Tag Archives: crochet

A Season of Gratitude


I had these cards made recently by a local letterpress artist and I’ve been leaving them in stores and posting them on bulletin boards wherever I think the message might be appreciated as a reminder that “fourth quarter,” as the marketers say, is more than just a time of shopping frenzy. The message is also directed at our national political scene, where decisions are being made that benefit those who already have so much rather than showing compassion for the common good.

December can be depressing when gift-giving becomes a stressful burden rather than a way to show love, friendship, or appreciation of community. I know many people who bow out of giving gifts altogether, and I understand why they’d choose not to participate in the craziness that gift-giving has become. But for those of us who do give gifts, it is easy to forget why we’re doing it in the first place: to show gratitude to the people in our lives who care for us and make our lives better.

For me and many people I know, giving a gift means making a gift or giving a gift from the earth that they tend (like honey from bees or herbs grown in a garden). Making gifts takes more time than money, so often the “value” in that type of gift isn’t readily recognized. One year my daughter and I spent hours making hand-beaded candy canes to tie on the packages we sent out of state. When I asked later how the recipients had liked the beaded canes, the answer was, “Oh. We didn’t notice them. They must have gotten thrown out with the wrapping paper.” Not the right folks for that particular gift. Although it would have been nice for the candy canes to have been received with joy, the pleasure was in making and giving them, and we were the ones to receive that.

One year when my students organized the Why Shop? Week consumer awareness project I wrote about in my last post, several of them were interviewed on a national radio program, where they advocated giving handmade gifts as a way to avoid participation in dubious consumer practices. When they were asked by the radio host, “What if your friends don’t like homemade gifts?” the students happily answered, “Get new friends.”

At 18, that may be possible. At middle-age, we’ve made many of the friends we’ll have for the rest of our lives; some craft and some don’t. I am grateful to the people in my life who do make gifts. To me, a homemade gift or card always says, “I took this time to think about you and I enjoyed making this for you.” That doesn’t mean other gifts aren’t thoughtful or welcome, but as a handcrafter myself, I do appreciate the sentiment behind something homemade. I know that handmade gifts take time for planning and designing, gathering of materials, and the crafting itself, often in many different steps.

This year one of our friends referred to his wife as a “one-woman craft factory” in her making of beautiful photo cards and felted soaps for family and friends. I don’t think he meant that she didn’t enjoy it but rather that she had to be well organized. For me, that sounds more appealing than going to a mall in the hustle of cars and frenzied shoppers looking for deals on the season’s latest trends. The popularity of the handcraft web-shop etsy shows that many people agree with me and would rather support a handcrafter than plunk down money at a big-box store.

This year, I am grateful for the many wonderful gifts made for us, from the inspiring quotation handwritten on paper to the soaps and bath salts and confections we’ll use everyday to the adorable ornaments made with care that will decorate our home to the handcranked wool socks that will warm our feet. Let’s think of this time of year as the “Season of Gratitude” when gifts of all kinds show gratitude in both the giving and the receiving.  And let’s extend that practice of gratitude all year for the gifts we already receive every day: the gift of love from the special people in our lives and from the earth that sustains us.

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Filed under sustainable agriculture, women's writing

Round Your Garden

My Grandma Smith taught me to crochet when I was in junior high in the early 1970s. My first real project was a red, white, and blue granny square vest from a kit that I bought at the Williston Ben Franklin when I was visiting my grandparents’ farms one June. Both of my grandmothers crocheted potholders and doilies and afghans; I still have many of their creations, including a round throw rug made from cotton scraps, one of the many that Grandma Smith made for everyone in the family.

Later I learned to knit, putting aside crochet for a while because I wanted to make sweaters and two needles seemed more versatile than one. When my daughter was just a baby, I took a class on designing a sweater that liberated me from strict adherence to patterns. I learned that by figuring out the measurements I wanted, fitting the gauge as needed, and following basic elements of style, I could design many different kinds of sweaters.

I’ve been making sweaters for years now but lately I’ve been wanting to make something smaller as gifts for the many babies that have recently come into our lives. I thought about knitting hats but I honestly don’t care for the double-pointed needles necessary at the tippy top of the crown. I looked at crocheted baby hat patterns online but didn’t find any that fit my notion of quick, easy, and cute, so I decided to design the hat myself.

With my basic knowledge of crochet stitches and techniques, I sat down with a skein of worsted weight cotton baby-type yarn and a size J crochet hook and started crocheting in the round, just like you would for a crocheted rug or poth and of course it’s faster than single crochet.

Once I thought the crown was large enough in diameter, I reduced stitches for one round to shape the brim, continuing on for a few inches to give the hat length. Then to add a little more design, I finished with a row of triple crochet for a band and a scalloped edging to give it a vintage look. Cute—but not quite what I wanted.

What did I want? I love those knit vegetable or fruit children’s hats that look like strawberries or eggplant, so I decided to adapt my pattern that way. But I like flowers too, so I started the round in green for the sepal where the flower or fruit attaches to the stem. Then I crocheted the rest of the hat in whatever color struck me: purple for a pansy, red for a tomato, blue for a blueberry. Still, it needed something more, so I reattached green yarn at the top to crochet three stems or leaves in single crochet sprouting out of the center.

Round Your Garden Hat

My first Round Your Garden hat

Fresh-picked from Round Your Garden

Now I’ve got a pattern that is quick (because it’s double and triple crochet), easy (because you size to a measurement rather than counting stitches), and very adaptable (since you can use about any kind of yarn you want). I think of it as a “make do” hat, great for “making do” with whatever leftover yarn you have lying around. I also really like its vintage look, like the crocheted doilies or potholders you can pick up for a couple dollars at a flea market.  My mom said it reminds her of the hat my grandmother made for her when she was little, a hat with earflaps to keep the North Dakota wind out of her ears.

My mom's winter hat (check out that snowball)

Mostly I love my hat’s playful and colorful style. Children are like flowers or vegetables—fresh and sweet, like something just-picked from the garden (hence the popularity of Anne Geddes’ photos of babies in pea pods).  I decided to call the pattern the Round Your Garden hat because it’s crocheted in the round and because it reminds me of one of my favorite children’s books, In Your Garden by Omri Glaser with illustrations by Byron Glaser and Sandra Higashi. This book of bright, close-up illustrations follows the biological cycle of a garden from a tear drop to a vegetable feast. It’s a seemingly simple story that contains the whole of life, a delight for children and adults to read together.

I guess at 50, I don’t want to follow patterns. I want to make up my own. I want to figure out what I need and what I know to fashion what I can imagine. Making up this hat made me happy, kind of like when I was giving my daughter advice recently and she said, “Well, you’ve got a lot more experience than I do so I’m going to listen to you.” Wow! In my 50s, I do know a few things, so I might as well listen to my own wisdom and create from there.

A Garden of Hats


Filed under memoir, sustainable agriculture, Uncategorized