The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge


By Susan M. Thigpen © 1991

Issue: August, 1991

Recently I was in a nostalgic mood and I rambled around, found string and crochet hook and sat down to crochet a cover for the back of my rocking chair. I didn't have a pattern, but made up a simple diamond fillet design as I went along.

As my hands worked to remember the motions, my thoughts went back to childhood days when I first learned to crochet. My mother and grandmothers all did many different types of "hand work" such as crocheting and embroidery. As I watched them, I wanted to learn how make the pretty things they seemed to turn out so effortlessly. By the time I was seven or eight years old, I was begging them to teach me. This turned out to be more of a job than it sounds, for you see, I was and still am - left handed.

It isn't easy being left handed in a right handed world. My mother and grandmothers were all right handed, and the things that were so simply done and explained by them, were completely backwards to me. But I wasn't one to give up easily, and eventually learned everything except tatting. My tatting ended up in hopeless little knots. I still haven't conquered tatting to this day.

The way I learned to crochet was on a large wooden crochet hook that was whittled by my grandfather. A few years ago I wished I had some of those large wooden hooks and my father made two for me. There aren't many people who still whittle these days and things like those crochet hooks are getting pretty rare. It's an art that should be revived before it disappears completely.

The "yarn" I learned to crochet with wasn't yarn at all. My grandmother cut up a piece of material into long strips about an inch wide and rolled it up into a ball. I suppose the big hook and big cotton material "yarn" were easier for my little hands to handle at the time.

The first project was to be a rag rug. My grandmother showed me how to chain and join the chain to make a circle and then crochet around in the circle to make a round rug. After several rounds, my rug looked like a bowl, and she pulled out my work, wound up the "yarn" again, and this time she showed me how to increase stitches all along to make it lay down flat. This time I added too many stitches and it ruffled like a doily. With great patience, she pulled it out again, rewound it and I started all over. My third attempt laid down flat, but was lop-sided. I settled for lop-sided. What did it matter if one end was wider than the other? My grandmother was a perfectionist and I could tell she wasn't satisfied with it, but she let it pass. After a time I graduated from crocheting with cut up rags to tobacco twine.

Over the years I have crocheted many things - booties for my babies, afghans, and such. My crocheting never has gotten up to the high standards my grandmother achieved. My stitches still aren't all that even in size. Hers were all exactly the same size and beautiful. She could also make the high-looped doilies and starch and iron them like no one else.