I’m Not ‘Good’ at Crocheting, and That’s Fine

Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Videos: Getty

The first time I tried to crochet, I was 10 years old. It went exactly as you’d expect: I couldn’t make sense of the instructional booklet that came with my purple yarn and matching purple crochet hook, and I abandoned my new hobby almost as quickly as I began it. No matter the hobby — making jewelry, playing the guitar, knitting — I’ve never stuck with one long enough to get good. Then, just my luck, crocheting became a thing.

It’s on TikTok. On the runway (see: Chloé’s and Jacquemus’ spring-summer 2022 shows). On the skulls of celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Sophie Turner in the form of the trendy crochet bucket hat. And in real life, in the hands of my expertly crocheting friends who say it helps them focus and relax.

While there’s no shortage of crochet ’fits available for purchase right now, this is the kind of thing I’d love to be able to do myself. To be able to personalize my clothes, to produce handmade gifts for my friends and family, to recreate Harry Styles’s infamous JW Anderson cardigan because I can’t afford the $1,560 price tag. So, obviously, I decided to give crochet another try.

Like all good crafty endeavors, I started in the aisles at Michael’s, meditating on the right color yarn and appropriate amount for a beginner who may abandon the whole thing in a few weeks’ time. I settled on two multicolor rolls of yarn (I figured the color variation would make my projects look interesting without having to do anything technically different) and a pack of crochet hooks. As I was checking out, the cashier asked if I wanted to join their rewards program. “Yes!” I replied enthusiastically. I’m a crocheter now.

I had big dreams for my first project. I was starting from the place of not knowing how to make a slipknot (an allegedly straightforward knot that begins many crochet projects and that I forget how to do every time), but how hard could it be? With YouTube tutorials, I figured not that much. I chose one (for a “simple crochet mini shoulder bag”) that had the right balance of a cute thumbnail and “for beginners” in the title and got to work.

Crocheting is intricate and requires a little more attention to detail than you (me) might expect. Patterns (crochet-speak for the instructions for making a piece) require you to count stitches, alternate the number of crochets you place into a hole, and overall be precise with your weaving. What I thought could be a mindless activity to do while I watched TV or listened to a podcast was really just me rewinding a YouTube video over and over again. Wait, where does the hook go? Does this count as a stitch? Have I completed a full lap around my bag? Eventually, my “simple” “crochet” “mini shoulder bag” looked too misshapen to rescue.

Nonetheless, I was part of the crochet internet now, which encouraged me to keep going. (Well, that and this assignment.) I saw other 20-somethings on TikTok proudly sharing the cozy cardigans, abstract dresses, and animal figurines they made. I laughed at suddenly relatable crochet memes. And, across videos, I stumbled upon my favorite recurring crochet inside joke of all: crocheters sharing the terrible first projects they made as though it was a rite of passage. There were lopsided scarves, tops that didn’t fit, and one truly terrifying bag with a pumpkin face on the front. It turned out I was right on track.

I decided to restart smaller, practicing stitches on small crocheted hearts, flowers, and stars, decals meant to be attached to other projects, learning how tightly I should be pulling my yarn. After a few days, I decided I was ready for something bigger (admittedly, bigger is easier in crocheting): a blanket.

After abandoning two projects, I was determined to finish my third. I took my yarn on the bus, found myself wanting to crochet during meetings, and even got to the point of being able to do it while I watched TV. Once I found an appropriately challenging pattern (so, not challenging at all) and built up enough confidence that the blanket wouldn’t turn out totally terrible (I mean, how could I mess up a blanket?), crocheting turned into the fun, relaxing pastime my friends said it was. I was, if you will, hooked.

Thinking back to all of the abandoned creative pursuits of my past, I realize that, yes, it was my fault. I wasn’t interested if I wasn’t yielding great results. If I couldn’t be the greatest jewelry-maker of all time at 14 years old, then why even pick up my flat-nose pliers? The impulse to compare and compete was always there, even when it didn’t make any sense. But now, I’m just excited to have something to get better at — not to be the best. Maturity! And I’m proud to say that I have zero financial aspirations for my crocheting. In a world where the first thought is always How can I monetize this? I’m happy to have something that is just for fun.

My blanket isn’t perfect — it has a big bulge in one spot from when I was still figuring out the pattern — but it’s soft and functional. It’s physical, unavoidable evidence that I’m not great at everything I do and a tangible manifestation of time spent sitting in front of a screen playing The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills — another hobby of mine that refreshingly goes against all of my productivity-culture-informed instincts. Every time I show it off to someone, I enjoy recounting the high-stakes drama of returning to the store several times to find more of the right yarn after running out (it was on clearance and sold out online and in the first store I checked — what a rush). I feel like a child, proudly showing my friends and family what I’ve been making and basking in her enthusiasm. Eleven years later, I’ve come full circle, finally proving to younger Olivia that she can finish an art project for once.

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I’m Not ‘Good’ at Crocheting, and That’s Fine