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The Gift: How I learned to Crochet

This article was written by Kelly Valencia-Aiken. It is a personal story of how Kelly’s grandmother teaching of how to crochet.

Enter Kelly.

I am obsessed. Honestly, it’s more of an addiction. I may even need rehab. In fact, my friends and family should probably stage an intervention on my behalf. I think they would fail miserably, but they should still do it, just to be able to say they tried. I’ve been addicted for years, ever since I caught my grandmother in the act.

I remember the first time I saw it happen. I just stared in wide-eyed wonder. What is this magical thing she’s doing? I would sit and watch her in complete silence as she created something from (almost) nothing. How did she know what move to make next? What would happen if she made a mistake? Was there anyone else who did this? Could I do it, too? It was as if the shiny metal object in her hand were a wand and the yarn on her lap an incantation, coming together to reveal something otherworldly. It was at the tender age of seven she introduced me to the dark arts…I mean, the art of crocheting.

Ah, crocheting. Pretend you’re French when you say it and it seems almost as romantic as Paris, like a lover beckoning in the night. And ‘yarn’? Like honey on my lips is its sweet sound. I love the smell of it, the vibrancy of its colors, the textures, the possibilities. Anything imagined can be created with a simple crochet hook and a skein of yarn. From pillows to throws, clothing to stuffed animals, backpacks to hats, baskets to even jewelry – all of it can be made with such simple, humble tools when held in skillful hands.

I remember the day my grandmother taught me her craft. I was so nervous! So excited! So unsure of myself, yet eager to try. I watched her closely as I fumbled to hold the crochet hook just right. The yarn kept tangling around my fingers. I didn’t even know how to tie a proper knot! (It was then I was educated there was more than one way to make a knot.) Finally, I got it just right. Then came the counting. Oh, to this day how I still hate the counting! I counted aloud until I reached the right number, then she showed me how to turn the piece and start a new row. I was enthralled, and at that moment, I knew I was hooked forever (pun intended).

a person crocheting white yarn

My first-ever crocheted masterpiece was a round potholder. It was quite the eyesore. The stitches were too tight, too loose, I had too few or too many stitches all in one spot…it was glorious. I was crocheting! I, too, could create magic alongside my grandma! I graduated from the simple potholder to a scarf. It wasn’t much better. It didn’t matter. Although my edges weren’t straight and my yarn changes were glaringly obvious, I loved every moment of it. Now, I had a connection to my grandma that was deeper than ever, a shared interest that bridged the generations and bonded us closer. It became a weekend tradition for my uncle to take my grandma and me to Michael’s to get us stocked up on yarn. At first, I wasn’t sure what to get. My purchases were small, simple, and unimaginative. Soon after, however, my uncle had to reduce our outings to every other weekend when my bill alone was in the hundreds! I felt like a baby eagle who had just discovered flight. I had been given a beautiful gift I couldn’t wait to explore.

And what a true gift it has been, indeed, to crochet. In fact, I have crocheted for almost twenty-seven years. While other little girls were busy fawning over popular boy bands and practicing their makeup skills, I was honing a talent I enjoyed and discovering just what I could do with it. You see, I recognized immediately why my grandmother crocheted. It was a gift she had been given that was meant to be given away. For years, I would watch her make an exorbitant number of hats and afghans. They would be placed in bags or boxes and stored away in a closet somewhere. It was provision meant for another day. A decade later, she and I donated all of our creations to an orphanage in Mexico when my family went there on a mission trip. She alone had enough blankets and hats to meet the needs of each of the orphans there in the distribution line that day.

In January of 2017, I sat down one evening with the desire to crochet, as I had done so many times before. I didn’t want to create something without purpose, however, and I didn’t want it collecting dust on my shelves and taking up much-coveted storage space. No one I knew was having a baby, and everyone I knew already had at least a hat, scarf, and blanket made by yours truly. What can I make? Who will benefit from it? Suddenly, a thought came to mind. I remembered how I had made blankets for the orphanage in Mexico and realized I knew of an orphanage sponsored by my church that could likely benefit from a few donated items. After emailing and receiving information on what was needed, I knew I didn’t have enough yarn to meet the need. I put out ads on Craigslist and Facebook looking for donated supplies. I made as many crocheted items as I could and trusted my ads would be answered with provision to bless the orphans.

It was answered, all right! I had emails from several people nearby wanting to contribute to my cause. With the abundance of bins, bags, and even suitcases full of goods given to me, I recognized I needed someone to help me. I recruited my friend, Jess, and we both saw the need to form a nonprofit. Zenith Outreach and Enterprise Nonprofit Corporation was born as a family-run nonprofit where one hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to areas and people groups who need our help. We were on our way to making supplies for over one hundred orphans and over twenty-five widows in Guatemala. The only problem we ran into was what had been donated. Instead of crates full of yarn, there were boxes full of fabric! Sensing a change was underway, we went with the flow and determined to teach ourselves how to sew. In no time at all, an incredibly generous benefactor from several states away heard of our undertaking. Dianna stepped in and graciously provided the machinery and sewing notions we so desperately needed to be able to fulfill our mission. She became an invaluable source of help for sewing and a very dear friend to me in the process.

Although both women, my grandmother, Emma, and friend, Dianna, have passed on, it was the gifts they both imparted to me, a love for crocheting and a love for sewing, that live on and continue to bless and inspire others to use their gifts to benefit the world around them. If my grandma had not taught me how to crochet, I never would’ve met Dianna, who helped me learn to sew. Were it not for these two precious women, the orphanage for which we were privileged to provide much-needed items would still be waiting for someone to step in with arms of love wide open. It’s true when it’s said that you never know what a little yarn and a crochet hook can make. In my case, it made a difference.

Grandmother holding a grandchild

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