At Needlecase we like to share our passion for all forms of needlework. We love working with people who are experts in their area, such as Helen Jordan, who runs regular crochet classes at Needlecase.
My own personal memories of wanting to learn to crochet go back to seeing my mum and grandma doing it when I was quite young. When I was about 10 years old they taught me to knit and I talk about this here and I thought that crochet looked like fun, I’m not sure why but I was unable to persuade either of them to teach me crochet. I remember my sister and I wearing garments crocheted by my mum when we were very young and I also remember one occasion whilst staying at grandma’s house she said in the evening that she was going to crochet a blanket and when we woke up the next morning she seemed to have done loads. It was just one big granny square and all different colours as she was obviously using up all her spare yarns but I thought it was amazing that it was possible to create something like that in an evening and it seemed a little bit like some kind of magic!!
As my passion for knitting grew, I kind of forgot about crochet a little bit, but it was always there in the background. Mainly, I would see something in a magazine and think I would like to make it and then realise I couldn’t because it wasn’t knitted, it was crocheted, or even worse, it was knitted but you needed to be able to crochet as it had a beautiful lacy crocheted edging. I was in my forties before I finally did something about it though. Not long before Needlecase was born, one freezing cold day in January, I went to a yarn shop in York for a beginners crochet class. These classes were really popular and I had to book my place ages in advance. There were quite a large number of us in the class all really excited to be gaining this new skill. The teacher was a very nice, enthusiastic lady who had an obvious passion for the class. She taught us the basic stitches and we enthusiastically got to work practising and making little samples. The people at the class had a mixed level of experience, much as those who attend the regular classes at Needlecase. Some were knitters like me who wanted to add crochet to their repertoire, others had tried before and forgotten what to do, and still others had no knitting or crochet experience at all. I noticed that some people really took to it very quickly and others struggled to ‘get it’. I had a fantastic time. Yes I struggled at first but, once I got into it, I loved it. Everyone was chatting away about this and that, comparing their stories, comparing their progress. The best part was in the afternoon when we made our own granny squares. It was just really good fun. Putting the stitches together, seeing how the formed the familiar but previously slightly mysterious pattern and you got to experiment with different colours of yarns!! What more could you want? That is one of the things I think is really lovely about learning to crochet. From just one day’s tuition, most people go away with the ability to make granny squares. If you can make granny squares you can make all sorts of things. Blankets are the obvious one but what about scarves, simple garments, bags, cushions, seat covers etc etc.
After that I went home and I was able to follow a pattern for a motif which formed a border for a garment which I wanted to knit.
I used this motif to knit a scarf and even made the top which had previously been unattainable for me because I wasn’t able to crochet!! I haven’t done lots of crochet because my passion is still knitting (things have also been a bit busy growing a certain little yarn store) but I have made (and sold) some granny square blankets and crocheted lots of flowers to make some decorations for the shop. The main thing about crochet for me as a confirmed knitter is it is just so much fun and I hope in the years to come I will develop and do more of it because this is one good thing it I believe it isn’t possible to have too much of!!
This is what my mum, Jean, has to say about her own experience of crochet…
When I was young, growing up in the 1940s and 50s crochet was popular among ladies who like to make household items such as table mats (for displaying your ornaments), chair arm and back covers to protect your furniture, trims to beautify bed-linen, and to decorate shelves in the kitchen: there was a wide range, as well as decorations for garments, crocheted gloves, collars and so on.
These items were usually crocheted in fine cotton. Baby items could also be crocheted in fine wool. During the war it was not easy to obtain materials so good use had to be made of what was available and material often had to be re-used. Blankets were always crocheted using granny squares but these became considered as rather old-fashioned and were not popular as they are now.
When I was young I taught myself to crochet from books that my mother had at home but I was never as successful as I was with knitting so I didn’t achieve much. When I had my own family in the 60s and 70s there was a surge of interest in crafts. Can anyone else remember Golden Hands magazines which we all bought to make things for our homes and families? I crocheted tabards for my girls. About the same time I managed to crochet a cardigan for myself but was never happy with it. I’ve no idea what happened to it!
Doing a course with Helen Jordan last year reignited my interest and I have make two lovely scarves, like these made by Helen, both of which I have given as presents.
Now I am looking at trying my hand at a child’s garment, from this new Sirdar book, to see how what I have learnt has helped me.
We run Beginners Crochet classes with Helen Jordan frequently throughout the year and occasionally we offer a ‘Next Steps’ class for those who would like to develop their skills and knowledge further.