If you’ve been in my stream before, you might have heard the story of my first crochet project. It usually comes with teary smiles and gushing viewers, recounting their own stories of first projects.
Recently, Vincent, the whimsical creator behind KnotBad, shared his first project. You can read his heartfelt story here. It inspired many crafters to also share their first works, posting photos to instagram and facebook, sharing them in our channels on Twitch.
My first piece is a bittersweet memory. I was fortunate enough to be taught to crochet by my Aunt Debi and Grandmother, years ago (almost 20 now!). Sitting there, under that blanket, stitching away and chatting with my family is one of my best memories, even if it was also one of the hardest parts of my life.
My Aunt pulled a gorgeous, barely started, double sided shell blanket out of her crochet bag and I fell in love. See, I have this goal – I want to know the basics of a bunch of crafts. I want to be one of those amazing old ladies one day, you know, the ones who know how to do everything. Who you can ask a dozen questions and they have the answers. That. Anyway, she pulled it out and started stitching, her hands working away in memorizing movements, nails tapping on the hook. And that was it. I needed to learn. So she taught me. She handed over a beautifully worked, mildly complicated piece, and let a 10 year old take a crack at it. I know a lot of crafters who would have had to pick their jaws up off the floor.
As I write this, I have to smile because it’s the way I approach my nieces and nephews too. My Aunt Debi is the kind of woman who makes you want to be an Aunt. She’s loving, thoughtful, excited to teach, and treated me like I was her own, because I was and am, to this day, her Baby Girl. I couldn’t wait to be an Aunt one day, but I’m an only child, so that was something I’d have to manage some other way. Somewhere along the way, I found the most amazing adopted families, becoming Aunt Ashley to 8 beautiful little babies. And, just like my Aunt Debi, I’ve handed over expensive and fragile, easy to tear apart things to little hands. And just like the faith that was put in me so long ago, I watched little hands fumble, and wonder turn to determination in little eyes, pride filling my own heart.
And that was that. Before I knew it, we were at walmart for my first yarn and hook, a shiny blue Boye 5mm (my favorite size to this day). Like any other 90’s era 10 year old, I picked neon orange, turquoise and purple. It was hideous. But, it was mine. I did a few row sets of basketweave and tucked it away, never to be finished.
My Amazing Grandparents
A few years later, my Grandfather went in for a surgery to remove a hiatal hernia, at which point they found cancer in the lining of his stomach, the start of a long stint in the hospital and a hard road for our family. My family gathered in waiting rooms outside of the ICU for months and somewhere along the line, a pretty shell blanket popped up too. My Aunt and I would trade back and forth, working row after row, keeping our hands busy and laps warm. By the time we finished it, each woman in my family had put at least one stitch in that blanket, even my Mother, who swears she can’t crochet. We romanticize our projects and say they were made with love, care, and kindness. Ours was all those things, but also a little grief, lots of worry, and immense amounts of strength, all channeled into the yarn, shell after shell, row after row.
Once it was finished, it was gifted to my Grandfather. When he came home, dementia started to creep into our lives. As it got worse, we struggled with heartbreak, anger, worry, and sadness. But there were always moments of brightness too. To an increasing degree, he would insist that he wasn’t at his house, would desperately want to see his wife, and suffer from seeing the world around him completely different than what we did. He was living in a different time than the rest of us. He would storm out to his truck, grabbing his tools for work and his keys, but he also always grabbed that blanket. In those moments, he didn’t recognize us, didn’t even think he had a Granddaughter, was caught in time 30 years before us, and somehow, that blanket was still a prized possession. It still meant the world to him and was necessary to take home. I will never, ever, forget that. When he passed away, it was tucked into his casket with him, comfort for whatever came next, but also, all of the love and worry from the hands of all of the women who cared about him.
Sometimes I’m jealous because I can’t share my first piece. There aren’t any photos, I can’t display it in my craft room or show it on stream, but honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
A little piece of the love, patience, and faith that was gifted to me so long ago goes into each blanket I’ve made since, and one day, I’ll teach my own little neices and nephews to crochet if they want, proudly watching them fumble through their first stitches, excited to keep going.
P.S. It may not be my first piece, but this little blanket launched A Hare Affair. It seems like yesterday that I found out Kristalyn would be arriving in our lives. I couldn’t wait to make her first blanket, and I was even more excited to make her second. Fitting that my first steps to A Hare Affair would also be pretty little shell stitches.