A huge thanks to Anna Sheldon for answering my self-interview questions to share her crochet story here with us today! When asked to describe herself in a few words, she shares that she is “sassy, playful, funny and trustworthy” which all comes through in her crochet blog Counterintuitive Knit and Crochet and surely also comes through in her work teaching others to crochet.

anna-sheldon

When and how did you learn to crochet?

I don’t recall the exact age but would guess that I was age ten or younger. I sat with my grandmother, in her living room, on days that she took care of my sister and me. She was always crocheting. Always. One day I asked her to teach me. I am left-handed and my grandmother was not; therefore if I wanted to learn I had to learn right-handed. I was a very impatient child; I wanted to learn everything “now” and didn’t want to sit still for very long. I really appreciate that my grandmother took the time to teach an overactive left-handed kid to crochet! And I still crochet right-handed today.

Did you keep crocheting from them on?

No, I came back to it later. I am an avid knitter and had been knitting for awhile when, about six years ago, I wanted to belong to a knitting group but couldn’t find any so I started my own. It started at a beautiful and (then) newly-built housing facility (Bridge to Life Center) for those who are temporary displaced from their homes due to the economy, loss of jobs, addictions, etc. I contacted the organizer and asked if I could come teach the guests how to knit – “or crochet” … crochet was actually a last-minute afterthought because I thought if I included it then it might make me more qualified and the group more appealing.Good thing I thought of it; in the past six years I’ve taught three people how to knit and well over 100 people who to crochet! Thank you again Grandma!

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Anna with a student at a craft booth

What is the most important thing that you want to tell someone who is just learning to crochet?

I always tell my students that when learning to crochet your hands will feel awkward and fumbling at first. That’s okay, that’s normal. It is important for beginners to know that there is actually a loft of movement involved in crochet, a lot of holding, positioning and thinking that are going on simultaneously. IT IS OVERLOAD.

I try to reduce the overload by spending extra time teaching others how to set up the working yarn properly and how to use the crochet hook to their advantage. Once they get this, it is easier to focus on the mechanics of making each stitch.

And then I make sure to remind them: RELAX YOUR SHOULDERS. If you don’t, you might be sore tomorrow from learning to crochet today!

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Great tip. What other tips can you offer?

  • Be creative.
  • Take your project with you wherever you go.
  • Sit comfortably.
  • Make sure that you have good lighting.
  • When you find that you just aren’t “getting it” or are making mistakes, ask yourself if you are tired and if so then stop!
  • Don’t look to the Internet for help. This is one of my favorite tips. It sounds harsh, I know, but I have learned that these women are more creative when they aren’t overwhelmed with a zillion choices on the web.

That’s interesting! I turn to the Internet all of the time to learn new things but can see what you mean. Speaking of learning new things, are there things in crochet you still want to learn?

Heck yeah! I don’t know a lot and I am always searching online to learn more. I would love to learn Irish crochet, but I think I would need to have younger eyes!

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What type of crochet projects do you enjoy? What are the smallest and largest things you’ve made? What was the first thing you crocheted? Or the weirdest? Or the one you’re most proud of?

I love quick projects! The smallest was a bracelet. The largest was a square rug made with my handspun yarn. The first thing that I ever crocheted was a small chevron blanket that is now housed in a closet. The weirdest project was a set of crochet wine glass holders. The one I’m most proud of is that right now I’m working on designing a crocheted shoe, one that doesn’t look like a slipper, and I’m almost there with the design.

What has helped you in the design process?

I’ve always loved making felted slippers and wished I could turn them into everyday shoes, and yet, I didn’t like the bulkiness a knitted felted fabric yields, so I turned to my hooks. Shortly after I decided to crochet a shoe, I came across a great book called, Master Your Craft: Strategies for Designing, Making, and Selling Artisan Work, by weaver and writer Tien Chui. I have never seen a book on this specific topic and ordered it immediately. I was thrilled when I learned she also offered one-on-one coaching. Today, I am working with Tien during my shoe designing process. What I have learned thus far is how to break down the creating process into steps, how to focus on what works, and let go of what doesn’t, even though I think it “should.” Take a look at her book, every creative person should own a copy.

Great recommendation … Back to some basics: when and where do you crochet?

The better question is, “Are you ever not knitting or crochet”? The answer is no! I live in Northern California, where I work full time at the Superior Court and you can always find me knitting or crocheting during my lunch hour. I really do craft everywhere. I can’t walk and crochet because I have to look at my crochet stitches while I work but I can walk and knit, which I do frequently. I also craft after work while watching sports on TV with my husbands and on the weekends while riding in the car. I even craft at the movies; a knitted hat in the round is perfect for movie crafting!)

Have you ever been injured by your crochet hook?

Not from the hook itself but definitely from using it too long! I get thumb pain if I go too long.

So you knit and crochet and spin … anything else? How do the other crafts compare to crochet?

I also needle felt. Knitting and crochet provide different options for me. When making sweaters, skirts, scarves, shawls, socks, hats, or gloves I prefer knitting. BUT, when I want to be creative, I pick up my hook. Crochet is a creative outlet for me. It’s more forgiving than knitting. Many of my crochet mistakes become design features.

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Have you ever sold your items?

I’ve sold once or twice at local craft fairs but that doesn’t really interest me. What does interest me is having the ladies that I teach sell their items at our local fairs. Some of them have very little money, so what they sell really helps out. More importantly, the pride that they feel is overwhelming. I was thrilled when these ladies sold their handmade items while sitting in 103 degree heat. In following weeks, one of the other ladies, Dennis, sold at another fair; even after spraining her hand she continued to crochet more items for her booth! Dennis used the pattern I had created to crochet wineglass holders; there wasn’t anything like them in any other booth. These are remarkable women that I’ve had the honor of knowing.

Stephanie Holloway shows off different crochet styles of purses she produced at the Mission Solano Bridge to Life Center, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Fairfield. The items including scarves, purses, and hats will be sold this weekend at the annual Tomato Festival. (Steve Reczkowski/Daily Republic)
Image source: Daily Republic

It sounds like you’ve seen the benefits of crochet. Do you consider it therapeutic?

Definitely. This video, which I’ve shared on my blog, is a great video that really says it all:

Crochet has brought me the opportunity to share yarn and hooks with so many wonderful and creative women. Even though I am their teacher, I have learned to be a much better crocheter because of them. I crochet because it is my creative need. I crochet to keep my mind young and I crochet for my students. If I had to pick the number one reason I crochet: I’m addicted to it.

Finish the sentence: “If I couldn’t crochet I would …”

Exercise more than I do now! I do pilates, though.

What is your favorite quote?

“Be the change you wish to see in others.” Gandhi

Be sure to check out Anna’s blog which focuses on inspiring knitters and crocheters to teach their craft to others.

Want to share your thoughts and experiences about crochet? See my self-interview page here.

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San Francisco based and crochet-obsessed writer, dreamer and creative spirit!

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