Cultivating Your Crochet Garden
Pretty little plants are pushing toward the sun here in Virginia: snowdrops in the southern mountains, daffodils and tulips in our neighborhood, the coastal plain. Forsythia will bloom soon, followed by frothy Dogwoods and Redbuds in the woodlands. These perennials are the colorful signal flags that wave us into action.
Several seed catalogues have arrived at our new home. The designer in me loves to browse, mentally munching on the free range of greens in every shade and texture, the jewel tones of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers and the sexy fronds and blossoms of flowers. The latter, especially, suggest intriguing combinations of colors for crochet projects. Pictures of garden beds full of zinnias or primroses provide plenty of food for my imagination.
Our first order, which includes four varieties of lettuce and some Rainbow Swiss Chard, is on the way. Early lettuces are often a mottled blend of green and complimentary red. I especially love the look and flavor of those shaped like oak leaves. In preparation for this first planting, my husband and I have just completed a raised bed and placed it in a sunny spot.
Iâ€™ve been absorbing the written word, tooâ€”Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It seems like good spiritual preparation for this yearâ€™s sowing and reaping. The book is about feeding ourselves: family, community and locality, in alignment with the seasons, the native plants and the cultivated ones that thrive there. Many, including Kingsolver, believe this is the most economically and environmentally sound way to eat. I look for ways to translate that wisdom into the world of fiber and fabric but, for now, the complexities elude me. Yet the basic premise is in plain site, to start to take charge of our own needs, then the needs of our families, our communities, and our localities and to move outward while cleaving to the center. The process can be as simple as growing a garden.
First, prepare the mind. Something might initiate the process, just as crocus bulbs, sunshine and the robinâ€™s return bring back our longing for flowers and homegrown tomatoes. We fiber folk might spot an interesting hat created by an acquaintance or a hand-spun skein of yarn that tells us what it wants to be. We might read about someoneâ€™s experiences with a special ethnic style or a particular piece that is bound to a historic personage. Or perhaps a new grandchild will soon need an airy cotton hat. We read; we keep our eyes open and our minds open to the beauty as well as the need around us.
Then we prepare the bed. We gather our tools and fibers. We find the right pattern, the right stitch pattern, interesting threads and the necessary measurements, hooks, markers, scissors, yarn needle. We prepare a place to keep these things while our work is in progress. Maybe we also have a secondary plan for traveling with this project. Now for some time and a place to work. In the spring, it is delightful to crochet under a tree with swelling buds or to collect an antique armless rocker and pull it close to an open window. Early afternoon, right after lunch, is a fine time for some handwork.
There, weâ€™ve done the preliminary work; we can rest for a while. Now is the time for watching things grow and soaking up the persistent joy of sprouting plants, children and creative endeavors, but not to the point of complacency. Plants must be weeded, children disciplined. So too, the weeds of a poor fit, a misplaced stitch, a split thread, or an awkward color change must be pulled. We have our standards! Pride, the good kind, the pride that makes us feel good about ourselves and our creativity can only come with the discipline of weeding and watering, taking out the weeds of mistakes that choke us and our project alike and replacing the needed nutrients of patience and self-confidence in an effort to make straight, well-spaced furrows, these things make our crochet garden productive.
We know when ripe produce is ready to pick; it practically falls into our hands. So too, does our crochet project as we complete our last repeat, decrease the last row, the last stitch, and triumphantly pull up the last loop, ready to snip. We have harvested something good, useful, and beautiful. A little harvest festival is in store: a glass of cold lemonade and the time to sit and admire the fruits of our labor.
In the complex and sometimes confusing world of fibers, fabrics, garments and accessories, there are problems that are similar to allowing agribusiness control over our food sources. Granted, producing our own fiber would be far more expensive and difficult than planting a good kitchen garden, but in one respect, at least, we become crochet locavores when we trade in the energy and productivity of a machine, in favor of our own creative initiative and our own innate industry.
Now we are free to share the harvest in ways that would be impossible with a purchased item. If we have used someone elseâ€™s pattern, we can still make as many items as we choose, in as many colors as we choose. Like saving the seeds of heirloom plants year after year, we can produce an item again and again for our own pleasure and the pleasure of those to whom we give our gifts.
If our design is our own, well then, we own the DNA. We are free to make our projects, give them away, sell them, sell the instructions for making them, change them any way we like, and publish them where we like. Some very generous souls even give away their rights to their own top-notch designs as a gift to all crocheters. When we crochet, when we create, the world becomes not only our oyster but also our springtime asparagus and our summer rose!