Sep 26, 2010

Old Skills Rediscovered--or, the $29 Potholder

From what I can see in many ways my parents generation seemed in a hurry to leave old things behind and press on to that which was new. I guess this is obvious, after all my parents came of age in that pivotal decade, the 60's, yet to me it has proven frustrating. It wasn't simply the old moral order and family structure that went by the wayside, with mothers working outside the home, families no longer meaning the obligatory one father, one mother, and sundry children--as we as a society grew in our modernity and self-conscious worldliness, old skills went by the wayside as well. Who needs to know how to grow vegetables successfully when you can have them flown in from across the world? Build a fence or a front porch? Why, who sits on a porch these days anyway? Sew? Knit? Crochet? Can those veggies you grew? Why?

As Tim and I chose a different path for our family I felt the absence of those forgotten skills. It felt like we were having to reinvent the wheel at every turn! It helped that we had my father here for the first four years of farm life--he had grown up on a farm in East Texas and had some skills he had retained that he shared (such as teaching Tim how to turn chicken from feathered and gasping on the ground to ready to be turned into dinner after the "Great Christmas Chicken Massacre"). He also built the best and sturdiest hay feeder this farm has seen--which had to be a sacrifice for him as he never quite understood why goats when we could have had a good cow or two? But the inside the house skills? I was on my own for that!

A few years back Tim and I sat chatting on the swing on the deck. We discussed how we were getting older and yet we still likely had at least half of our lives ahead of us. Adult children notwithstanding, perhaps there were some things we had always wanted to learn and never had had the opportunity. We challenged each other to chose one or two skills to learn and make our own. He chose playing the harmonica and...something else. I don't recall. It doesn't matter anyway, it was his to learn. I decided I wanted to learn to garden and to crochet.

I haven't made much headway on gardening. Seems every time I decide to start I find myself pregnant and nauseated. Or my father is very ill. Or my father-in-law is ill. Or we are starting a dairy. Or it is summer, meaning very very hot outside. At any rate, I haven't gotten far on that.

But none of those excuses applied to crochet, so I decided enough delay, I would start with that. I got books from the library. I watched videos on youtube. I made a vague request on facebook for anyone willing to trade crochet lessons for cheese. I realized that the books written that teach crochet all seem to be written by someone who did not recall what it was like to TRULY be a beginner and that videos are hard to focus on when trying to watch the yarn slipping through your fingers at the same time while trying to keep the toddlers from tying each other to the bedframe with the other end of the yarn. I also realized that I would be just too embarrassed to have someone that I actually knew see me fumble my way through their well-meaning attempts to teach me.

One day in search of cheesecloth (in my pregnancy induced muddle-headedness I had let the old cloths go unwashed and moldy when I carried them not to the washing machine but to the garage for some unknown reason?), I visited a quilt store in Bryan, Texas. It was a lovely place, full of colors and patterns enough to almost make me wish I'd chosen quilt making as my new skill. They also, as the helpful owner informed me as I was checking out, taught classes. One could even sign up for crochet classes, if I had friends who wanted to take a class with me? I had not friends in mind, but daughters, so once I had Dixie and had recovered enough to remember how to do most anything with a baby in my arms, Grace, Liberty, Dixie and I all had a crochet class. Dixie slept through it, Liberty wanted to know why she had to stop making chains and start actually crocheting, Grace seemed to enjoy it, and I? I was thrilled! All the bits and pieces I had read in the books came together. It not only made sense, it was so easy! The class cost $20 (per person, Grace and Liberty paid for their own), the supplies (hooks and first of many skein of yarn) were approximately $9 together, coming to a grand total of $29.

$29 may make for an expensive potholder that first day, but to follow was a set of super-soft washcloths for baby Dixie, dishcloths and towels galore, a super cute hat for Dixie, a large bulky crocheted basket that holds Dixie's "stuff" such as ribbons and bows, many headbands for the many daughters and now a super lacy pastel blanket being crafted for Dixie. Next on the docket is a hat that looks like a baseball for Noah's birthday, gloves for Katie and when I get up my courage, a sweater--for myself.

And I promise that any of my daughters that desire to learn to crochet will not have to pay strangers to teach them. Or any friends, for that matter.

Gardening...yet to come, though it is getting cooler...


Dee said...

I am also wanting to learn to crochet! I've now had 2 different people at church show me their method of getting started, and I've watched a DVD. (Did you know it's hard to pause the DVD while not dropping your hook & thread?) I think my biggest challenge is to find a comfortable way to hold the thread. Ask me from time to time how I'm doing so that I'll keep working at it!

Terry said...

I am the world's worst crocheter. I knit. I can crochet the world's longest chain, therefore I knit. Oh and I knit because I spin and I live in the real fear of being found dead with a ton of spun up fiber but nothing done. Now what position would that put my children in? *Sigh*
Hey I am their Mom and after 33 and 36 years they are used to it.

I think maybe I get the 60's thing because I am a child of the 60's which my children find some delight in reminding me on occasion.

But my child of the 60's wasn't "use it up and toss it" it was learn to can , bake bread, nurse babies and eventually farm with dairy goats. Just can't get past that lactating mother thing, another *sigh*

Now I have a new batch 4 girls 12,11,8,4(very close to 5) who can milk goats, knit, put up veggies and one can even crochet. Please note her Gammie was not responsible for *that*.