Crochet Addict: Who Needs Two Hands Anyway?

Since I entered into the world of knitting, my life has transformed. To say I’m addicted is a slight understatement. I’ve been taken in by the endless exciting things that I can create, from hats and ties to shawls and slippers. I can hold something in my hand and say “I made this” I didn’t buy it, I spent hours and days creating it. It’s a real pleasure to see others wearing the things that I’ve made- they’re bespoke, hand-made with love.

My pride and joy so far (below) is a knitted tie. It came out beautifully and I sent it as a birthday gift to someone who it suited perfectly -it made me so happy that I was able to give a gift that was not ‘run of the mill’ to someone who would take pleasure from that.

Knitted tie
Knitted Tie

Anyway, knitting has become a passion. This is not only because I enjoy it so much and can’t wait to get home to carry on a project, it’s also because it helps with my stress and anxiety. I am someone who carries a lot of anxiety and worry day to day, much of which I can’t control.

Part of this, I think, comes from living with one hand. For example, I stress about the checkout part of shopping, getting out my purse, rushing to get my change/card back into my purse, packing, etc. this applies to a lot of things. I have little tricks too help things run smoother, but I’m constantly thinking about these things, from worrying about holding people up to trying to carry multiple things off a tube/bus without missing my stop. As you can imagine, this doesn’t exactly contribute to ‘worry free’ life.

I also think that my level anxiety comes from my upbringing and, bless her, my mother. She is a wonderful mum but she is the queen of worry and anxiety, and I’m not sure she knows quite how much. I think this anxiety, understandably, was worse when I was young. Why wouldn’t it have been, two young children, one with a disability who was clumsy and, err, a little ‘head in the clouds’. Anyway, I think I’ve inherited a lot of that worry and anxious behaviour, and I can see that my mum is calmer these days so it is ‘conquerable’ but I think my disability exacerbates it!

So back to the point, knitting really calms me. The methodical movement of the needles, I disappear into what I’m doing, the world melts away and calm takes over me. However, this wasn’t quite enough on the crafts front. I wanted to learn to crochet too – there’s so much more I would be able to create and crochet is easier to do ‘on the go’ as you don’t need to finish a row- if you get interrupted, you just stick a safety pin in the loop and put your work in your bag- it’s brilliant.

But it proved VERY difficult to start with. It was much harder to grasp than knitting and many of the tutorials involved a lot of right hand hook work/movement that I just can’t do. Unlike knitting, I needed to hold the yarn in my left hand. Frustration ensued. Anger. Cursing. I tried at least four times to master crochet, working some of the yarn, it looking very wrong, unravelling, trying again and failing, again.

I had a few stumbling blocks. The first is that I tried to crochet with the most used style hook.

Slim Crochet hook
Standard Crochet Hook

BIG mistake for me, I had no grip, the hook just kept twirling between my right ‘hand’ and my leg. Quickly I realised that this style hook just wasn’t going to work. So I bought a set of ‘ergonomic hooks’.

Ergonomic Crochet Hooks
Ergonomic Crochet Hooks

This helped considerably, I have more grip as I hold the hook between my hand and my leg, like this.

crochet hook
‘Hook between hand and knee’ crochet method

I started again with a little more success than the first few attempts, but something still wasn’t clicking. In part I think it was because the type of yarn wasn’t ideal, but also, this whole ‘chain’ business wasn’t quite clicking. I’m still having trouble getting my head round exactly which part of the chain I’m meant to insert my hook into but I’m working on it! I did manage a messy beginning of a granny square, which seemed to be the simplest thing to learn how to crochet.

First granny square attempt
First granny square attempt

I seemed to get the basics down, but I realised I needed some better yarn to really crack it. So I put it on hold and tried again with some Stylecraft Special DK and just like that, I could crochet. It clicked. I was super chuffed.

Successful Granny Square
Successful Granny Square

And thus began my second addiction. Proving yet again, what seems to require two hands, does not actually need two hands.

Granny Squares for Mood Blanket
Granny Squares for Mood Blanket

I was still pretty slow and the ‘hand and leg’ combo wasn’t ideal. That’s when I had a slight ‘epiphany’. I could use the device that I hold my knife in to hold the hook. And voila, I practically have the proper use of a second hand.

Strap Holding Hook
‘Strap Holding Hook’ Method

If you’re one -handed and don’t have such a device, any kind of ‘strap’ would work, anything velcro based that can hold the hook tightly to your arm. It’s not perfect, I don’t have the twisty motion that a lot of crocheters use but I have more motion and I’m pretty proud of my little brainwave.

The best part is that I can crochet on the tube on the way to work, I’m now fast enough to do a square a day. I do get a lot of looks on the tube but I’m using it as a way to push myself out of my comfort zone and get used to people looking. It’s hard but the more people see, the more they get used to it. Plus I’d rather be stared at for doing something interesting with my disability than being stared at just for being me, for having an odd looking hand. This way, hopefully people see that it’s no big deal.

So, I can crochet ‘on the go’ and knit at home and I have so many awesome projects available to me. It’s so exciting, I don’t have to buy beautiful things others have made, I can make them myself! It sounds simple and obvious but when you’re so used accepting that ‘crafts’ are not really your thing because it’s fiddly and most of your stuff comes out looking like a five-year old’s art class ‘thing’, it’s a bit of a revelation. Anyway, I’ve wasted no time, I’m already all over ‘homeware’ with some beautiful coasters:

Multi-coloured crochet coasters
Multi-coloured crochet coasters

They’re not perfect or even, but then I think it adds charm, I’m not perfect or ‘even’ either, but I’m one of a kind, well, ish. What can I say, who needs two hands anyway? I’m a crochet addict and this is my story.

For anyone interested in how I crochet one-handed, or are an amputee who would like to learn to one-handed crochet, I will be doing a video soon. If would like to knit one-handed, take a look at my Casting-on knitting Tutorial – I will also be doing a follow up ‘knit stitch’ one-handed tutorial soon.

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The Art of Procrastination: My Writer’s Block – Part Three

The Art of Procrastination: My Writer’s Block – Part Three

The newest activity I have taken up as a form of procrastination from writing is a golden one, the queen of all procrastinations: Knitting.

Knitting

How is knitting the queen of all procrastinations? Well, truthfully, it’s utterly addictive. I started knitting and pretty much didn’t put it down for three days. I was knitting on the tube (bold move on my part), in my lunch break, while watching films and football, while waiting for pasta to boil – I am full blown addicted. This lead to buying more wool I can knit through (I’m probably set for about six months), at least four sets of needles, as well as looking up knitting patterns and tutorials online. I have knitting fever and I won’t be recovering any time soon.

If I had my way I would be knitting all the time. I’m sure if any of you are knitters, you’re nodding your heads in agreement, knowing you would all be knitting 24/7 if you could. So there you have it, the queen of procrastinations. I even reached a point where I ran out of wool for my first project and couldn’t wait a few days for more of that colour to arrive, so naturally I HAD to start a new project in the meantime. Addicted.

So how did I come to the discovery of knitting and its epic procrastinating tactics? Well, my very good friend took up knitting last year and I watched her get the fever. I was jealous. I was also convinced that knitting was definitely a two-handed activity that would forever be out of reach. Watching her knit, I just couldn’t see how I could possibly do it. I left it at that and stuck it in my ‘not for you’ list.

A couple of months ago, when meeting said friend for drinks, she told me she was going to start selling her knitting. She knits all the time, so why not sell it? I’m very happy for her but I have to admit the green-eyed monster flared as I thought how lucky she was she could just do that, knit awesome stuff and sell it. I love making stuff but it comes out looking shit most of the time – my teacup candles just looked tacky. I’m ashamed that I was jealous, it’s not like I wanted to sell knitting, and nor will I, I just hated that I couldn’t be part of something that I desperately wanted to do.

Anyway, I came away feeling all ‘it’s not fair’ in a self-pitying tantrum about my pathetic existence. The next day I googled one-handed knitting and had a look/asked around to see if it was possible. It started to look as though it might be and I got a tad excited like children on christmas day all hopped up on sugar and anticipation. My first attempt was a bit of a disaster due to crappy wool and skinny needles, but attempt two, equipped with thick needles, good quality wool, video tutorials on my laptop, and one needle wedged in my armpit, I managed it. I knitted. I KNITTED! It was a super proud moment and I was far too excited, but I could bloody well do it.

I find with stuff like this, a moment of one-handed achievement, I get hugely over-excited, and although people understand why I’m excited, they still give me an underwhelming look of ‘so what’, or worse, ‘great’ with a slightly patronising undertone – ‘aww you managed something that I can do with my eyes closed and drunk, good for you!’ with a weird encouraging smile that makes me feel like a five year old who’s just given their parents a stick man painting. I don’t blame people’s reactions, it’s a bit of a weird situation to respond too, either they don’t think it’s a big deal, or as I said, any rejoicing usually comes out a tad awkward and on the patronising side (hard not to I guess). We all then swiftly move off the topic and carry on with what we were doing, while in my head there’s lots of jumping around, balloons and fireworks, butt wiggling and dad dancing, but it’s a party of one…

So I never really get rejoiced with in the way that I want because there doesn’t seem to be a shared frame of reference, and in turn, an understanding of the happiness or excitement that comes from such an achievement – this wasn’t just a ‘I found a way, yay for me’ (which plainly happens too regularly to celebrate every time) – it was a ‘WooooooHooooooo something I thought was closed off from me, shutting me out forever, has just opened its gates and let me into its wooly heaven’ moment. I’d pouted on many occasions about not being able to knit and now a whole world had become available, and for me, it was a momentous achievement.

Now, while I just blabbered on about how no one really got my excitement, a few weeks later, and after I had written the above, my best friend from uni came over for dinner. I told her I was knitting and her reaction was golden. She was equally as excited as I had been and completely understood my own excitement and amazement, which is one of the reasons I adore her. Having tried knitting once upon a time and really struggled with it, she could share my reaction. And having at least one person to share this excitement, and even bafflement with, was completely and utterly awesome. So I guess that makes my whiny ‘no one gets me’ stance a little redundant, but I am happy that that’s the case! So thank you Charlotte, you are my absolute hero, and I love you for all your unfailing support, weird understanding of my quirks (and disability), and your general awesomeness.

Anyway, I have finished my first scarf and I am very proud.

My First Scarf

It’s not perfect but it looks like a scarf and it doesn’t have any giant holes. I gave it to my darling boyfriend who wanted the first, original creation. He even wears it! So that’s a plus.

And that’s how knitting became on of my many procrastinations from writing. While I need to make time for writing, I don’t regret learning to knit, I love that I can do it, I love doing it, and I look forward to tackling new projects. Some of the one-handed logistics may cause a few difficulties with more complicated patterns but I’ll find a way – I will not be beaten, I will not submit, I will not give up. I make my life harder for myself but I will not be excluded – there is always (well, usually – I won’t be performing surgery any time soon) a way around.

So I have more ways to procrastinate than ever but it’s a new year, I have a planner, I hope to spread my time evenly and enjoy all the creative and challenging crafts in my life from mastering oil paints (Christmas gift) and honing my baking skills, to knitting an array of clothing and writing my book.

To 2015, here goes!

The Art of Procrastination: My Writer’s Block – Part Two

The Art of Procrastination – Part Two

A big part of my life and by default, procrastination, is baking and cooking. Cakes, cookies, banoffee cheesecake, roasts, lasagne, the list goes on – I love taking a recipe and attempting my own version. It was the perfect activity for procrastination, and it seems I have learnt some self-truths along the way…

Baking and Cooking:

I love baking and cooking, but most of what I produce is a bit of a train wreck. I should mention straight off the bat that, when it comes to cooking and baking, I’m a perfectionist. I want it to look the way I imagine, which is essentially how it is in the picture, just better. It never goes to plan. Ever. My boyfriend has pointed out that I am a bit of a drama diva about it:

“I’m so sorry, it’s all gone wrong, I failed, it’s a disaster, it’s going to taste like shit, x,y, and z died in the middle” etcetera etcetera.

I’ve only just been made aware of this annoying flaw of mine. Unfortunately, much like my inability to stop apologising for myself every five words, I think it’s heavily ingrained in my baking/cooking process and personality.

Anyway, my creations generally taste ok, but presentation and the debacle to get there is pretty much chaos. Too much oil, not enough oil, the cake is dry, the icing has melted (happened more than once, I clearly don’t learn), the filling hasn’t set, there’s icing sugar, flour, butter EVERYWHERE, my flour ‘well’ leaks pouring water & yeast ALL over the floor (thank you Jamie Oliver for the worst dough making instructions in the world). The list goes on. And on. From my burnt parsnips to my badly covered toffee apples.

The recipes and instructions make it sound so easy:

“Heat the sugar mixture until cracking point”

When will that be?? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Half an hour? I tested the toffee every few minutes to check cracking point. I was left with a bowl full of sticky sugar. In cold water.

“Dip and cover apples in toffee.”

Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. The toffee doesn’t stick to the apple and no matter how many angles I try, pretty much only ONE side of the apple is covered.

I could go on, but I wont. I think you get the idea. I think these recipe writers don’t consider that their recipes may need a tad more detail.

“This is a tricky aspect”, “This takes ‘x’ time”, “This may involve two hands”

Geez, it’s almost as if they haven’t written it with one-handed impaired bakers in mind. Bloody outrageous. ;-).

I think, as much as I don’t want to admit it, my struggles in the kitchen and the chaos that ensues, is probably about 80% due to doing everything one handed. I didn’t think about it before, it only occurred to me recently really but there would be far less mess, take me much less time, and probably look a hell of a lot better if I was a two-handed wonder woman.

Just for the record, if I had two hands, I would actually be wonder woman, my mad skills unleashed. I could rule the world. Mwhahaha.

I digress. I think my problem, and this comes from growing up with a disability rather than having it thrust upon you later in life, is that you think you are two handed. You don’t think about the one handedness, you do everything automatically, on auto-pilot, as if the way that you are doing something is exactly how everyone else is doing it.

It can be quite jarring when you’re pulled into reality. This doesn’t happen occasionally, this can happen various times a day. It’s more jarring when you realise the differences about something bigger, you haven’t thought about it before, then boom, it hits you in the face and it all makes sense as to why X wasn’t working, or why Y was so tough or why Z makes me so freaking anxious.

Some days stuff I’m doing is just an endless struggle, the onion won’t stay still, that bowl keeps swimming round the sink, I keep dropping shit, I can’t zip my coat up. Being on auto-pilot and the fact I feel like I have two hands, doesn’t make it true – just because I can do it, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a laborious and frustrating process to get there. I can’t resent others for not appreciating that because I myself don’t realise how hard I’m working to get something done. It’s only when I step back and look at it, I understand my struggles.

Realising that cooking and baking is probably 3 or 4 times easier and quicker for you two-handed bakers, I think ‘pfft that sucks’. How many more hours will I have to spend of my life doing general shit that takes everyone else half the time? I like baking, so I guess it’s a bit of a moot point really, what does it matter if it takes me longer? At least I’m having fun. Ultimately it’s not something I can really change, and I refuse to do anything less just because it’s hard and time-consuming, I’m nothing if not determined.

Although, honestly, I wouldn’t mind things being a bit easier. It’s tiresome, sometimes stressful, and on occasion there are moments when I want to sit on the floor and just flat out refuse to go on with life, fists pounding on the floor at how unfair life is. Luckily, I have more self-respect than that and usually just take a deep breath and continue.

Onions are my constant arch nemesis. If I had less self-control and didn’t have a deep destain for cleaning, there would be onion smeared all over the wall where I got fed up and threw the blasted thing across the kitchen.

You may be thinking “just ask for help”. Well I could, and I do, more than I like really. I’ve come to accept that asking for help is going to be a constant feature in my life. But I don’t like asking for help. I don’t like putting people out of their way to do something they wouldn’t normally do, just because I need help. Even if they’re ‘happy to do it’ because I’m their friend, girlfriend, sister etc. I’m still asking them to do something for me, which means I am pretty much permanently indebted to everyone who helps me. Even if it’s a small thing, I always have to try and find a way to help them back or say thank you in more than just words.

The other day I made a Lemon Cake, which I coined ‘Lemon delight’, and I was sieving icing sugar into the bowl. I was struggling with the sieve in my right elbow, icing sugar in my good hand, while trying to sieve and watch the scales to the right amount without letting sieve touch the bowl. Describing that scenario to you makes me cringe inside.

I know I looked pathetic, all one-handed and struggling, puffing in frustration and determination. My boyfriend was in the kitchen with me chatting and watching, and clearly seeing that I was struggling, he offered to help. It was very sweet of him and I don’t blame him for offering, in his position I would have done the same. But in that moment, I realised how I must of looked to him for him to offer because generally I ask for help when I need it; and because when I looked at what I was doing, I realised that I must have looked like a full on cripple trying to sieve icing sugar into a bowl. Weirdly, I felt exposed.

I’m generally quite comfortable with my disability around people I know and love, but I hate the thought of how I look to them, especially when I’m doing tricky tasks. It’s like my disability has a whole light and dance show “roll up roll up, look how pathetic I am as I try and attempt this task awkwardly and clumsily until ultimately it all ends up on the floor, roll up, roll up”.

I know the pity looks, I know the pity offers, usually when people decide they don’t want to watch me struggle any longer and I clearly need help, regardless of whether I want it. I don’t think his offer to help me was a pity one, just a want to make it a bit easier due to my intense struggle with a sieve (yes, I have intense struggles with inanimate objects). It was simply the question that jarred me out of my perspective and what I was looking at and into his view, and it was horrible. I don’t want to be seen that way, not by him, and the worst part is that I am probably viewed that way everyday by multiple people, I’m just unaware of it.

But as always, it’s just another thing to stow away in the ‘don’t think about it too hard and ignore’ box so I can get on with my crippled life with some sense of sanity and little self-loathing. This realisation happened in a fleeting moment, I hopefully didn’t show it on my face and happily declined his offer – why should he help me with a task that he definitely dislikes because I spend my time doing things that are quite often borderline too difficult/impossible for me?

The kicker is that I usually don’t realise that fact until it’s too late:

“I’ll make homemade pizzas for our housewarming” Time to roll out the dough:  “oh crap, this requires two hands”.That was a fun afternoon. My arms were bruised for a week.

“Yeah I can put a nail in the wall”- on a ladder, picked my spot, nail in place – “something’s missing here…oh, yeah, a second hand to hammer with”.

Just a couple examples. Living with it for 25 years can make you less able to spot certain struggles, you just go in thinking it’ll be fine and then suddenly remember, oh yeah not fine, you get to miss out on this fun activity. I’ll give myself some kudos points, I’m pretty determined and stubborn. I wont give up easily on a difficult task, I’ll keep trying until I can do it, no matter how hard, especially as I love doing crafts and baking etc. I won’t be deprived of these things, I’ll apparently just look quite pathetic doing them.

So yeah, back to my kitchen and away from my disabled chef tangent, I have basically spent a considerable amount of time in the kitchen the last few months, procrastinating from writing. And in the process of sharing my procrastination activity, I obviously had some stuff to get off my chest about one-handed baking and cooking. So apologies for the epic tangent post but, despite all my difficulties, only one point goes in the ‘bad procrastination’ column, and another in the ‘making life more enjoyable, semi-bearable, and less anxiety ridden’ column because, well, some damn good cakes and roast dinners have come from my chaotic and messy kitchen time, despite my shortfalls on my right side….

I will be posting my ‘Lemon Delight’ recipe soon if you’re interested in attempting it. Part Three of the art of procrastination will be on knitting.

The Art of Procrastination: My Writer’s Block – Part One

My Writer’s Block

It’s been a while since my last post and I bow my head in shame that I have been slacking on the blog front. I am a procrastinator of the worst kind -I set goals, things I would like to achieve, productive uses of my time, stuff I can be proud of, and then, because it becomes part of the ‘to do’ list, I instantly would rather find something, anything else to do. It’s terrible. Writing my blog, my book, weekly shops, washing, washing up, cleaning the flat, tidying up, these are all things I want to do. No, wait, the first two are the only things I actually want to do, unfortunately by the time I’ve done all the other stuff that has to be done to avoid living in squalor (and even then I’m not that great at doing them regularly enough), I look at my list and think, ‘I’d rather watch a film now’.

Add to this that I spend my working week writing for other people in the world of marketing, finding the motivation to sit down and write something of my own that is creative, funny, interesting, and actually worth reading becomes impossible.  And even now as I write this, I realise this post fulfils none of the above criteria, but sod it, I’ve never been one for criteria, fell short the second I was born – “all four functioning limbs? Ah, not quite.”

I know that most people find that after the daily grind stuff is complete, there is a level of procrastination that follows. Once you reach the activities you want to do, you often find you just can’t be bothered, or ran out of time, or it’s raining and you’d rather watch GOT or Friends in your pjs drinking cups of tea and eating cake – unless of course you’re a self-motivated saint in super drive.

My better half is one of these self-motivated saints that successfully does all the washing up (quicker than me) and sits down to write at least 500 words each day of the weekend. Instead of his almost fastidious dedication to his writing inspiring me to do the same, I sit in my pjs, jealous, and even more reluctant to do it – just with a steaming side plate of my own self-imposed guilt and sense of failure as a human being.

He’s just a better person than me, he wants to write and he does, even if he comes out grumbling, he’ll sit in his room and write. I’m proud of him for it. But I also have a weird satisfaction that in this case he’s the exception and I’m the rule. Or so I’m assuming, you could all be sat there thinking: “No dear, he’s the rule and you’re just the lazy, unproductive exception trying to justify said lazy behaviour by bringing us all down with you”. To that I say “touché my fictional readers, you are quite correct and astute” (although I’m not convinced that’s the case – to both your astuteness and me being the exception).

However, saying that, I actually took it a step further. I’ve become so adverse to writing as a weekend activity that I managed to fill my time over the last few months with other crafts just to put off writing.

So now that I’ve bored you all with a rather long-winded explanation (and fantasy conversation) detailing my lack of blogging and human failure, today’s post is going to show you what spectacular projects I’ve worked on instead of all the things I should be doing (mainly writing, some cleaning too). Be prepared to be exceptionally underwhelmed….

The Art of Procrastination

I’d like to point out faffing as one of my procrastinations, but there’s no picture for that. Also, nursing hangovers has been a bit of a contributor to weekend laziness, although often I’m not even really hanging but just tired from the late night (yes, I’m getting old) – it’s still enough of an excuse to watch films and drink tea. But enough of that, behold actual activities.

Painting:

I warn you I am a very bad artist, extraordinarily bad. My paintings always look wrong, some basic perspective knowledge is distinctly lacking, or you just can’t tell what it is- so really I have two styles: Shit. And Shitter.

The painting was copied from this photograph from my A-level:

Flower

My version:

flower painting

As you can see my version is, well, crap and definitely falls under the ‘shitter’ category of my artwork. Plus side, I had a lot of fun painting it. I was fully relaxed and immersed for an entire Sunday afternoon – I not only managed to shut the world out, I blocked out my internal neurotic stressing and anxiety of life crap. This is quite a task.

So although painting is one point in the ‘bad procrastination’ column, in the ‘making life more enjoyable, semi-bearable, and less anxiety ridden’ column, I’d say a solid two points. This doesn’t change the fact it looks like an eight year old painted it (don’t be polite and claim it doesn’t, it absolutely does, maybe a little insulting eight year olds, lets make it a five year old), or remedy my lack of writing, but at least it benefitted my personal sanity.

….

I may have discovered why I don’t write very often, it seems I have a lot to say. Having moved onto activity two, I discovered another 1,500 words on the subject. So my procrastination journey is going to be a three-parter to accommodate my ramblings. I hope you enjoy! The next instalment will come soon.