it gets difficult. It’s one thing to give up on knitting, but to say that I tried both knitting and crocheting and stopped before I got anywhere with both activities would be embarrassing. It would make it seem like I’m a quitter - and I do not consider myself to be a quitter. Although, this also brings up a similar yet different question: why did I quit knitting? Maybe it was because I realized that I had never truly wanted to knit in the first place. I think that I started the process of knitting with the mindset that I wouldn’t get anywhere, and that inhibited my progress. It makes sense; attitude is a large factor in your success in anything. If you don’t believe in yourself, if you keep telling yourself that you won’t reach your goal, then guess what? You are probably setting yourself up for failure. So that might be why this is going so much better than knitting did. I started crocheting with the belief that I would knit myself a scarf that I could wear and not be embarrassed about.

Day 11

Wow. Success! I have finally finished crocheting all eleven squares. It feels so good to be able to say that. Of course, I still have to assemble the scarf, but that should be easy enough. I don’t expect that to take very long.

Day 12

Okay, so I tried assembling the scarf. So much for not taking very long. I’ve been sitting here for about half an hour and I just can’t figure out where to start. I’m not sure if I’m doing this correctly. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’m not. Great. I did all this work and now I’m struggling again. Back to the training wheels. So much for feeling like an expert.

Day 13

So I finally finished the scarf! This is a cause for celebration. I can’t believe I actually did it. I’m so glad I didn’t give up. It was definitely worth all the frustration and the time spent on it. It’s nice to have such tangible proof of my hard work. I had trouble trying to assemble the scarf (aka connect the squares) with the help of the book, but my friend showed me how to do it and I understood how it worked right away. It only took a few hours from there, and adding fringe took maybe fifteen minutes. The last steps of my scarf seemed to come together so seamlessly (pun intended), which was a welcome relief. When I struggled with the assemblage of the scarf, I was frustrated. I thought, wow, I’ve done all of this work and now what if I can’t even finish the scarf? What if I have to let my friend do it or something? What if all of that was a waste of time and I have to just use them as ugly coasters or something? But all it took was a quick how-to session from my friend, and I got it. So that proves my theory that I learn best when someone is right there to teach me. Diagrams in books and YouTube videos are nice and all, but when it comes to learning the basics, I need someone right in front of me showing me every step of the process. Now I can use my new skill to make gifts for my friends, and I can learn how to make other projects, like a hat. This is so exciting. So, there you have it folks. I guess that maxim really is true: you can do anything - as long as you set your mind to it. And as long as you have a good friend to help you along the way.
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