24 November 2009


Two weekends ago, Jason's parents came for a short weekend visit. It was lovely to get to spend some good, quality time with them, relaxing and reconnecting before we go to visit for Christmas. Coming down from the crafting craziness leading up to the Bazaar and a bit tired from the thorough scrub down of my apartment, I resigned myself to taking a week off from crafting and catching up the following week. But the weather was on my side, raining all day on Saturday and keeping the four of us bound indoors. Jason and his dad camped out in the living room to watch some sports, and Jason's mom and I set up at the kitchen table for some crafting.

A wee bit of history is required here. Bear with me as we travel back to Fall 2005, when I was at rock'n'roll camp, and I had a friend named Aria. The two of us discovered that we had complimentary talents in many areas: I play guitar, and she plays piano; she has excellent melodic sensibilities, and I can string together a mean harmony line; I'm a brunette, and she's a blond; and, most relevant here, I knit, and she crochets. We decided to take advantage of the abundant coffee and beautiful stone fireplaces available to us and to share our talents with one another. I had my mom send us some yarn, and I taught Aria how to knit while she taught me how to crochet. While my semester at rock'n'roll camp on Martha's Vineyard holds numerous happy [and a few very difficult] memories, those knitting/crocheting sessions by the fire were some of my most relaxing and favorite times. I was happy and warm, spending time with good friends and being creative in a way that was not quite so deeply soul-stretching or challenging as music was. It was wonderful to be able to make something new without having to question my talents or struggle through existential despair for the perfect way to communicate the depths of my emotions. We simply sat by the fire and worked our yarn and needles into new creations.

Over the past few years, time and distance have made keeping up those relationships difficult to say the very least. And in all the constant changes from finishing college to moving several times across the country to getting married and becoming an adult, I lost touch also with crochet. Of course, the loss of that skill-set was not as deeply felt as the loss of the time to pursue music, the support of the creative community, my dear friends, or my rock star dreams. But it was a small token of something I knew once, and I had to once again come to grips with the fact that "I don't know much of anything anymore" (quote from "Christmas in September," a song I wrote that semester, which you can hear on my myspace page).

Over the past few years, I have now and then come back to my crochet hook with the hope of some magical reawakening of my skills. But even with the help of The Happy Hooker, a wonderful and helpful book on crochet, I could not figure out how to even get started. Some sort of mental block kept me from understanding the clear instructions and simple diagrams in the book. I would spend about half an hour fiddling with my yarn and my hook until I would get frustrated, throw my hook across the room, shove my yarn back into its cubby, and give up in a huff.

So you can imagine...when Jason's mom came to visit with yarn and crochet hook in tow, I had a mixture of emotions. She had asked Jason if I knew how to crochet, and he said that he didn't think so. But she was determined to learn and said the two of us would figure it out together. So I prepared myself to drink an emotional smoothie of frustration and stubbornness, and between the chopping and stirring of preparing some delicious cheesy chicken chowder, we soldiered through the chain stitch, the single crochet stitch, the half-double, the double, the triple, and even crocheting in a circle! Thankfully, Ann (that's Jason's mom) had persevered through the chain, single, and half-double before she arrived, so she was able to teach me where to begin, and we learned the rest together.

Now that I understand it, it seems ridiculous that I couldn't grasp it before, but there's something about having a real, live, 3-dimensional teacher to patiently guide you, check your work, and encourage you to keep going when you get all tangled up, and your yarn starts unraveling, and your chain stitch is too tight, so as to prevent you from inserting your hook, etc. Throughout our several hour expedition into the world of crochet, she continually reminded me that we were just practicing to master the technique, and there was no reason to be frustrated or concerned with perfection at this point. And with that mindset in place, it was such a lovely time crafting alongside my mother-in-law and learning from her and with her a skill that I had lost along the way.
To return the favor, I taught her how to needle felt a pumpkin. She caught on very quickly and enjoyed it so much that she bought one of the felting kits I had left over from the bazaar. I wasn't sure if her needles would get confiscated at the airport, so I told her I would send it to her. (Does anyone know if felting needles are allowed on airplanes?)

It was a full weekend of eating and crafting and eating some more, and it went by very quickly, leaving Jason and I in a state of physical exhaustion but relational and emotional refreshment. In a place where we still feel very much like new-comers, and where we can't really sink our roots in because we don't know where we will be in 18 months, family is such a welcome reminder of constancy and unconditional love and support.

They flew back to Chicago that Sunday night, departing for the airport just a few minutes before Jason had to go to youth group, leaving the previously full apartment quite empty except for me and my hook and yarn. So I turned on pbs for some Antiques Roadshow and made a lovely granny square, which I am determined to master so I can make these slippers, which are just about the most awesome footwear I've ever seen.

Unfortunately, these just might have to wait until after Christmas because I have another show on December 5th and some really grand and impossible intentions to make loads of Christmas gifts this year, which my mom so helpfully informed me that I should have started in August. Oops. Well, impossible has never stopped me before, and I am an expert in the deadly combination of procrastination and perfectionism, so I fully intend to make great plans for crafting and to scramble down to the final seconds before unwrapping commences. Happy holidays, everybody! :o)


  1. Ooh, those slippers are way cool! I am already so impressed by your craftiness, I am sure you can pull them off. Also, having experienced college with you, while the Emilys and Anna's of this world may very well have started presents in August, I know you just need a solid all-nighter (equivalent, month of December??) and some Disney to get you through it!

  2. Robin, i just love reading your writing. You really bring me through the range of emotions from frustration to relaxation. I also love these slippers! I couldn't quite grasp how they come together so thanks for including the link.

    I hope your course evaluation business is keeping you energized to go home and get busy. I'm way pumped about your present this year. It's going to knock your socks..and slippers off!

  3. Melissa, your comment made me laugh out loud. And you are absolutely right. It's not like this is the first [or the last] time that time has been against me. But I always manage somehow. Although, I'm not sure who to ask if I need an extension on Christmas. hmm...

    Megan, I'm so glad you like my blog. I am really excited about getting my slippers blown off. And yes, course evaluations are making my days at work busier these days, and that has helped to put me in productivity mode. However, course evaluations are also absurdly inefficient, putting me in the flow of working really hard and not getting all that much done. Stupid bureaucracy. :o/

  4. Hey Robin! My name is Amanda I met you at the GCTS craft fair talking all about headbands :) hehe Well I found some material I LOVE that matches my dress perfect. I was wondering if you could make some headbands for me? I can't sew for the life of me. The material is long enough I think to do one of those scrunch things at the back with elastic in it I am not sure where to buy the elastic and what kind. But anyway if you want to let me know you can email me at amandaleighcannon@Yahoo.com I can drop the material by tomorrow sometime at the seminary. I am going on a cruise Dec 19th and that's when I need them for. Haha gotta match my dress on the cruise :)