Loop, grab and pull through.
It’s the not-so-secret mantra crocheters repeat as they wrap yarn around a needle. But for many yarn-o-philes, the act is also a form of therapy: Each stitch can be filled with a meaning that is as individual as a snowflake. For one person, it is the rallying cry against a closing college; for another, the uniting of a father and daughter; for a third, a former painter, it’s the rediscovery of an inner artist.
“Crochet is cool — it’s totally relaxing at the end of the day,” said Lisa Stevens, 46, of Manassas, a child-care program director and member of the Crochet Guild of Prince William County. The former painter took up crocheting after she had children. “It uses a different part of the brain,” she said.
There are lots of patterns to try — a little Tunisian Entrelac, perhaps? At a recent guild meeting, the crowd of 20 began an artsy version of show-and-tell: that
mystery-pattern Afghan, another’s latest ear warmer project or a circular vest. And all the while, piles of rainbow-colored yarn spilled along long lunch tables, waiting to be spun into the next creation.
On third Mondays, the Manassas Church of the Brethren transforms into a crocheter’s paradise. It’s a cross between a yarn store and a coffee shop, where it seems that everyone’s your friend and there are no secrets — just shared lessons.
At guild meetings, members bring their own supplies (there’s also a stash of supplies in case someone wants to try something new) and their imagination. They share techniques and new yarns, help one another through a tough stitch and crochet goodies for babies, the county’s homeless, and patients who are in dialysis or cancer treatment.
“Knitting and crocheting is experiencing a resurgence right now,” said Rhonda Reese, a crochet and knitting instructor who started the now 40-member guild with a student two years ago. “People are trying to get away from the computer and texting and all that, and using their hands and being social with other people.”
“People say it’s the new yoga,” added Reese, a Gainesville mom whose mission is to teach anyone interested how to crochet or knit (and by the way, she said almost breathlessly, did you know March is National Crochet Month?).
“It’s very soothing; it helps me keep my sanity — it’s like doing the crossword puzzle,” Tina Jaworski, 62, a retired government worker who lives in Manassas, said during a meeting last week. “You have to follow the instructions and do the math. It’s mind-challenging and good for the brain.”
It’s 32-year-old Lauren Capehart’s happy place — she even nicknamed one of her spinning wheels: “Xanax.”
“I can watch any stupid TV show or movie I want to, and if it turns out to be stupid or good, it doesn’t matter because I’m making something,” said Capehart, a graphic designer who lives in Chantilly. “I’m still making something, so I’m still doing something valuable with my time.”
For Temma Clark-Braverman, the yarn is something more. It’s a way the 26-year-old hopes to save her alma mater, Sweet Briar College, which school officials recently announced was closing.
“I’m making little Vixen head plushies to raise money to stop it from closing,” said Clark-
Braverman, who lives in Bristow. “It gives my hands something to do. And if I mess up, I can just frog it.”
“And make it work,” Capehart chimed in.
The group even welcomes knitters.
“I wanted something to keep me busy,” said Anna Mustafa, a 76-year-old guild member who began knitting during breast cancer treatment 18 months ago. “I didn’t want to sit and worry about myself and complain about myself and feel my aching pains.”
“I’m not the type of person who will sit in the corner and wait for myself to die,” the Gainesville resident said. “I keep going.”
And it’s not just for the ladies.
Jim Holtman knits projects with his 20-year-old daughter, Marjorie, an avid crocheter who doesn’t put down the needle while she talks. He said she was the one who taught him how to knit, and the two joined the guild eight months ago to bond and “expand my horizons.”
“It’s relaxing,” said Holtman, who by day is a program manager for a government services company. Heuses a knitting loom at guild meetings. “And although all the advertising leans towards the ladies, it’s something [men] can do, too.”
It was a pair of crochet earrings on YouTube that yanked Janet Daswell back into the crochet loop.
“I said, ‘I can make those,’ ” said Daswell, a 55-year-old banker who picked up the art when she was 10 or 11 and stopped after five years because she was bored.
But now it’s a whole new world filled with bloggers and innovative patterns — even ones for tiny little amigurumi toys, a popular Japanese crochet craft that brings stuffed animals, and food, to life. There are all kinds of crochet needles and yarns (how about some bamboo? Or plastic bags?) and some hot new techniques such as finger crocheting and arm knitting.
There’s even yarn bombing, a graffiti art that involves wrapping trees, buildings and other public objects with yarn.
Daswell, who lives in Bristow, often says, “It’s not your grandmother’s crochet.” She thinks the hobby will never get dull for her again.
“It’s a thing people stopped doing because it was simple scarves and hats, but now it’s everything — I even crochet handbags,” she said.
Will she step away again?
“No, unless my fingers stop,” Daswell said.