Are you looking for a new relaxation technique? Need a new hobby in order to convince your mother that you do things with your life? Do you want something to do with your hands while you take a long ride on that sweet, sweet CTA green line? Have I got a recommendation for you.
Okay, let’s start with the basics. Knitting is the one where you use two long needles, and crocheting is the one where you use one hook. If you’d like to learn how to knit, it’s pretty easy to do so just by watching videos online. I was able to hobble together enough skill to successfully complete a scarf after watching a YouTube video. I watched it on about ¼ speed about 40 times and might have wanted to scream a few times, but it was doable. However, protip: crocheting is very hard to learn through a YouTube video and trying to do so is the opposite of a relaxation technique. Either learn from a friend who knows how, or I’d recommend taking a class-- I’ll get to more on that later.
Why knit or crochet at all? First of all, it allows you to channel incredible amounts of grandma energy, which is powerful in its own unique way. But it’s also what I like to call a “productive” fidget; it’s a way to keep your hands busy while also creating something. If you’re listening to a podcast or binging the newest season of a TV show, you can both have something to do with your hands while doing so and also have a final product to marvel at after a few hours.
There are a variety of simple projects you can make as a beginner. Scarves are incredibly easy to make, perhaps the easiest, and that’s what I’d recommend starting on if you’d like to learn how to knit: there are approximately three billion YouTube videos out there that will teach you how to knit a scarf, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve found it relatively straightforward to learn to do so. Aside from scarves, another great beginner-level project to start is a hat, but I’ll give that a word of warning: ever since I’ve learned how to make hats, I’ve found it very hard to stop. Whenever I want to relax and get my mind off of things, I’ll put on some jams and work on a hat. I have far, far too many hats.
If you have a relative or friend who will teach you in person, that would be by far the easiest route to take. However, if you’re interested in taking a class, there are two places in Chicago that I’ve personally been to and can recommend wholeheartedly. The first class I ever took was a group crochet class at Nina Chicago (ninachicago.com), located by the Chicago blue line stop, where we learned how to crochet a cowl (which is like a short infinity scarf that goes around your neck once).
A group class was amazingly entertaining. There were perhaps a half a dozen students taking the class, all of whom had little or no prior crocheting experience, of widely different ages and backgrounds. The instructor walked us through step-by-step how to complete each stitch, with the group of us sitting in a circle watching her fingers with a mix of rapt attention, awe, and hysterical confusion. When I would have trouble with a particular step, I would look to the person next to me and find the same expression of amused frustration mirrored on their face. By the end of the class, I was nearly done with my cowl and I had a good handle on a number of different stitches and techniques.
The second class I took was at Yarnify! (yarnify.com), located much closer to campus near the Roosevelt green line stop. I wanted to learn how to make a hat, but even with the skills I had acquired at the previous class was having some trouble getting started. I made an appointment for an hour-long individual lesson, which was about the same price as the group class at Nina Chicago (~$30). The instructor there was amazingly patient and skilled, and having someone there to tell you exactly where you’re going wrong was extraordinarily helpful. By the end of the hour I was almost done with my hat and had so much more confidence in what I was doing.
The one drawback of this hobby is the expense. But while good yarn is expensive, cheap yearn can be quite cheap. For example, I bought a sizeable bag of yarn at a garage sale for less than a dollar, and while it had clearly been sitting in a closet somewhere for the better part of a decade, the colors ranged from acceptable to magnificently ugly, and the quality was nothing to sniff at, it was more than enough for what I needed. You can usually find boatloads of yarn at Goodwill for fairly cheap too. That being said, you need to buy needles and hooks, too (unless you’re lucky and you have a relative who will gift them to you), and although they are fairly cheap, little things add up.
As midterms start to take a toll on students’ health, it’s important to remember to make time for self-care. Knitting or crocheting is an option I’d wholeheartedly recommend, but as I said, a word of warning: once you learn how to make hats, you may find it difficult to stop.