As most of you who follow me on social media would know by now I have a new hobby – crochet. The last 2 weeks I have been sitting stationary a lot of the time with a moving needle in my hands attached to a ball of cotton, quietly growing rows and row of stitches.
Then because of a fellow cruiser reminding me of my local library card I signed up to the library app and checked out the audio books. So soon I was sitting there crocheting with my earplugs in, listening to Brene Brown and Deepak Chopra. Deepak inspired me to make a commitment to sit at least 30 minutes a day in meditation, ideally 1 hour – 30 in the morning, 30 in the evening. I had been doing it spontaneously when I felt like it, but if I can’t make a commitment for a regular 30 minutes now while we are cruising, then its never going to happen.
Last night when I sat down for my mediation I had this thought and lines for a story and memories come up related to my new crochet activity, so this morning I knew there wouldn’t be a successful meditation until I have written down what came to me last night. So here we go.
Memories and Traditions
The thing is I am not really a newbie to crochet. When I was little, living a tiny village in East Germany I spend many weekends and school holiday days with my great aunty Imi. Imi didn’t have children of her own. She lived in the same village in the oldest house. It didn’t have a flushing toilet, it was creaky small, but oh so homely and comfortable. She passed away a few years ago and I haven’t been back to Germany since. It will be so hard when I visit again and there is no Imi and seeing the old house transformed by a new family who lives there now.
The times with Imi are some of my fondest childhood memories of peace, quite and loving attention. I had 2 rowdy brothers you see and there was always something going on in the house, my parents both working fulltime where always busy attending the house, cooking, gardening, building as parents do. I didn’t like going on holiday camps – I was an introvert. Things like that scared and worried me. At Imi’s house I could just be. The days where simple and lined with rhythm around meals, gardening, crafting, cleaning. I can remember the afternoons with cups of coffee and cake, watching old black & white movies while working on our crafts projects.
The coffee was served in the old German traditional porcelain cups and plate sets with the pretty flowers on them. They used to collect them. At birthdays and special occasions the table would be extended, the good tablecloths came out and I could set the table with the pretty cups admiring all the beautiful patterns, finding the matching sets and choosing my favorite.
She taught me how to do many of those things. I used to crochet pot holders, do cross stitch and even tried to crochet those tiny fiddly edges around the white, thin handkerchiefs, asking her every row what’s next and her fixing my mistakes when I made them. I had a whole collection of those handkerchiefs in all colours and patterns. They where gifted to me for my birthdays and Christmases and I had a special case for them looking at them often and admiring the handwork. I am not sure what happened to them. They might still be in one of the boxes at my parents house that never made it to New Zealand. There was always a basket with wool and a project going at Imi’s house until her hands where too knotty and old to handle the needles.
I had the full attention of a loving adult all the time all to myself. I think that was the special thing, that felt so good. Her husband was a shouty, mostly grumpy chimney cleaner. But she handled him with the patience of an angel and had a heart of gold. My mum said Imi was so good if you kicked her in the butt she would still say thank you. She was a picture of kindness – some would call it naïve. She wasn’t naïve I think. Her husband was tight with money, but she found ways to put a few coins aside here and there in a secret jar in the kitchen. I can remember that I would stamp his chimney cleaning receipts – he would give me a stack and when he would give me a east German 1 mark for it. Then once he was out of sight Imi went to her secret jar and gave me another 1 Mark.
Her household was simple and she treasured the things she had, many going back to the time when she first created the household. It wasn’t like now where everything had to be replaced by something newer or better or more automatic.
While my fondest and most vivid memories are of Imi I see the tradition of hand crafting weaved through my family in Germany and through Tim’s family in New Zealand. My mum also knits and crochet’s and she used to sew us costumes for carnival and explored all sorts of projects when she could carve out time from her busy full time working mum life. When mum saw our projects going on, she sent me a photo of a cross stitch my great grandmother made in 1912 when she was 12 years old and a photo of the potholders my mum made.
I don’t have many memories of my grandmother crafting. She taught me how to mend things. She always had a basket with socks and things that had holes in them. One of the fascinations where the button tins. When they disposed of old old clothing, they would cut the buttons off and keep them for another project. I would spend hours looking through Imi’s and my grandmothers button jars admiring all the different textures and shapes.
When we left for the boat I took a facecloth that Tim’s mother Helen gifted me, a Tunisian crochet that she made and it inspired me to try to crochet again. Her 2 sisters and mother where knitting from an early age and our children where lucky enough to sport the beautifully creations of Helen all through their time as babies and toddlers and even now. Nina has a knitted jersey with her that Helen made.
Tim’s birth mother Mary is also an amazing crafter. She made Nina and I the most amazing sewing kits that we both took to the boat. Each time I look at it I wonder where she gets the patience and skill from to create these special things. I wouldn’t even know where to start.
Tim’s sister is also a clever crafter. She has made many projects sewing and crocheting. Her house and household gives me glimpses of Imi’s house. A deep appreciation of simple things, rhythms around gardening and food and herbal creations and lots of old porcelain and glass. All combined with huge, kind heart and love for her friends, local community and area.
I bet most of us have memories of traditional crafts. Since becoming a mother and working full time I have had a deep desire to reconnect those traditions, but often the lack of time and daily grind to make ends meet made me collapse into bed at night. The focus was on providing good food and healthcare to my family along with contributing financially to make ends meet and learning to be a good parent and wife.
There was always a wool basket at our home. Both our kids had handwork at school and Nina loves crafting. From an early age she had “nimble” fingers as our friend Marie would say. She wasn’t even one when she already correctly held a pen. She doesn’t like to work with patterns and makes up things a lot. She loved felting at home. I am pretty sure crafting will be part of her life one way or another.
Since I have started crocheting on the boat she joined my new obsessions and sits for hours with an audiobook in her ears creating hats and handwarmers and pouches for our floating family. I hope that she will remember those times as much as I remember my times crafting when I was young and sows a seed to sit quietly and create when she is grown up. It warms my heart to see her sitting so content, creating with her hands.
The worth of hand work
When I was making facecloths for the girls in our cruising flotilla as a gift, the thought occurred to me that I could try and sell them to make a bit of money for our cruising kitty. But when my sister in law in told me they sold for $10 at the local organic shop in NZ that thought was immediately buried. It takes me a day to make a nice facecloth with a pretty boarder. The shop wants to make some money too, the wool costs money, so one might make $5 for a day’s work.
I have always appreciated home and hand made things, but it made me realise that you really can’t put a fair monetary value on those hand made things. In fact the older I get the more the concept of selling my life off in hours for a wage doesn’t resonate. The older I get the more I realise that no one can put a value on the precious time we have left. In the last year I know of 4 woman my age or younger 3 of them lost to cancer leaving behind their young children one undergoing treatment with cancer spread through her body. One of my motivations to go and live now – no one of know what’s around the corner. I know I would never regret the time we now get to spend with our kids in those special places, carving out time for the things we love – reading, drawing, cooking, exploring, crochet. We can always get back to the grind to earn money to live in the house to make ends meet.
So gifting handmade things seem seems to resonate a lot more. When I gift a facecloth to someone, I gift them with a day of my precious life, with love and attention. When I get gifted something handmade I really, really appreciate the effort and automatically treasure the things a lot more. I would much rather use my mother in laws crochet facecloth than the one I bought at Ikea for $2. Each time I pull out Mary’s sewing kit to get a needle I admire her handwork.
Relaxation and Guilt
I grew up in Germany with parents who where always doing and working. Apart from an afternoon nap on weekends and the yearly holiday I rarely saw them sitting still. Being busy would be multiplied by the glorification of busyness in our society when I got older. I was always doing until I was so empty as a young mother that I couldn’t remember when I last didn’t feel tired. I found refuge in yoga once a week and later became a yoga teacher myself. The more I learn about yoga, the more I realise that I need those teachings as much as my students to heal unhealthy habits, to erase the subconscious beliefs that don’t serve me anymore, to take better care of myself and be a role model to my children that resonates with my heart more not with my mind exclusively.
When I first started sitting with my crochet, the should’s and feelings of guilt started creeping in. I should be doing cleaning, washing, writing a blog, looking at the kids schoolwork, tidy up, do the dishes, find a sponsor. It made me realise how deeply ingrained the habit is of doing something that is creating monetary value or approved of being “productive” by our society. Somewhat in my mind handwork is not “productive”. It seems a luxury to just sit and make something “unnecessary”, “wasting” all this time. Where does this even come from? But looking at most of the busy mama’s I know I am not alone with this screwed up concept. Really its nobody’s business what I do with my time and realistically how many people would care if I sit for hours and days doing crochet.
I think a big part of my subconscious beliefs is scarcity thinking. There is not enough time, there is not enough money… So one needs to hustle all day, rush around to make the most of the little time we have and make ends meet. I know its rubbish thinking, but its so deeply ingrained, that its hard to get rid off.
So I try and make sure to consciously take time, lots of time now to do what I enjoy and try to throw the feelings of guilt and should’s overboard and invite trust and relaxation and just being instead of always doing. We have worked hard to have this time away, so we might as well enjoy it.
I try and make a point of resting, relaxing, selfcare. There where many years where I treated myself and my body very badly. I have a lot to catch up on and I want my kids to see that taking care of yourself, resting, relaxing, immersing oneself in creative projects is something worthwile, necessary and natural part of life.
The other lightbulb moment I had is that crafting and audiobooks / podcasts are a match made in heaven. I love reading, but I can’t do reading and crochet at once. Thank goodness for our local New Zealand library – who has audio book loans. This is the most relaxing multitasking I have discovered so far. You should try.
Colour and Texture therapy
One of the most enjoyable parts so far has been to choose projects. A few years ago when I created the facebook group “you made my day” in Hawke’s Bay to cultivate a sense of kindness and belonging in our community and to reassure myself that I live in a good world, a couple of ladies offered free crochet lessons. I always wanted to learn and went along. They gave me the most beautiful handout to take home with the basic stitches and some inspiring links. It even came to the boat inside a crochet book that sat on our bookshelf and in the hope that finally I would have enough time to try again. Claire reminded of the blog “Attic24” and I found a bag and blanket project. The lady uses lots of colours in her projects and I loved that.
In my corporate career in Berlin lots of my wardrobe was black and white and grey with little colour. One of the key messages of my first yoga teacher Doris that stuck with me was – wear colour, they affect how you feel. Ever since I have tried to incorporate more colour into my wardrobe and life in general.
When Nina and I went to the wool shop in Fethiye, Turkey I knew I wanted cotton thread, but there was very little selection for 100% cotton. Nina thought I was silly, but to me that the threads are natural is quite important. Wool feels too scratchy often, so I like cotton. I found a bamboo cotton mix with soft colours that I liked, although the colour selection was still limited and not really 100% what I had imagined. Then in the very bottom shelf a yarn caught my eye. The colours where stunning, just what I love and it was 100% hemp thread, so I immediately knew I needed to buy some. Its not suited for anything close to the skin as it feels scratchy, but would be good for the bag I wanted to make.
I think one of the joys of doing crochet or crafts projects is to play with colours and make your own creations. No creation will look exactly the same as the other, the pieces are all as individual as we human beings even if the same pattern and wool is used.