Unless you’re a rank beginner at crochet, you probably have completed projects that range from Easy to Intermediate to Difficult to Challenging. These terms are, of course, somewhat questionable. What seems easy to one person may be extremely challenging to another crocheter. I know how to do a single crochet, but an entire project of single crochet would push a project into the category of Challenging. Why is it challenging? Not because of the stitch or even the choice of yarn. Rather, it would be simply, for me, a Nemesis project that I would never want to pick up – that would nag at me and would become a waste of time and yarn.
But, what about you? Do you look at those indications on patterns – the ones that tell you the pattern is Easy or Difficult? Do they inspire you or deter you? Do you find they are accurate? Useful?
I find that the level of difficulty usually refers to stitch patterns alone. But, I’d advise anyone who is not terribly experienced with crochet to consider Challenging any pattern that calls for Mohair yarn. That stuff is a bear to ‘frog’. Although I’ve been crocheting for many years now, I’ll always work a practice piece in simple acrylic yarn to be sure I have the stitch pattern down pat before I attempt it in Mohair. Can you tell I’ve had some bad experiences there?
The feedback I get from readers of this blog makes me feel that crocheters fall into two categories that I consider more important than their skill levels. Are they adventurous or not? If one is adventurous, even as a beginner, the difficulty labels are just noise. However, for the more cautious crocheter, the difficulty levels become confining, discouraging the crocheter from attempting something that might be beyond her level of expertise.
Several years ago, I taught a friend to crochet. I gave her a hook and some worsted weight acrylic and taught her to chain and single crochet in about an hour one afternoon. That’s all I showed her. The next day, she showed up at work with a hobo sack type bag she had crocheted that evening!! She had crocheted to bottom circle then she figured out how to turn her crochet up to create the sides of the bag then she crocheted a shoulder strap for the bag! I was stunned! Clearly, she had not cooked dinner – but she swore she had gone to bed. She must have crocheted in her sleep! In less than 24 hours, she had gone from a non-crocheter to an amazing designer. She had no pattern for her bag, had never seen a pattern, didn’t know how to read a pattern. I guess we must just call her a natural!
Here’s a sample of Prudence Mapstone’s stunning freeform crochet from a recent showin
at the Getty Museum
On the other hand, I have a friend who is what I would call a master crocheter. She has excellent crochet skills, designs projects on her own, and produces beautiful, polished pieces. But – she must have a pattern. She cannot color outside the lines. Even in the projects she designs, she uses parts of other patterns that she combines to make the new items she has in mind. So, a doll and a baby afghan combine to make a nap time snuggly. She doesn’t understand or appreciate freeform crochet and has no interest in it.
So, who is the expert here? Who is the beginner and who the intermediate? Does it matter?
I think designers and publishers add those skill level designations in an attempt to help us. But, I think that, with few exceptions, the arbitrarily assigned skill levels are obstructive, discouraging beginners from stretching their fingers and skills, discouraging them from branching out to learn new techniques and to experiment to see how far they can go with their hooks and yarn.
What do you think? Are the skill levels on a pattern helpful or a hindrance? Do you pay attention to them? Do you trust them?
I’d love to hear your stories about the skill levels assigned to patterns.
By jd wolfe