Goodbye Grumblings

Find the good

What I learned from a 14-year blanket

Some 14 years ago, I started crocheting a blanket for Thing Two. We chose the pattern and colours together. (To my relief, she assures me that she still likes the colours.) Sometime over the past few years, she told me she wasn’t moving out until I finished the blanket. We laughed. But one never knows with her. Recently, she clarified that just because she wasn’t moving out until the blanket was ready didn’t mean she was moving out as soon as it was ready. Given what’s going on in the world right now, I’m grateful to have both Things living at home for now.

I finished the blanket about a month ago. It was an on-again, off-again project that I picked up on long car trips and in the winter when the garden was buried under snow and ice. It got lost in the house several times. Pieces got scattered. Bit by bit, it limped towards completion. Now that I’m done, I see that the experience has made some truths clear to me, truths that apply to more than just a crochet project.

  1. If you ask for help, you’ll get it. It’s not easy to ask for help sometimes. My inner toddler likes to say, “I can do it myself!” Without the many people who helped me, there would only be a dusty bag of forlorn hexagons buried under my bed. Mom-in-Law helped me understand the pattern to begin with. Friends over the years helped sew pieces together and helped me with practical aspects of the work such as how to more easily weave in ends and how to attach all the pieces at the end.
  2. People want to help you succeed. In spite of how often I dragged out the same yarn and small pile of hexagons, in spite of little apparent progress, friends and family encouraged me to keep going. One friend devoted an entire Saturday to helping me get those 178 hexagons from the kitchen floor to actual blanket status.
  3. A mentor is crucial. That same friend offered continuous encouragement and shared enthusiasm and practical advice. She even helped me figure out the pattern after I’d lost my printed copy — and then made me take a picture of the notes. (Note to self: always have an electronic copy of my work-in-progress.) She shared continuous positive reinforcement, which helped me keep going and cruise over little challenges.
  4. Less than perfect is perfectly fine. I made many mistakes. One fun one became a beret for a goat marionnette. I forgot the order of colours (not surprising, given that sometimes there was a year or more between crochet sessions), I miscounted stitches, I used varying thicknesses of yarn and some slightly different yellows. I even used several different crochet hooks, of different sizes. Now that I know more about crochet, I understand that some of these can wreck a project. The blanket doesn’t look exactly as planned, and is certainly not an exact rectangle, but it’s done. I’m happy with it, and Thing Two is using it and appreciates it.
  5. Measuring progress is important. At Christmas time, I was convinced that I must be nearly done. I gathered up all the scattered hexagons from various bags and laid them out, then had Thing Two lie on them. Discouragement set in when I saw just how much was left to make. Maybe just put it all away, Grumblings murmured. You’re barely half done. Maybe pick a smaller project instead. You can work on this later. Fortunately, more help appeared.
  6. Keeping the goal in mind helps. Husband printed off a sheet of hexagons, drew an outline of the future blanket, and coloured in the hexes I had made so far. This showed me exactly how many were left to make, but it also gave me a place to mark off my progress, hex by hex. (Yes, I enjoyed throwing around the word “hex.” A little bit of wordplay to make me happy.) I kept a pencil and the drawing in my crochet bag. Every time I finished a hex, I marked off another one on the drawing. Every mark gave me a sense of satisfaction. This visible measurement of my progress was much easier to understand than a plastic bag stuffed full of bits of yarn. (Thanks Dear!)
  7. A good finish hides a multitude of sins. Last step was to crochet all around the blanket, twice, with good white yarn. This unified the project, smoothed over some of the oddness that came from attaching hexes of different sizes together. When I was done, it looked fairly rectangular, like a real blanket! That finishing took several chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring audiobook, but it was worth it.
  8. Crocheting is a social activity. I can listen to podcasts or audiobooks, or watch TV (though there’s a danger of having rip out stitches if things get too tense). And I enjoy that time alone. But I’ve noticed that if I sit down with my crocheting and don’t watch or listen to anything, people start to talk. Certainly more so than when I dive into a book. I spent a lovely evening recently (before social distancing) with a couple of friends crocheting as we chatted and watched Phantom of the Opera.
  9. Finishing a long project is good for your self-esteem. I knew I was pleased with myself for getting it done. When Stepfather congratulated me on showing grit, I thought he was exaggerating. Then I remembered the old back and front of a sweater I started knitting in the eighties. It was a beautiful emerald green, with raglan sleeves. I dragged that thing around with me to five different homes because I wasn’t ready to give up on the idea of finishing it. Whenever I came across it, I felt guilty. When I finally decided that I was not going to finish it and got rid of it, it was a relief. But I’ve never forgotten how squirmy and unpleasant I felt whenever I thought about that sweater. Knowing I stuck to this blanket over 14 years and completed it feels good. If I ever need to remind myself that I am tenacious and finish things, this is a great example.
  10. Working with your hands can relieve stress. We can all use a little stress relief these days. I sit down to crochet because I enjoy it and feel productive and creative. I love feeling the yarn, watching how the colours come together, seeing how the stitches look. I even love trying to understand the language of the patterns, which really isn’t obvious to a newbie. I haven’t tested this often, but so far I’ve found that I can’t stay angry or frustrated for long. Another way to fend off Grumblings, perhaps?

Crochet has opened a door into a world of conversations and information, and has given me something in common with a huge group of helpful and enthusiastic people. The world of crochet online is vast. I’ve lost hours! And enjoyed every minute. Before everything shut down, a friend took me to an amazing yarn store in Ottawa called Wool-Tyme. I spent an hour just walking around the store looking at all the different stuff before I could even imagine which yarn I wanted. It was like wandering around inside a rainbow.

Other things I learned:

  • Crochet has some great words: Instructions are not called recipes, but patterns. Frogging is how you describe it when you rip out stitches (think rip it, rip it, rip it).

Does anyone else have a story about a decades-long project? What has it taught you? Are you finding relief from the news and stress in crafts or other projects? Share your stories or comments below, or send an email to susan at Thanks for reading, and I hope you find the good.


About GrumblingSusan

Word lover. Story addict. Daydreamer. Optimist. Ottawan. Treehugger. Scouter.

7 Replies

  1. Rae

    I too have spent many hours crocheting, but years-long projects for me are quilts, and I have many guilty half-started ones. I hope to be as tenacious as you some day! I have some young people I have made promises of quilts to, and I hope to stick to these promises. Like you, they may become moving-out gifts, but still, I think the endeavour is worthy.

    1. GrumblingSusan

      I agree! Definitely worthy, unless they’re creating stress. I know the young people will love your gifts, no matter what form they take.

  2. Jane derick

    Susan, It is beautiful! I have to admire your persistence as well as skill. I like the way you asked for help. I was amazed by the visual aid your husband made for you to chart your progress. Right now I am at a hiatus in my protective mask making. Requests are coming in for more complex ones than the 40 or so that I have made. Perhaps one of your readers has an idea for what could be used for the non/ or tightly woven insert fabric. Yes, it is satisfying to use the hands. Embroidering is my secret sin for the present. Let’s go outside each day & keep well. Jane

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Hi Jane, Thanks for reading and commenting! I habe a friend who has been sewing masks. I will introduce you two by email. Stay well my friend!

  3. Auntie Gwen

    The one thing I’ve found about personal projects, whether they may be crochet, painting, writing, is that once I am done, whether it takes 5 minutes of many years, there are those feelings of satisfaction, wonder at the simple art of creation, appreciation that others either helped or admire the finished product and the warmest feeling of joy! Ah!

    1. GrumblingSusan

      It is a wonderful feeling. And I truly understand that the journey is enjoyable too, after frogging many hours of work on a cape last night. (-:

    2. GrumblingSusan

      And thanks for reading!

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