Linda Kennedy describes herself as “just a normal run-of-the-mill woman, who happens to have had a few difficulties in my very normal life.” Crochet has helped her get through some of those difficulties. We learn more about that and her crafty life in this interview.
When did you learn to crochet?
I learned several crafts in a church group when I was a child. At 9 we did stamped cross stitch. At age 10 we did knitting. Then at age 11 I learned to crochet. Knitting is the only one that I don’t do anymore.
So you do crochet and cross stitch. Any other hobbies?
Actually I began by doing puzzles. There were times when my body could do nothing, but my hands wanted something to do! I used a piece of heavy cardboard as a puzzle board. It went with me from the family room to the bedroom, day after day after day. I was so numb at this time that I’m talking about, that I would forget what I had said just a few minutes before; I could hardly move my body. In fact, it would take hours just to find where one piece went. Such a drastic change. But finally, I could start to think again. Then I moved to cross stitch and embroidery. It was compact and could move easily around the house with me. Once I finally started to leave the house, I took my project with me in a Ziploc bag. I found that I tired of one project quickly, so I picked easy things and had more than one ready to go all the time.
It sounds like you were dealing with depression; is that right?
Yes, in part. It is a really difficult journey. Going from a “normal” person, to being in bed most of the time, and fighting back to a “semi-normal” person, is not an easy road. I have seen others who don’t find something to fill their mind and their time, who can only talk about what is wrong in their life. I do not want to be the person that others avoid being around.
How has crochet helped?
Doing work with my hands has helped me work through panic attacks and a few other things. I began with cross stitch and then moved to crochet. Being able to carry a project (or two or three) with me has made it easier to leave my home and to wait at the numerous places a wife and mother has to wait.
Having handwork to do is different than just trying to read a book. I have something to concentrate on, something that can occupy my whole mind, or just a portion of it; whichever I need it to at the moment. A book never holds my attention long enough and I find that I start having problems if I try to “just read”.
So crochet has helped with getting you out of the house, allowing you to sit still through difficult times in order to accomplish the things that you need to in the course of a day. Does it help in other ways?
It also has helped me with insomnia. When I can’t sleep I grab some yarn and a hook and work in the dark until I can go to sleep. Many times I wake up with it all in bed with me. It also helps me know what my skills are! If you work in the dark and then look at it in light, you will be able to tell easily where you need to improve. It’s a very eye-opening way to “test” yourself.
And it sounds like you crochet in a lot of different places, besides just at home?
I will crochet ANYPLACE! If I go out, I have a project with me. Waiting for an appointment, visiting with people, in church (small thread bookmarks so I don’t disturb others), riding in a car, in the dentist chair, in bed, watching TV, on an airplane, even in the dark when I can’t sleep.
Have you ever taught anyone else to crochet?
I have had a number of opportunities to teach others to crochet. One of the memorable times was during the lead up to the display of the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef in Scottsdale, Arizona in April 2009. We worked in a group. That was so much fun, I can’t even describe it.
The most meaningful teaching I have done has been my grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. One of the nephews is a teenager now and when we meet for a family get-togethers and I see him carrying whatever he is working on, my heart swells. That is mostly because he has some difficulties and seeing him have a stress reliever is so wonderful!
In July 2014, I was visiting my son and his family. One of the boys wanted me to teach him how to crochet. I started him with a hook, a small ball of yarn and showed him how to chain stitch. When they were visiting for Christmas 2014, he reminded me that I was going to send him a hook. He loves to make huge chains! I told him that he can start to come back and work in the hole of the chain but didn’t have time to really demonstrate. That day he made his mother a necklace and had worked out his own way of stitching into the chain.
That’s nice that you’re able to share it with others, especially youngsters. Are you a part of a regular craft group?
I am always the only one crafting but usually there are people around while I do. I would love to be a part of a group, but there just aren’t too many here. I live in the HOT Phoenix Valley and we just don’t use as much to wrap up in as the rest of the nation! I think of myself as just taking care of myself, not in a group or anything, but it still has benefits that others are there.
It gives a validating feeling when others watch my hands work! Many conversations are started as I sit waiting and crocheting which gives me a wonderful opportunity to share the facts about healing with hooks (or needles) and yarn. I also carry cards with my blog address where I have a page of crochet links that people can use if they are interested. People can learn with just one hook and one skein by watching videos online. I hope that a few have done that; I tell myself that they have.
What do you like to crochet? For who?
Usually I am making afghans for babies or children. Sometimes I will make one for an adult, but not often. Most of the blankets are for people at church with a new baby, or for a children’s hospital in our area. Because this age group is going to get it dirty, I make it out of acrylic so it is washable and dryable in the machine. Simple care! But it really started as what I could afford to buy. When you crochet a skein (or more!) a day, it can get very expensive!
When I am making the baby blankets for the people at church, I know them and think about them often as I am working on theirs. I have heard some of the women talking about how they can’t wait to get their blanket for their baby. That makes me so happy! One that I made was for a baby that had heart problems and no one knew if she would live or what would happen. Because of that, I crocheted it in white; it’s the only one I have done in white; and I thought about the mother and child more during that one than others. The mother had put on Facebook some updates on the little girl, but they were always positive and she kept planning for long-term, which wasn’t guaranteed. I decided that she needed to be told what an example she was being to so many. So I posted on her Facebook about it, how we knew there were difficulties ahead, but she was being so positive and looking forward and loving this little girl. She was showing all of us how to enjoy the moment, even when there are tough things ahead. It doesn’t change the tough stuff, but lets you have much more joy in the journey. I felt it was important for her self-esteem to do it in a sort of public way, and found out very soon that I was right to do it that way.
That’s a great example of how crochet can go beyond just the gift of the item itself. Do you have any other similar stories that you would like to share?
One of the projects I did was for a woman from church. She hadn’t been attending because of her husband’s health. Then she found out that she had cancer. They asked me to make something for her, and since her home was filled with red, white and blue, those were the colors I used. When they gave it to her, she cried because she didn’t think anyone would do something like that for her and she didn’t really know many people at church anymore. Seeing how I can touch someone’s heart is so comforting to me! It also makes the work go faster.
What types of projects are most healing for you personally as you work?
I have found that the most healing type of crochet for me is “brain-less patterns”. I need a pattern that I can do in one piece, and very repetitive. That allows my mind to create a numbness that I somehow need both at home and outside the house. When I used to take a book to read, my mind couldn’t concentrate on what I was reading. There would be pages that I read and had no idea what it had said! That created a frustration, not a help. With repetitive stitches, I can literally stop in the middle on anything and know exactly where I am the next time I pick it up; no counting, only changing colors at the beginning of a new row, simple things. For that reason, I don’t make wearables! I have made a couple of scarves for my daughter, but she seldom wears them, so why do it.
What is the number one most healing / beneficial aspect of crochet for you?
It’s hard to limit myself to the one most beneficial aspect for me. It helps me not get upset; that’s pretty generic, but that encompasses a lot. It helps me wait without anxiety, it keeps me from getting into an argument with my family, and just helps me through things that can touch off anxiety or anger.
Are there any health issues that crochet does not help with?
Nothing will help unless you “let it”. I have depression, chronic fatigue, interstitial cystitis, and a couple of other fun things. But I have found that if you don’t “want” something to work, it won’t. When you have a chronic health issue, it often requires big change. If you are willing to accept that wonderful blessing that comes with some work, you will benefit and you will bless others. It can be discouraging when it takes a long time to pull yourself out of a rut or problem that you have dealt with for years. But it also took a long time to get to the bad place you were at.
Besides crochet, what other things do you do to heal?
I have found that it is important for me to get out of bed and dressed for the day, every day! That may sound odd, but when you deal with a chronic health issue, there are many days that it is hard to just get up. I find that the days I stay in bed are the hardest ones. It also makes it harder the next day to get up and moving.
There is one other activity that I do to help myself heal. Family history research is one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done! Finding relatives, close and far, can be so interesting it just draws you in. There is so much online and free that I can do this sitting at home and be able to see the original record for a birth, death, marriage, census, and so much more! Finding the will of a relative is so exciting; it can give so much information about the family that you feel like you really know them. Finding that some weren’t able to have children or they had many children die young is sad. Sometimes I can work for 5-6 hours and have a hard time finding a stopping place. There are times it has taken all my crochet time for the day. The only thing that would be better is if I could find a way to do the research and crochet at the same time.
Finish the sentence: “The number one reason that I crochet is ….”
… it is a way for me to touch others as I take care of myself. It can be hard to be involved in the lives of others and to do service for others, when your ability to “go and do” is very limited! This is a way to serve others. I can be in the places that are comfortable for me and have something to show for my time. It is a blessing for me that blesses others too.
I have a goal to make sure that everyone I come in contact with, has had a reason to smile, has laughed, or feels better about themselves. If I can find a way to make others smile when they talk with me, I have made a small positive impact in their life for that day. What more can you ask?