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When I was about nine, my mum’s friend tried to teach me to knit. The result was the world’s thinnest, wonkiest scarf – a garment knitted so tightly, and with so many dropped stitches, that by the time you worked your way down to the skinniest end, it resembled nothing so much as a slim length of rope.
I haven’t knitted since. But I’ve often thought of the steady clack of needles that accompanied grown-up conversation when I was a kid, and the satisfying transformation of yarn into slowly-growing jumper, cardigan or sock.
So a few years ago, I decided to teach myself to crochet. I got myself a book, a hook, and in surprisingly little time had conquered a scarf to make my younger self gasp in envy. Never mind the needles: crochet had me hooked.
Until somehow, it didn’t. It’s hard to find time for hobbies once you’ve struggled through work, a nod to exercise, the massive list of chores that never seems to decrease, the odd bit of socialising. Despite knowing that crochet brought me calm and joy, it somehow also fell out of my timetable; another thing added to the unreachable bottom of my to-do list.
Yet I still managed to spend a good hour or so most evenings kind of watching telly, but really scrolling my Facebook feed, or checking in on Twitter, or – most ridiculously of all – perusing the crafters of Instagram, and wondering how they ever found the time to make anything. And so I decided to swap my phone for my crochet hook and spend time doing a thing that made me happy, instead of a thing I didn’t really understand why I was doing at all.
Yvette Streeter, the acting editor of Mollie Makes, a beautiful craft and lifestyle magazine that bursts with inspiration (check out its Instagram), explains why she tries to find time to craft. “It’s nice to be able to do something just for you at the end of the day, and while it feels easier to just sit on the sofa and scroll, crafting actually distracts your mind in a more positive way,” she says. “Because you have to focus on what you’re doing, it encourages you to be more present and in the moment.”
My current project – likely to be my project for some time – is a massive rainbow blanket inspired by Lucy of the Attic24 blog, who also loves to use a huge celebration of colours. It will likely take me many months to finish, but because it’s made from what are called “granny squares” – hand-sized bits of crochet, which are all joined together at the end – I can tackle just one or two squares in an evening, rather than a tiny bit of something that feels massive. Nobody wants to crochet just a massive navy straight line for hours every night.
“I prefer crafts that come together more quickly for that instant satisfaction vibe,” agrees Streeter. “So knitting something in a chunky yarn, playing around with clay, or – my latest discovery! – rug hooking.” Recently, she’s been trying out mini-weavings – like the pricey ones you see in Anthropologie, only made by you and for a great deal less. “They’re ideal as there’s no hard and fast pattern to follow – it’s more about contrasting colours and textures.”
Do I miss my phone when I’m crocheting in front of the TV? Not really. Although I have the same attention issues crafting and watching as I did before: I always seem to be looking away when something crucial is happening on screen. But I reckon I can live with that. More worrying is the enormous wish-list of projects growing on the notes screen of my phone – even if I gave up work and never left the house, I still couldn’t get through them all.
“The lure of starting something new is always stronger than the urge to finish it!” agrees Streeter. But now that summer seems a distant memory (crocheting a blanket over a heatwave takes a special kind of dedication), I’m determined to stick with my rainbow creation. Who knows, maybe by the time it gets really cold, I’ll be able to snuggle under it – which is more than could ever be said for your phone.