Friday, 26 August 2016

I'm Addicted to Crochet

It might seem like a strange hobby for a young woman. When I say young, I mean 40ish, which isn’t that young really, but I’ve been crocheting for years. I must have been in my late teens when I first learned and completed my first project, a granny blanket.

Crocheting is one of my favourite, if not at the top of the list, pass times. I was taught by my mum and my aunty and it is something passed along from one woman to another in my family, no doubt most families, of women who crochet, knit, stitch, sew. It is one of those oral traditions and practical skills that women just show and teach each other. Although these days, with Pinterest and super crafting websites, the abundance of materials, design and information sharing, it’s no longer just a pass time for old grannies. It’s a global art form ranging from the humble beanie to elaborate creations, like the art works of Shauna Richardson who crochets giant animal sculptures that were featured in the London Olympics. Her work is known as crochetdermy – literally crocheting life size and larger, true to life animals. 

I remember traveling through Europe in my early 30s and being completely enamoured by the lace making traditions in Venice and Malta. Those artisan crafts are at risk of disappearing and they were urging young women to take an interest, to talk to their elders about the craft and perhaps even learn, so they can pass it on to future generations. 

Lace Displays in Venice - Own Photos

Maltese lace making – Image via

I once attended an exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney that showcased some incredible lace and crochet creations. From wall hangings to garments and jewellery. Even crochet inspired urban fencing! It was truly incredible.

Crocheted Tea Set – Own photo

Wall hanging - Own photo

Garments – Own photo

Jewellery – Own photo 

Crocheted fence – Own photo

I love everything about crocheting. I love buying the yarn. Here I am holidaying in New Zealand in 2010 in a yarn shop. Happy much!!!

I love the feel of the hook traveling through the soft yarn and the rhythmic repetitive knot making, which is all crochet essentially is. Over the years I practiced the basic stitches over and over until I could do it without looking and gradually learned to not only understand the combinations and designs by reading written patterns, I also taught myself to read diagrams, which are much easier and less prone to errors.

It’s easy to learn how to crochet these days. There are YouTube tutorials for everything and the simplicity of crochet, once understood, demonstrates the endless possibilities that you can create and make. From garments to dolls, blankets, homewares, bags and anything else you can come up with. And it doesn’t have to look daggy. Some of the most well known designers like Dolce and Gabbana have released crochet lines. But who would want to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a homophobic and misogynist brand when you can make shit for yourself.   

Crocheting gives me peace of mind. It is incredibly meditative and relaxing, but it isn’t mindless. There is a lot of concentration and problem solving involved. Also mathematics, logic, creativity, ingenuity, patience and generosity. Crochet is a wonderful avenue for gift giving. I love nothing more than to make something for someone else and there are many opportunities to crochet for charity; from blankets for refugees, little pouches for orphaned baby animals and tiny beanies and booties for newborns and premature babies in hospitals.

Crochet as therapy is undeniable for me. It puts me into a meditative state, regulates my breathing and distracts me from negative thoughts. It’s a great time filler and lets me surrender to a productive experience when I’m feeling idle or am procrastinating. Best of all, it keeps my mind active and alert, but at ease. There have been some suggestions that crafts like crocheting can improve the health of the mind, even preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. It can improve memory and trigger recollection of treasured events in one’s life. The book Crochet Saved My Life by Kathryn Vercillo talks about how crochet can help with depression and stress at the very least. There isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to support the health and psychological benefits of crochet. Most of the information tends to be anecdotal and comes from people’s individual experiences. My uncle told me that his mother once had a stroke and the doctors weren’t optimistic about her recovery. She was a champion level crocheter. She invented stitches and patterns in her mind and could make absolutely anything from crochet. She did absolutely beautiful work. He tells me that after her stroke, she resumed crocheting and her facial paralysis improved. In fact, she made a complete recovery and astounded her doctors. It is hard to prove if there was a link between her crocheting and her recovery, but the doctors thought it was possible. It certainly didn’t do her any harm and she lived a healthy and productive life for many more years. 

I have made so many things over the years. For myself, my friends, their babies, my babies, for raffles and for strangers. I’ve photographed most things because I part with most of them. Someday I hope to share this skill with my daughters. They watch me now, mesmerised by my hand movements and the colour of the yarn. Ok, so mostly they play with the balls of yarn like kittens and undo my rows by pulling at it, thinking it's a game, but I do see that glimmer of curiosity and they love trying on their hats and ponchos as I make them. They watch me wear my beanies and scarves and gloves and smile at all the colours of yarn in the big bucket by the lounge. When all else is just too hard, I crochet. I sit quietly and knot and knot. Mostly I make little projects that are easy to complete and give me instant gratification, but there’s nothing more satisfying than finishing a big job like a blanket. The girls have one each and I made all three while carrying them in my belly, those memories woven in every stitch.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Summer Olympics in Brazil 2016

Image via: The Sun

The Summer Olympics are an exciting spectacle, but Olympic Games hosting cities are rarely without controversy. Rio De Janeiro is no exception. The money spent to host such an immense global event, when there is such financial inequality, poverty and as a consequence crime in a host city, means ordinary people are torn. Between being proud of their country’s hosting capabilities, showcasing their culture, world heritage sites and tourism, whilst at the same time being understandably angry at the injustice of governments producing the resources to accommodate a huge event, when funds for local infrastructure, economy, housing, employment and social services are lacking. 

Brazil’s economy has been growing steadily for the last decade and this is why it was awarded both the Summer Olympics in 2016 as well as the FIFA World Cup in 2014. The middle class has been expanding in Brazil and governments generally see events such as these as opportunities to invest in the infrastructure and economy and eventually generate jobs, tourism, revenue and improve public works for the locals. No doubt Brazilians have welcomed such a huge honour to host these events, particularly the World Cup – Football being a cultural phenomenon in Brazil and being without a doubt, the number one sport played in the country. Soccer is an institution in Brazil, having its own style and mystique renowned the world over. However, it is inevitable that the working classes are not only skeptical of the value these events will add to the Brazilian way of life, but also justifiably demanding of greater equality for the locals.

When projects go over budget, take exceedingly long periods to complete, or are not completed at all and when money is spent on hosting these events at the expense and detriment of governance that benefits the locals, people respond with demonstration. Events such as the Summer Olympics, while putting a spotlight on unity, sportsmanship, peaceful competition and inspiration, inevitably highlight societal inequality, corruption and conflict. 

In Brazil, protestors threatened to extinguish the Olympic Flame as it traveled to its destination. One of the torchbearers himself participated in protesting the current Brazilian government, bearing a slogan painted on his arse. Consequently, security has been on high alert and this raises questions about people’s civil liberties and human rights, particularly in a country like Brazil where the police and security forces have a reputation for being especially brutal. It has been reported that processes of ‘pacification’ have been used to clean up the favelas to make them safe and accommodating to tourists and spectators. While drug traffickers are often the target, civilian collateral damage is not unusual and Amnesty International has been keeping a close eye on human rights violations in Rio.

While the Summer Olympics demonstrate the strength of the human spirit (for the first time ever, a team representing refugees – there are more than 60 million displaced people worldwide according to the UN – is competing), the Olympics is also a time to consider the greater imbalances and inequalities that plague our world and perhaps inspire the desire to want to make change.