Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Yarn Tales Tuesday

The Crochet is the Way Name
Today I get a bit of an attitude. For those of you it's not aimed at, thank you for your support, patience, and understanding. For those who are insulted, you probably need to be

  Over the years, quite a few people have commented about the name of my business and this blog. A few more experienced business owners have even suggested that I'll never get anywhere with a name like that. From "what's that supposed to mean" to "that's a long name", people's remarks have left me wondering: Did I choose the wrong name? Is it all a big mistake? 

  With all due respect to those thinking they know better, it's perfect, and I'm keeping it. I think a name should either be your name, or have a story behind it. And my business's name has a BIG, long story behind it.

  Most businesses are started as just that: A business. My business was started as a project. Quite a few major life events led me to start crocheting. Then a stubborn, unique personality brought out the designer in me. A love of challenging, complicated tasks and a need to busy myself resulted in the Crochet is the Way blog. But where did it all begin?

This is what "work" means to me now...But where did it all begin?

  Let's jump past childhood, let's skip and not even think about the marriage that didn't work out, and land in my current place and frame of mind: Well, let's start just before my current frame of mind, but in the same place. The town I live in, no offense to anyone who lives here, is just...Blah. It's a nice place, there's just not much that interests me here. And no work.

  I ended up here after temporarily moving in with my parents, as a scared, pregnant, divorcing twenty year old. Nobody wanted to hire me, knowing I'd be on maternity leave in a few months. I was lucky to have the support of my parents, and a knack for being able to learn anything. In the time before delivery, I was able to convince a friend-of-a-friend to give me a chance and hire me as soon as I could work.

  This isn't going where you probably think it is... After I gave birth to my son, I started working at a mechanic's shop. The guy was working alone, answering phones, doing paperwork, along with the automotive work. I convinced him I could help him out, as a secretary, plus sweep the floors and run for parts "and stuff". Plus, as I mentioned, I have an ability to learn just about anything. I suggested he let me help him out with cars, but I guess he thought I was joking. I got the response: "You're a girl, you don't want to do this kinda work! You'll get all greasy!" But from hanging with my brother and other guys, I already had some minor mechanic's skills. How many 18 year old girls do you know that can change their oil, spark plugs and wires, fuel pump, alternator, starter, belts, tires, and more?   

  I got bored at my new job in the first day. An hour of no phone calls, sitting at a table with no paperwork to do, I went to see what the boss was up to. He was under a car that was on a lift, fighting to remove a drive shaft. (Here's where some of you will go "Huh?") I grabbed a pry bar, stuck it behind the universal, held on to the caps and popped it loose. He looked at me with his mouth hanging open for a second, then used some four, five, and six-letter word combinations. Then we talked.

A peek into that big metal case that makes your car move...Looks easy enough, right?

  To make a long story shorter, between watching him work and sitting down with books, I learned more and became so much more than a secretary and shop-sweep. I spent two awesome, greasy years as a transmission technician, rebuilding the second most important part of a car besides the motor...or behind it, in a rear wheel drive...(mechanic humor). Then, out of nowhere, he announces that he's closing the shop in two weeks. Oh, "four-letter words". Time to find another job...

  Not in this town. Every shop I went to shot me down. I ended up with a boring, underpaid industrial cleaning job, while doing some automotive work on the side. Both were on-again-off-again, and I spent days with nothing to do. My future began to unfold from there as my life began to unravel.

  Sitting in front of the television, rebuilding a computer for a friend (did I mention I learn anything?), the program I was watching on PBS ended, and something new came on. A knitting show! Perhaps it was the-forces-that-be that led me to leave the t.v. on. For some strange reason, I had frequently been noticing people knitting on t.v. and in public. Then this program came on, and I dropped my screwdriver as the lady on the screen made lace with dropped stitches.

  I picked up some supplies, spent a few weeks learning how to knit, and made some scarves, hats, and started a blanket. Then, darn you PBS, a crochet show came on. And, as we all use the intended pun, I was hooked. I first used crochet to make a border around my knitted scarves. Then, I dropped the needles and stuck with my hooks. It's been so long since I've knitted anything, I think I've forgotten how. I even unraveled the blanket I had started to knit, so I could crochet it instead.

  It was all just busy work back then; a side hobby. I got up at three in the morning to go clean offices and (eewww!) public bathrooms. (Seriously, people, thank the cleaners when you see them at work.) Done before noon, I used the rest of the day to get under a car or into a transmission, if I had the work. When work got slow, I scrubbed the grime out from under my fingernails and picked up my yarn. The guys all thought I was nuts.

  Maybe I am. There seems to be some sort of addiction involved when one truly loves needle arts. A shiny hook feels like holding pure gold in your hand; yarn feels like an extension of your own fingers. Ideas for projects run through your head when you're not crafting, and you read patterns out loud in your sleep. 

  I only crocheted a few things by actually following a pattern. I didn't have a problem reading patterns or charts, it was just that I always tweaked something in it to make it my way. Then I figured out how to just make it. Although they often ridiculed me for my new hobby, I was able to make some extra money from my circle of guy friends. Which was good, because I had quit the cleaning job, and I ended up breaking two ribs and had to take some time off from everything else. I used crochet to repair a few of my buddies' fishing nets (one in rainbow, as a joke!), made some fishing pole covers, and some other miscellaneous things that were special requests.

  But things started changing. I'd had aches and pains for a long time, but I never let it bother me. I'm cursed with clumsiness combined with an adventurous spirit, but I'm blessed to have a high pain tolerance to go with it. I've been through cuts, bruises, broken bones, dislocations and concussions. I bounce back. Or, at least keep rolling. I loved my job as a mechanic, but I sure felt it after a day full of wrenching, running air tools, beating on stuff with a hammer (a.k.a. mechanic's favorite tool!), and carrying parts up to 100 pounds. I'm 5'4", and at the time, 130 pounds. It took a toll. 

  Then: BOOM! Forget just dealing with minor aches and pains, something was wrong with me. I didn't pay it much mind when I had the same cut on my finger for about a month. I was in the middle of building a pergola from scrap wood, using hand tools. I just figured I kept splitting it back open while working, and that's why it wasn't getting better. Then, my knuckle swelled up to the size of a quarter. Uh oh. Infection?

  I dumped peroxide on it, bandaged it up, and went on. Doctor? I don't need no stinking doctor! Call me stupid if you want to. At the same time this was going on, I started having to buy new clothes. Hmm...Smoothies for lunch were working! So I thought for a few months. In the course of two months after dropping my first size, it went from friends complimenting me on how good I looked, to people accusing me of being a drug addict. I thought I could have some kind of cancer.

  The doctor said I had a kidney infection and gave me antibiotics. I had days that I was fine. I also had days that I was miserable. I felt like I was burning up with a fever, the smallest amount of exercise left me worn out, and I was weak. Now at 96 pounds, I had lost over 30 pounds after completely losing my appetite. I took my time with automotive jobs, and needed help to complete tasks needing strength. When my hands broke out in an uncontrollable rash, I had to completely give up all mechanic work.

  At first, I didn't think anything about that, either. I've had sporadic bouts of eczema caused by allergies before. I simply needed to find out what was causing it... Then, my hands...Oh!...my hands that do everything for me; the hands that fix everything that's broken; the hands that I need to make a living; the hands that everyone else in my life relies on because I am superwoman ... 

  Every knuckle in my hands swelled up to the point that my skin split in the course of a day. Hot and itchy. Throbbing. I could barely put my own clothes on. Okay, now it's definitely time to go to the doctor. Diagnoses: Rheumatoid Arthritis. Swelling. Rash. Loss of appetite. Eventual joint disfigurement...Bad.

    "Take it easy", they say. "Get lots of rest" is their advice. Out of respect for my viewers, I refuse to use profanity here. But to be honest, my response to what was supposed to be my new life is: "Four-letter word" that! I am not the kind of person to relax. Doing something is how I relax. Free time and idle hands give me too much time to think about things that are best left alone. 

  Besides, with this disease, I think I'd go 100% crazy if I didn't have a distraction. When treatments weren't helping and my hands were completely inflamed, I thought I'd go nuts. At one point, I broke down when my hands wouldn't stop itching and burning with searing pain; so bad to the point I was screaming "cut them off, cut them off!"...Nobody could help me. What was there left for me?

  Fearing for my sanity, I poured herbal treatments down my throat. I relentlessly searched the internet for suggestions. With no television (not that I can sit and watch it anyways), no more friends, and a pile of plarn in a cabinet, I slathered salves on my hands, covered them in rubber gloves, and crocheted. It was the only hobby I had left that didn't cause any strain on my hands. I wrote down every pattern. I typed them up on the blog. And my hands started getting better.

  And that's where the Crochet is the Way name came from: It's an explanation. In present time, Crochet is the Way to get my sanity back. But the blog was started just before R.A. completely stopped my life. Just another side project. Well, more than that, really. It was my own mental experiment. I had a deep curiosity towards where my yarn addiction came from. I wanted to know what drove other people to knit and crochet, too. Back then, I already had so many reasons to crochet. The name just fit. Crochet is the Way...to relax. Crochet is the Way...to recycle (plarn!). Crochet is the Way...to financial freedom; or at least to save yourself some money. I fell in love with crochet for the many benefits that can come from it.

  But did people like my patterns? Was I writing them correctly? I don't fit into this world (so I thought) of yarn and frilly things. I like heavy metal, I work on cars, and I don't have enough tattoos yet. Can I make it in the yarn community? I'm only here because I have to be...Because a stupid disease robbed me of my ability to do everything...Well, at least that's what I told my "tough guy" buddies that made fun of the girl that used to rebuild transmissions now making baby booties...The truth is, I like it. I love it. Still, afraid that little old ladies armed with knitting needles held up in an "X" would shun me from their social circles, I quietly posted my work in a tiny corner of the internet, waiting to see what would happen.

   Crochet has become my way to everything. As it turns out, little old ladies with knitting needles aren't so bad, after all. They're to busy with "knit one, purl two" to hold up their needles against you. Anyways, this skill is not just a bunch of little old ladies. I've met people with other disabilities, people with mental problems, people needing an outlet for stress and people who just need an outlet for their creativity. I've met people my age, people older, and people younger. I say "people", because it's not just a bunch of ladies, either. And I think that's cool.  

  As for my fear of being shunned, it was ridiculous. I'm used to a community of people that are cutthroat, competitive, and downright rude. Insulting. You have to work your butt off to prove you have any skill, and when you've worked your hardest, you have to keep working it off to prove you "still got it". People that stand there and tell you that you're doing it wrong, while not bothering to give you a hand. People that, when I couldn't fix their cars for free anymore, well...It turns out they weren't my friends anymore.

  Crochet is the Way to find a new community. One where people tell you "good job", even when you think you could have done better. People that show their appreciation for your work. People that accept you, no matter who you are, because you share a love of yarn and hooks. Maybe they don't share your love of bands with names like Mushroomhead, Devildriver and Snot, and they might not know the difference between a spark plug and a solenoid, but they look past that to see the beauty in your stitches. Crochet is the Way isn't just about my own story, though. Crochet is the Way is everybody's story. Through pain, sickness, stress, loss, heartbreak, and even some good times, crochet has been there for many of us, being the way to...something.

  So, this is only to those who doubted my choice in a business name: "Four letter word" off. Crochet is the Way for me to get my life back. To mean something again. To make a difference in the world, like you never will. Because I use my skill to teach; to give. I'm too busy helping people learn how to improve their skills and better themselves to belittle somebody over something as trivial as a name. What can you say you do with your skills? 

  And to those who don't worry about labels, and enjoy what's inside the package, keep doing good in the world. Continue sharing your understanding, loving personality with others. Because the truly good people can look past differences, and only see what they have in common. Because sometimes, all it takes is to not insult somebody to let them know they can make it in this world.


  1. You are simply amazing! You have overcome what others would view as a disability that would ruin their lives and made something positive out of it! You are inspirational and unique and your name truly embodies all of your triumphs. And you're right...Crochet is the way!

    1. I've always known I'm unique, but I never thought I was amazing...Thank you so much for your encouragement!

  2. I have tears in my eyes after reading this and believe me, I don't get that way easily. Your strength shines through in every word and I salute you. I love the name of your business and it's no one's business but your own. Thank you!

    1. Thank you! It's so wonderful to find a community of people that are so inspiring...And I'm sorry I made you tear up!


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