As she got older, my mother decided to exercise her brain by learning new things. She learned new Romance languages until they formed factions inside her brain and ganged up on each other when she was busy. She went to ballroom-dancing classes. She made pots.
Cleodhna does crochet. She has long been known to make little figurines out of yarn for people’s birthdays, but the hobby has accelerated recently. She has storage thingies that go under the bed like a normal geek, but hers are full of yarn rather than cables or Lego. She has favourite yarn shops.
She has this overarching project to make something like 48 large granny squares and 96 small granny squares, and then to sew them all together and make a quilt. She’s about half-way there. She started off following this enthusiastic woman on YouTube who had a “do one granny square every day!” channel, but she’s now branched out. She buys patterns on the Internet from fellow enthusiasts. And she knows how to make more than one hat out of yarn.
Here’s how I know: I walked through the door and asked her something, and she lost count.
As far as I can tell, crochet is about doing the most complicated things you can possibly do with a bunch of thread, while doing the strict minimum amount of cutting or knotting. Any old idiot can take an embroidery grid and a bunch of coloured threads and make a picture, and never mind that if you turn the thing over you see a complete rat’s nest of cut off threads. The platonic ideal of crochet, I vaguely imagine, is to build the Sistine Chapel out of a humungous complicated amalgam of intertwining loops, and then say to the marvelled onlooker “if you cut this knot here, right at the end where The Man said we really needed one, and then pull on this thread, it will all come crashing down around you - very slowly and softly”.
(Marcel Pagnol, in one of his novels about his childhood growing up in Provence in the 1910s and 1920s, had a wonderful bit about the pecking order of people who built walls. The Proper People built dry-stone walls, carefully stacking one stone on top of another until you got a wall that would never fall down. They looked down on stone-cutters, who did the same except that they cheated and cut the awkward bits off individual stones rather than finding the perfectly-interlocking shapes in nature. The stone-cutters in turn looked down on masons, who used mortar to glue their stuff together rather than relying on brilliance and physics. Crochet seems to me like it aspires to the dry-stone-wall school of unnecessarily brilliant excellence.)
As I was saying, I don’t really know about crochet. Cleodhna does it and she’s happy; I get to make jokes about it. And I occasionally ask her something when she’s counting… er, crochet things, and she gets mildly annoyed.
“You should have some way of indicating that you’re doing a finickety crochet thing and you shouldn’t be disturbed”, I said to her this evening, “but that’s going to be difficult as you’re going to have your hands busy.”
“I can make a hat!” she beamed. And it turns out that she has a pattern for a dwarf hat, which includes a yarn beard because of course it does. That wouldn’t be appropriate, because the yarn beard would annoy her unnecessarily while she was being necessarily annoyed by crochet stuff, so she clearly needs another kind of hat. That’s OK, she’s got a pattern for a simpler “I’m busy” hat as well.
It is, clearly, turtles all the way down.