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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Such a Simple Thing

When my mother taught me to crochet (over 33 years ago now!) she taught me by making granny squares out of yarn from her stash. She held her hook in a pencil hold and her yarn like this:So that is what I did, too. It worked just fine for the first year or so, because I only worked with yarn. But I was longing to try working with thread, even though I was intimidated by it (I don't really know why, but I was.) So one fine day I bought some size 20 thread and a doily book from Perry's (a local 5 and dime store in my home town, Gilmer, Texas) and rushed home to try it out. I loved crocheting with thread, but I was surprised to find that after only an hour or so my hand was tired, and I had to stop. I had been crocheting with yarn for several hours every day, and didn't know what difference working with thread made, but something was definitely going on.
A few weeks later, I was visiting my Grandmother, Dorothy Ferguson, whom all of her grandchildren called "Big Mama." I think it is a southern thing, she wasn't really big, but she was about the best crocheter I have ever known. I told her about my hand getting tired, and she said "Let me see what you are doing." She handed me the doily she was working on and I crocheted a few stitches. "I see what is wrong," she said. She took the end of the thread as it came from the ball, and wrapped it around my pinky finger. "Now try that," she said. I did, and was amazed at how much better it felt!
It seems that my problem was that I had been squeezing my fingers together to try to control the tension of the thread, and that was what had been making my fingers and hand get tired so quickly. "That is so much better!" I said. "That wrap is your brake," Big Mama said, "Like the brakes on a car. And sometimes, with some threads, you might even have to wrap it around your finger twice."
Thread wrapped around my pinky finger.


Another view of the wrap.
I find 2 wraps work better on smaller sizes of thread, such as 20 and 30.


It is amazing that such a simple thing could make such a big difference; I might never have become a designer if I hadn't learned this little trick!
So I want to share it with all of you; maybe you already know this and are thinking, "Well, duh, Ann, everyone knows that!" but I have met many crocheters at conventions and other places who do not know it. You learn from the person who teaches you, and you do things the way you are taught (even if it is wrong!)  My mother only crocheted with yarn, so the way she held the yarn always worked for her. (She also "hooked" her yarn, and I did that too, until I went to work at Annie's Attic and an editor showed me the right way to do it; but I will post about that another day).
Simple things can make all the difference; do you have a favorite tip that makes your crocheting easier? I would love to hear about it; anything that makes crocheting easier is of great interest to me!

9 comments:

Rosa Goncalves said...

Amiga ! o seu trabalho é lindo, parabéns e um beijinho.
Rosa G

crochethuahua said...

I hold my hook like a butter knife and thread the yarn over top my pinkie and underneath both middle fingers unless I'm using thread then I use the "brake" My late ex-MIL taught me to crochet and was left-handed and I am right-handed so that was a challenge.

Now I'm curious to hear the story about "hooking"!

Cher said...

I think you just solved my tension problems! Wow!
My grandmother taught me how to crochet. She doesn't now because of her eyesight, but I can remember not long ago her flying through thread crochet, and doilies appearing faster than lightening. I have a huge filet crochet piece with roses on it that she made me a long time ago. To this day it still holds center stage on my coffee table.

Ann said...

Thank you, Rosa!

Crochethuahua, I think the most important thing is finding the hold that works for you. I have only used the "knife hold" once when I was making some rugs with 6 strands of yarn held together as one, otherwise I just can't do it!

That is great, Cher! I am glad my story helped someone. We are both lucky to have such talented Grandmothers to inspire us. Your filet centerpiece sounds like a treasure!

Ana Luisa said...

mmm...a new way to hold the thread.must try it out sometime soon.
I learned to crochet at school, and I hold my hook like crochehuahua, like holding a knife or fork. I learned, by trial and error, how to keep the tension of the thread or yarn.
whatever works for you is the best!

Ann said...

You are right, Ana Luisa, the important thing is to find the the way that works best for you!
And I envy you so much; learning to crochet in school must have been lots of fun!!!

Twyla and Lindsey said...

I use this wrap when crocheting and knitting. It makes All the difference in your tension. I am constantly surprised by how many accomplished knitters and crocheters don't do it, making it much harder than it needs to be. Twyla

Ann said...

I am too, Twyla! And I want everyone to enjoy their crocheting as much as possible.

Debbie said...

I found this post so interesting, Ann, that I decided to blog about it myself and post a picture of my hand, too! Take a look at http://debbiesfiberwork.blogspot.com

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