Sep 292014

Dear Reader,

Fall has come.  A few days ago I woke up in the morning and asked my sis (her name is Ana) to bring me a pair of socks to put on. Then, I wrapped myself as best as I could in the zigzagy  blanket that I crocheted two and a half years ago.  A warm cup of coffee would have been nice, but, since I am on a strict diet, I’m only allowed to drink natural juices and tea.  Around this time of the year, artsy craftsy  people get their hooks and needles on and start making all sorts of blankets, sweaters, shawls, cardigans, ponchoshats, and all sorts of other little bits and pieces.  This year, I am unable to join the crowd.  I know you will tell me that nothing can stop me, but there is something stopping me (last week, my sister and I tried to record on how to make and attach tassels to a shawl; I was missing so many yarn threads and loops that it became frustrating and weird, so I asked Ana to show the instructions for me – it was the first time she ever worked with a crochet hook…anyway, it is the same when I crochet simple stitches as well: I start with a chain of 20, the first row ends up with 22 single crochet stitches, the second goes to 19, the third uppers into 22 again and so on…Plus, I am unable to stop the tears from flooding down my cheeks when I am holding the bloody plastic hook in my hand.). So, today, I’ll talk a little about crocheting and how crocheting was just about to turn my life around (maybe it can still do so?). I have wanted to talk about this subject for months.

It not easy for me to talk about sad experiences from the past. So, I will start with this. A girl that I used to know and I had only met about five times in my life wrote me some months ago and told me that she read my blog and found out about my current situation. She said she remembers me as a fun, lovely girl who knew what she wanted from life. The fact that she remembered me filled me with joy, but at the same time it saddened me, because she was right. I was some one who wanted to do something meaningful. And I thought I knew exactly what to do to get there. For years I had wanted to work in advertising and make smart, creative ads. …I wanted to put my stamp on things. As a result, I worked very hard to get into the college that was supposed to bring me closer to my dream. But the real real world was not like I had imagined it to be.

Bucharest wasn’t like it was supposed to be.

College wasn’t like it was supposed to be.

Jobs weren’t like it was supposed to be.

Friends weren’t like it was supposed to be.

Love wasn’t like it was supposed to be.

Nothing was like it was supposed to be.

You, guys, will probably ironically say “Boohoo! Welcome to the real world!”

It’s not very easy to adjust to the way things work in the real world, especially if everything was such a big disappointment to you. Sadly, I was one of those cases of smart kids who lost themselves when set loose on their own. I still remember my advertising lecturer say:” You will never work in advertising if you don’t have connections!”  “Thanks, man”. That meant that 90% of the students wouldn’t be able to find jobs in the field.  You, guys, will say again: “Surprise, surprise!”  Well, it was a great shock to me, especially when that was my long life dream.  But how college was the first kick in the butt that life gave me is a whole other story, and I will gladly talk about it some other time (by the way, I would like to listen to your schooling days, your changes, dream jobs and careers).

In the beginning of my second year in college, after a few failing attempts at finding a decent job, I started being interested in handmade work. I first started with jewellery making (it was something a lot of girls were doing at that time), jewellery made out of Fimo that is, and, then, I tried knitting (I even got myself a sewing machine!). It wasn’t my first encounter with knitting needles. My mom and grandma were avid knitters and crocheters when they were young. I remember being fascinated by the wonders that came out of my mother’s hands when I was little. I, also, remember knitting a bra for myself when I was in high school. I even wore it one time while roller skating. A lot of people were looking at me strangely, probably because I was half naked – belly up, and I was in Braila, Romania (where people simply don’t do this kind of stuff), and not in California .

Beginner Knitted Scarf

Beginner Knitted Scarf

Beginner Knitted Purse

Beginner Knitted Purse using variegated bulky yarn

Beginner Knitted Vest

Beginner Knitted Vest

My knitting skills were sloppy and messy. I was nearly embarrassed with the results. My work was so bad that it took a guy (former flatmate) to teach me a few new knitting techniques to make the projects more interesting. Around the same time, my love and obsession for yarn developed as well.  Every time I had some spare money, I would visit the yarn shop (the name of the shop was The Crochet Hook, and was located in the historic center of Bucharest). I loved to look through the skeins of yarn, and , most of the time, I would choose those with the most striking colors.  There is a story I would like to share about buying yarn….The first time I decided to buy yarn, I googled for shops first. I found one located somewhere near Titan Park, in Bucharest. When I went there, I didn’t bring my glasses with me, so, I wasn’t able to see the texture of the yarn and the price very well.  I kindly asked the shop-assistant to let me get closer to the shelves to take a better look, but she wouldn’t let me. I told her that I had forgotten my glasses at home, and she asked me in a very condescending manner: “Why didn’t you bring them?” So, I looked from a distance and chose two skeins of yarn that looked interesting, a orange one and a black one, both with shades of white in between. When I touched them, I didn’t particularly like the feel of them, but the woman at the counter was so awful, that I just wanted to get out of there ASAP. I bought the two skeins and a pair of knitting needles, paid a lot of money for them and left the shop. I never came back there, not even once. I think she thought of me as some kind of teen who wanted to mess around (I look very young for my age). Her loss. I am a very good yarn customer. I wanted to point out that my first yarn shopping was a disappointment. I suppose I thought I was going to, lose myself among the shelves of yarn, to feel the texture of the yarn on my fingers, to read the information on the labels, and maybe weirdly, smell the yarn. The two lovely women at The Crochet Hook shop allowed me to do all of these things, so, I became I faithful customer. Skein, after skein, my stash of yarn was growing slowly and in a year’s time, I had a huge box (maybe I’m exaggerating  a little bit) full of skeins. Every time I bought a new skein of yarn, I would take all of it out of the box, put them together side by side on the bed, or on the floor, and, boy…!, how proud and filled with joy I felt while looking at the colors. It is such a small thing and it probably means nothing to so many people. But for me it really was happiness. Seeing as the path I chose wasn’t leading nowhere I wanted to, these new things, little things, like yarn stashing, coloring, knitting and crocheting brought lots of smiles on my face and somehow filled my half empty heart.

Back to the knitting part…There isn’t any. So, I said to myself: “Maybe I should try crocheting.” (One cute story about me starting crocheting:…One day. while I was visiting my grandmother, I told her that I wanted to learn how to crochet. She gave me her old crochet hook, a thin, rusty hook made out of metal, with a pretty twirled end that she had used for years. Unfortunately, the hook was so rusted, that I couldn’t use it. But I kept it and still have it and, if I am ever blessed with children, I’ll pass this hook on.). It wasn’t the first time I was holding a crochet hook either, but it was the first time I was taking the art of crocheting seriously. My level of crocheting was that of a beginner’s but it wasn’t as awful as my knitting was. In fact, I was doing a pretty good job. However, for nearly two years I didn’t dare do anything else except for the single crochet stitch and the double crochet stitch. Everyday, I would crochet something, and the next day I would undo it until my stitches began to look tight, clear and even. Attached bellow is a photo of me during my third year of college learning to crochet (I hope Ana gets the photo right, I remember it perfectly, even if I can’t see right now).

First Crochet Lessons and Crochet Stitches

First Crochet Lessons and Crochet Stitches

I dreamed of crocheting mountains of shawls, and selling them at the seaside during high season and joining fairs, and earning my living doing the thing I liked most. “Jesus, Catalina! Wake up“, shouted the reality at me then. I was still a beginner and my work wasn’t good enough for the kind of dreams I had in mind. The real world came in between once again. Because of some sad and unfortunate circumstances, I had to live Bucharest and come back to Braila, and go back to a job that I hated , which emptied my other half of the heart. But bills needed to be paid, food needed to bought, and life needed to go on. However, I was still hoping for another way of life. You see, my struggle for a free way of living has always made me a restless soul. When asked “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?”, I never knew exactly what to answer (I thought I knew that I wanted to become an advertising agent, but I didn’t have the skills). And I still don’t know for sure.  Finding something that would make me proud of myself has been the biggest quest in my life. This is something very important to me, doing something that I take pride in, and not just for the sake of getting a salary at the end of the month.

In any case, while wasting my life, my crochet hobby was not completely forgotten.

* * *

Today is the second day we are writing about crocheting and we are probably going to write tomorrow as well. I am due for a walk with my mom, Ana and Pufi, The Yorkie, later this evening. They are making me. I am horrified to go outside the house. But my brain and lungs are begging for a breath of fresh air. I want to make a fun photo of me (showing my love for yarn), but that can only happen tomorrow – will be added in a future post. This morning, Ana gave me a cup of warm milk with cocoa instead of coffee. I really appreciated it. She is very caring and always tries to find something healthy instead of the junk I would like to eat at times. Actually, I haven’t eaten anything junky for nearly a year. But every now and then, my family treats me to a slice of pizza and a bit of sugary stuff. But my eating habits are not important at the moment (however, please, due understand that my family is taking great care of me). So, let’s go back to the crocheting thing.

* * *

My crochet hooks were put aside for awhile.

One day, three years ago, I showed my sloppy made purses to a few people that I had just met. They were very impressed with my work and ask ed me why I wasn’t doing it anymore. One of them suggested me to apply for a You Tube partnership and showcase my art on the internet. Unfortunately, at that time, my country, Romania, wasn’t included in the You Tube partnership program. But the idea of earning my living through crocheting was deeply seeded into my mind. Just like I said before, the job I was doing made me very unhappy. So, I was looking for something to fill my free time and to take my mind away from the daily troubles. That’s when I decided to give crocheting another shot. I was already subscribed to Teresa Richardson You Tube channel (Crochet Geek). Looking through her tutorials, I became interested in the more advanced tutorials. So, I gave them a go. The first stitch that I learned was the Afghan Tunisian Stitch (Entrelac). I made a small example of the stitch for practice purposes and absolutely loved the looks of it.
On a Sunday morning, after a night shift, I went to a local yarn shop to buy some skeins and start my first real crochet project. The shop attendant was incredibly nice and polite and gave me lots of tips. However, I was still a beginner and I only bought nine skeins of yarn for a blanket (this is an issue for every beginner…buying enough yarn to complete your project). When I got home, I took the yarn out and looked at the pretty shades of brown that I bought. I felt very excited and very guilty at the same time. Guilty…because I spent quite a sum of money, which I didn’t particularly have at that moment…buying yarn is a guilty pleasure we crocheters have to deal. But I soon stopped thinking about the guilt and started crocheting my first blanket. And it was coming off the hook so beautifully and tightly, that I didn’t even care that I wasn’t going to finish it (because the shop didn’t have those shades of brown anymore, and I couldn’t find them anywhere else). All I ended up with was a small baby blanket, which I undid a year or so after; there is a photo attached below showing my first Afghan blanket.

Baby Sized Afghan Tunisian Entrelac Blanket

Baby Sized Afghan Tunisian Entrelac Blanket using three different colors

* * *

(My aunt came to visit us in the afternoon, that is why, my sister and I weren’t able to continue with the story. However, we did go out for a walk, and it wasn’t as horrible as I had imagined. It was a bit cold, though, and very loud on the main street and I kept telling myself: “Breathe in, breathe out, Catalina!”, because it felt like I had simply forgotten how to breathe. Now it’s a bit too late to share my thoughts about crocheting. But I still hope we will finish tomorrow. We will probably end up writing a dozen of pages, so I apologize if it is too extensive and, at times, off topic. But please remind yourselves that I’m still blind and partly deaf and this is a great way for me to practice my English skills, my writing, my imagination and my memory. Oh!, and even my patience and my listening. It’s like an online diary.)

* * *

It’s the 3rd day (I keep saying in my mind that it is the first day, probably because I listened to the song “First Day”, by Timo Maas and Brian Molko; I remembered the guy in the video, whom I really liked, and I had a nice dream about him 🙂 ). Anyway, today we will talk about more pragmatic things and less philosophy, less jiberish talking. The point I was trying to make is that I started to commit myself to more complex crochet stitches and projects. And once committed, I began learning incredibly fast.

However, “Life is Life”, as they say. I broke up with the boyfriend I had at the moment (after a five year relationship, which shouldn’t have lasted that long) and started living by myself. These are bits of my life that I am very unhappy with, but I’ll try to tell them in short phrases.

Moving on my own wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had.

For a reason or another (out of stupidity, or craziness, maybe), I pushed my family away.

I lied. A lot. And more importantly, I lied to my family.

I hid myself from my family. I made them believe I was some one else, and that I had a great life and a great job.

I didn’t have any friends. And those I thought were friends and knew a little about my suffering, didn’t do anything to help me, even when I asked them to.

A few of the things that were tearing me apart:  I had massive sleeping problems, I had money issues (they were never enough), eating problems…I felt like everything was an issue. As a result, I felt very lonely, sad, and depressed. I did not tell this to my family because I thought they would not believe me, or that they wouldn’t take them seriously.

I cried a lot. I ate junk food a lot because of it, and always at odd hours. I was so frustrated with my life, that I began to smash glasses on the floor. I was moving furniture at 4 o’clock in the morning. I became a couch potato, watching hundreds of hours of TV shows.

I rarely went out. And when I did, it was only to get myself some more bad food.

You can pretty much guess the state I was in.

Facing these kind of things, some people start drinking, some turn to drugs, most turn to religion, I turned to crocheting. Maybe, some of you have experienced how this type of activity can turn into an obsession. At times, it did feel as if it was an obsession. But most of the time, it simply made me happy. And little by little, my hands began to work wonders. Day and night, I spent hours crocheting blanket after blanket, shawl after shawl, purse after purse, and granny square after granny square. Then I joined You Tube using my real name and started showcasing my crocheting art through videos. They brought me a few views in a short time and I was getting nice compliments from nice people. So, it turned into something really fun for me to do.

Beginner Crocheted Blankets

Beginner Crocheted Blankets using different techniques

In the mean time I met an Irish person and invited me for the summer, in 2012. And that is where my love/hate relationship with crocheting really started.

N.B.: This post was written last week and it turned out to be so long, that my sister and I decided to split it in parts. The next part of the story will come out during the next few days.

Until next time,


  3 Responses to “My Soft Spot for Crocheting – The Beginnings”

  1. I’m super behind on my facebook notifications, so this is the first opportunity I have had to read this post. Thank you for opening up to us about your journey and your life. I too, struggle with poor health habits that have taken me years to start to overcome. I didn’t start exercising regularly till I was in my early 30s (I am now 45), and to this day, I have a major sugar addiction problem that would be a serious health hazard if I didn’t have such amazing metabolism and no family history of diabetes. Still it makes me feel pretty crummy at times because of my dysautonomia, so it is something I would very much like to overcome soon. And I can relate about hiding things from family, too. We get along much better now, but for several years, I hid my real self from my parents. It took time and growth on all our parts, as well as a few health crises to help us overcome our problems.

    I’ve been learning Tunisian crochet lately and entrelac, and I’m working on my second baby blanket in spiral Tunisian enterlac — a pattern I basically had to create myself, since the pattern sold on the Ravelry website was so poorly written, that there is no way even an experienced crocheter would be able to make sense of it. So I lost $7, but I managed to learn the technique for turning corners, as well as for enterlac, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it by now.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been keeping busy with my disability rights activism — I participated in a protest against a notorious eugenicist organization in the United States which wishes to eliminate all Autistics. If they did that, there would be no more people like most of my friends, my housemate, my father, my grandmother, and my great grandfather. And that would be very bad for society, since Autistics are responsible for the creation of the internet, for the discovery of most of mathematics and physics, as well as for the creation of some of the worlds greatest music and art. But even still: people ought not to have to justify their existence. It is very sad to me that the prevailing political view here in the U.S. is that Disabled people who cannot earn a living at a paying job are to be thought of only as burdens, rather than as deserving of acceptance, love, and belonging.

    In this respect, it sounds to me like your family is pretty awesome because they accept you and support you and want for you to be happy. 🙂 (smilie)

  2. Hi, do you have an address for the crochet hook in Bucharest? I am looking to start crocheting and the place sounds great

  3. Hi! I found your blog through the link on FB today. I just waentd to say HI and it’s nice to meet you. I live in FL as well and am just starting out homeschooling my son. I look forward to reading more of your blog, i’m sure I could glean a lot from your experience.

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