Thursday, January 23, 2014

Knit vs Crochet (first post in 2014)

You know, I wish there wasn't this bitterness between crafters who knit and those who crochet. I seriously don't think personal preferences should make the conflicts that it does. There's nothing wrong with either, both have advantages.

I might have learned to crochet as a child, there was so much else going on, that I really can't remember.  My mom crocheted and I have proof ~ it has lain on my bed every night for the last 40+ years. My mom was the (mostly single-) parent to 5 children with only 6 years age difference from oldest to youngest. I believe she crocheted because if a disaster happened to her project while she wasn't working on it, it couldn't be completely ruined and require ripping it out entirely. There is a picture of my brother in a knitted argyle sweater taken when we would have been preschoolers, I don't remember her making it, and I know there were knitting needles in her stash (more about that later) but I don't recall ever seeing her knit.

We spent summers very actively. My mother didn't drive but we didn't stay home much. We walked everywhere. Looking back, that was probably smart on her part, a way to wear us out so she had quiet time to crochet at night! One of the walks we did about once a week was to a thrift store, I believe it was a Salvation Army. My mom would find bags of yarn, unfinished projects or otherwise unloved knitted objects. We would cart home these bags, either carrying them or piling them in the red wagon and cushion the baby brother and sister for the ride home. Once home, we would unravel all this stuff. We became great problem/puzzle solvers. One year, she divided all of this into 5 laundry baskets of theme colors and each of us got an afghan in our color. That's where that afghan I mentioned earlier came from ~ those of you that know me can already guess it's purple. 

I don't remember her teaching me, but my brother made a granny square that just kept growing and growing, until it probably could cover a full- to queen-sized bed, and finally he complained to our mom in a panic 'I can't make it stop!'

I've said it before, when I was in junior high school, I stole the green plastic knitting needles from her stash with some yarn and a how to book and learned to knit.

Here's the thing: That book didn't say how to hold the yarn, it only said how to make the stitches. How to cast-on, how to put the point in the center of the stitch and pull a new loop through and pull the old one off, but I must have held the yarn with my left hand because when she made all those afghans, my mother held the yarn in her left hand. 

I prefer crochet for lots of things. An afghan has real warmth if it's crocheted, you can feel it's warmth when you need it. It does many things in a wonderful way.  There is another picture of me in my mother's photo collection ~ I'm sitting cross-legged on the floor of my room (and it was clean! which is probably why she was taking the picture) next to the stereo with an 8-track player, crocheting an elephant. What else do you do with a little grey yarn at 14-years-old? In a few years, when friends and family were having babies, I crocheted lots of afghans. I hand-sewed dresses and things, too, but usually new babies got afghans from something very soft that I found at whatever local store I could get to by walking, biking or taking the bus.

I know there's lots of other really great things to crochet. At that time, 'other things' were decorative, and I personally wasn't a 'decorative' crafter. My concern was warmth. It was a personal mission to comfort with my crafting.

Later, when I was married and my daughter was small, I was still crocheting blankets. In her cousins' new house, they had bedrooms in the basement built by their father. I made these really heavy afghans one each for them, double-stranded with worsted weight acrylic yarn. They worked up quick because I was stuck at home with pneumonia the whole winter. Started with those three cousins and, not to leave anyone out, made for the last two and for my daughter to match.

I made sweaters, too. Knitted for newborns and usually a second sweater for when they started kindergarten. I always found patterns at the library, because I rarely could afford to buy books or magazines on top of purchasing yarn, or enough to complete a project. After a few years of these kinds of projects, I found that what I was gifting (and I never kept anything I made, it was ALWAYS for someone else) was not being appreciated and store-bought was preferred. So I began to study the books and magazines I brought home from the library for instructions on better assembly, cast-ons and bind-offs that resembled store-bought. I began to have preferred methods for different types of projects. I rarely used anything but acrylic yarn so I became very choosy in what I was churning out. Never would I consider a pull-over made of acrylic yarn unless it's for a teddy bear or a doll. 

During that time, I sewed, also, all my daughters clothes, dresses and t-shirts for myself, a coat for her dad of crushed corduroy, fully lined and custom shoulder pads (lots of hand sewing) that made him look taller and thinner, was entered in the state fair. I recycled lots of clothes as well. If I cut off jeans to make shorts for myself, I could make jeans for my daughter with the cut off legs.

It wasn't until recent years, that I was given wool yarns: my first cashmere came in a swap, I've knit with alpaca and merino/silk blends because I was asked to design with it, but I couldn't have purchased it, generally. I typically knit with it and my designs are knit. For me, it goes a little further, crochet fabric is 2 to 3 times denser than knitted.  I'm not opposed to it, I just haven't acclimated to using it that way, I'm still trying to get more yardage from the gift I've received of getting to use some of this nicer stuff. When it's gone, I will have to go burn through the acrylic in my stash that's waiting for me. I will probably crochet with it if there's a lot of something.  

Lots of charity crafting asks for acrylic. The Linus Blanket project (in my area it is mostly quilts that are created and donated) asks for acrylic afghans as it donates to children in hospitals for long-term stays. Some provide blankets, quilts and afghans to foster kids, still as far as afghans it asks for acrylic because it is easier to clean. Humane animal shelters ask for donations of blankets and sweaters of acrylic for the same reasons, so much easier for them to keep a chilled lap-pup or kitty clean in a blanket that doesn't require special care. 

Acrylic has it's place and is highly desired for certain projects. Wool is great as well, since it keeps a body warm even when it's been wet by rain (or worse) and Hoo-Ray if you are not in a third-world country and have access to it if you can afford it. Crochet is awesome for blankets or lace projects, I admit to crocheting curtains or lace-edgings often enough.  Knitting is precise and comfortable on a foot in a sock, or in a sweater on a body, in wool it's breathable.  

I've said this before, too. I find knitting easier.  It's one stitch, you learn it frontwards (knit) and backwards (purl), you change colors, you change the order of the stitches, you change the directions but it's still one stitch.  Crocheting stitches include the chain, single crochet, double, half-double, triple, treble, around the post in front, in back, through both loops, through the front loop, through the back.... get it?  It offers a great variety, which is awesome but I gotta say, I'm a little surprised charts aren't more popular.  Seriously, charts have been reserved like the answer key at the back of the teachers' textbook that the student never sees.

It all works, somehow, with some thought.  There is no 'right' fiber, there is no 'right' craft anymore than there is a wrong one. If you can't find the pattern to do what you want to do, with how you want to do it, I have a recommendation for you: Obviously, you have found a need and you are probably also smart enough. I suggest you get busy and design it.

Just keep at it. Keep making for comfort, warmth, sentiment, decoration.... what ever makes you or your receiver happy and JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN!