Practice Makes Pretty Darn Good

Have you heard of those looms?  The ones that use little rubber bands to make bracelets or even necklaces or rings?  Julia wanted one SO BAD after some of her friends started making the bracelets and giving them to each other.  She’d been the recipient, but she wanted to be the maker and the giver, too.  So we got her some of the rubber bands (the store was out of the loom), and she learned to do a simple “fishtail” bracelet just using her fingers to weave the bands together.  But there’s only so much you can do with that pattern.

She really really wanted the loom.

So we got her one. 

And the day I brought it home, she sat down with it DETERMINED to make one of the harder bracelet patterns on the website.

Naturally her ebullience gave way to tears of frustration because it wasn’t as easy as she’d expected it to be.

I tried to reason (ha!) with her.  She’d only JUST GOT the loom.  Hadn’t even had it for two hours yet – maybe she should try an easier pattern to start with.  It’s like playing guitar…you have to start with the simpler pieces before you can play the more complex ones.

She started over.  And got a bit farther this time, but still hit some sort of snag and again she was in tears because she just couldn’t do it.

Well, no bracelets were made on the loom that night.  And she didn’t use it for the next several days, just sticking to the ones she could make using her fingers.   I’d occasionally mention the loom, mainly because I’d gone and bought the thing and thought she really should give it another try, but I didn’t push too hard. 

She tried again one day when I was at work.  Bill told me about it – oh, the tears.  I believed he used the term “meltdown” when describing her emotional state.

But eventually…finally…she got the hang of it.  And now she’s making bracelets for everyone.  Cranking them out in no time, and very proud of her color choices and patterns.

It’s hard watching that period of frustration.  I wanted to help her, but I’ve never used one of those things AND I had only ever used a crochet hook to crochet a really, really long chain – just never got the hang of it, so what help would I be with her and her rubber bands and loom?  None.

But that’s the thing – it’s not my job to make it easier for her.  It’s my job to give her sympathetic hugs and words of encouragement and attempt to put it in perspective for her with my maternal wisdom….and then give her even bigger hugs when she finally gets it, when the whole thing clicks in her mind and in her hands, and she’s off and running (or weaving or whatever you call it on those looms).


Maybe because I had never learned to crochet, this whole loom thing got me somehow wanting to crochet something.  My sister crochets.  My maternal grandmother used to crochet up a storm.  But it was never my thing.  I learned to knit, and made everyone scarves one year for Christmas.  But my interest in it lapsed at some point.  I tended to gravitate toward fabric…quilts, pillows, wall hangings….

But still.  With Julia’s mastery of the rubber band loom, my lack of crochet skills started to bother me.

So maybe a week ago I treated myself to a couple of crochet hooks – really pretty wooden ones – some yarn, and a pair of bamboo knitting needles because they were inexpensive and lightweight and I knew if I failed with the crochet needles, I could always knit something with whatever I unraveled during my meltdown. 

I found a picture tutorial online – well, zillions of them – and one night I sat myself down and started to learn.  I knew how to make a chain, so that saved me a nanosecond of time.  Next it was time to learn to single crochet.  That involved poking my crochet hook under that stitch and yarning over and making sure to count my stitches and not to have too much tension in the yarn because the stitches would be too tight and just get tighter with every subsequent row and eventually I wouldn’t be able to wrestle my crochet hook out of the yarn.  Or something like that.  And you don’t want to have to little tension, either, because then whatever it is you’re making will be all loose and loopy and probably get caught on heavy machinery and strangle you.  Or something like that.

But I was determined.

I made my crappy stitches and unraveled them because they were too tight or some were tight and some were loopy so it wasn’t consistent…and I tried again.  And it was frustrating.

But…again..I was determined.

So much so that by the time I was ready for bed that night – long after everyone else – I had a little odd-looking piece of something like crocheting to show for my efforts:


I took this picture the next morning with my phone so I could send it to my sister.  I think I was in need of encouragement. 

Oh, and ignore all the loops of yarn around the hook – that was just so it didn’t unravel on its own.

Now, rah rah, I crocheted (or something like it) several little rows – each successively tighter than the one before it.  But I just didn’t feel like I was doing it right.  It seemed too hard to do, and at first I blamed my own too-tight stitches and excess tension in my hands for the difficulty, but…..I still had the nagging feeling that I was really just doing it wrong.

So I unraveled the piece above and put it and my crochet hook aside for a little while.  Not forgotten.  Just put aside until I could find some time to find another tutorial that might help me figure out what was off.


I had today off from work.  Bill was at work, the kids were at school, and I’d decided it would really be a day OFF – no dishes, no laundry, no doing anything like that. 

For the first couple of hours after everyone had left, I did absolutely nothing at all.  Well, okay, I made and ate breakfast.  I sat on the couch.  I watched TV.  I scrolled through Facebook and Pinterest and checked my email.  But that was it.

And then, mid-morning, I got tired of wasting my day.  So I got my yarn and my crochet hook and a book on needlework that my mother gave me for Christmas a long time ago.  I tried to figure out what I seemed to be doing wrong, but I couldn’t really figure out the pictures in the book.  I saw in the little diagrams where my hook was supposed to go, or where it looked like it was supposed to go, and what I was supposed to do next, but I still just didn’t get it.  I knew I wasn’t getting it.  Again, it just seemed too hard.  Like I was forcing something that didn’t really need to be forced.

Anyway, I found a couple of video tutorials online.  Maybe a kind voice explaining the process AND showing it would work better.

First tutorial – nope.  Just like the picture tutorials only with words. 

It was the angle of view that was messing with me.

That, and, frankly, my hands.  I’ve mentioned before that I’ve got carpal tunnel issues with both hands.  Sometimes more than just issues.  Sometimes it really, really sucks.  I wake up with numbness in one or both hands, or parts of them, most mornings.  I drive to work and switch hands holding the steering wheel so the other hand can relax and the weird gravelly, needles-and-pins feeling will subside a bit.  I know I aggravate it at work, and at home, chopping and peeling and whatever else I might be doing in the kitchen.  But at the same time, I usually find that at work, for instance, I’ll start out with pain and those odd feelings in my hands and as the day goes on things start to feel better.  Or bother me less.  It’s a weird thing. 

And, of course, the cause is not solely kitchen-related.  All sorts of things bother my hands.  All things I love to do – things fabric related, wire and bead related, yarn related, sometimes typing, too.

There are days a meltdown really appeals to me.

But there’s a stubborn streak in me, and so I just do the things I want to do anyway.  Maybe I don’t work on projects as long as I’d like to.  Or I alternate between one task an another.  I adjust.

Anyway, this morning, my hands were both rather unpleasant, worsening as I attempted to sort out my crochet stitches, and I was getting frustrated, stopping and starting, unraveling, letting my hands rest flat on the couch at my sides while I glared at the laptop screen.

I finally found a video tutorial that helped, though.  Maybe it was filmed at just the right angle, or maybe the woman’s voice was particularly soothing and encouraging – I don’t know, but whatever it was, something clicked and I suddenly understood how to do what I needed to be doing.  Yay!

The only issue left was how to hold the tension in the yarn.  You typically do that with your left hand (if you’re crocheting right-handed), looping the yarn through a couple fingers, leading it off from your index finger as you grab it with the crochet hook and pull it through existing stitches.

I couldn’t keep the yarn looped properly over a finger.  I couldn’t keep tension in it, couldn’t keep the yarn on my hand even.  And it didn’t help that the more I tried, the tighter my hands got, and the tension made them ache and feel all gravelly and needles-and-pins.

It was stop and start for a good hour or so, and I could feel myself just getting SO FRUSTRATED, and part of me wanted to cry, and part of me just wanted to throw the crochet hook at the poised and elegant hands of the woman in the video tutorial, and part of me was wondering why the hell I felt I had to crochet anyway, since I’ve got plenty of other hand-aggravating hobbies to keep me busy.


That’s how I felt.

But the stubborn streak wouldn’t let me stop. 

And bit by bit, it sort of got…easier.  I still had to really focus on what I was doing, but I was getting the hang of it (except for the keeping the yarn where it was supposed to be on my left hand).  And eventually, finally, I had this:


(I took this with my phone – the rectangular piece is on my lap.  You can see two of my toes on the floor up there.)(Which makes it sound like they fell off my feet and rolled into the picture.  They didn’t.  But if they had, this would have been a very different post.)

Anyway, I clearly had screwed up in my counting in a bunch of the rows, which you can tell by the bumps and dents along both sides. 

But still.  I had the hang of it.  I could do better.

So I did.  Here it is:


Still not perfect, but way better than my first saved effort.

I’ll take it.

3 thoughts on “Practice Makes Pretty Darn Good

  1. I love and admire your determination. I wish I had some! haha!

    I have the night tingles/numbness and have started wearing braces on my wrists at night. When I wear them, it helps me wake up with useable hands and arms. If I don’t wear them, I pretty much can’t use my hands/arms for an hour or so. If you don’t have any wrist braces, get them!


  2. This column was wonderful. My favorite part:
    “But that’s the thing – it’s not my job to make it easier for her. It’s my job to give her sympathetic hugs and words of encouragement and attempt to put it in perspective for her with my maternal wisdom….and then give her even bigger hugs when she finally gets it”
    That, dear Jayne, is the ultimate description of parenthood. And I wish more parents understood that. Thank you. Thank you again.

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