It sounded so simple and looked so pretty, but the crochet slip stitch has been a stinker.

Oh my. I stare at the unfinished, pathetically lumpy hat and resolve to carry on with it…someday. But not today. This, my friend, is what was touted as the “perfect guy hat” and “worked up fast” using the most basic of all crochet stitches, the slip stitch. This is the one beginners often use by mistake when learning the single crochet. Instead of coming up and pulling the yarn through two loops, they take a short cut and go straight through the one loop on their hook. Voila! They have made a slip stitch. But slow down. It’s not that easy.

My crippled hands and crossed eyes tell a different story.

  1. I am a notoriously tidy crocheter. I like to gently tighten each stitch as I work a row. This is crochet suicide when working the slip stitch. Your stitches will be too tight. Waaayy too tight. So tight, you may have to kneel on your work and use your entire upper body to insert the hook. No kidding. Keep your stitches loose! Way looser than what you are comfortable with. Somehow it works. Once I learned to trust that these big sloppy loops would eventually tighten, I was OK. (Though the hat itself is not really OK.)
  2. It take practice. My hands and attention span no longer allow me to crochet an entire project in one sitting unless I have a very urgent deadline. Consequently, I’ve lost my touch for the slip stitch and the just-the-right tension by the time I get back to it–even if it’s only been an hour or two. As you can see from the picture, my rows are pretty inconsistent, and I can now “read” each row the same way an arborist reads the age rings on a sliced tree trunk. I think I can also say these reflect how much I’ve aged since starting this project. Oy vay!
  3. It’s not hard. Even though I have struggled, this pattern isn’t hard. It’s not complicated (though I think the instructions were occasionally unclear) and it’s not a large project. Still, I think the reviewers who claim it worked up fast, and that they’ve made six in the last month, were possibly insane or had drunk too much coffee. Or, they are liars (just sayin’). In my defense, this hat project also employs short rows at the same time. Have you ever done shorts rows on purpose? Takes a little getting used to when you have to work a long row over the short row, and the instructions aren’t crystal clear. I couldn’t figure out for the longest time how I was going to work 36 slip stitches on the previous row, which only contained 29 stitches. Finally figured out that this is when you work over the ends of the previous short rows. What I learned from this: When the pattern designer strongly suggests stitch markers for the turns in the short row, she isn’t blowing smoke. Do it! It could prevent a nervous breakdown, or at the very least, uncontrollable sobbing. Seemed like overkill to me when I read those instructions, but she knew what she was talking about.

So, my WIP has been dubbed “Lumpy.” I’m not going to rip this out and start over, I’m simply going to “keep on keepin’ on” as we used to say. When it’s done, I’ll wear my botched and lumpy hat with pride. I’ve been thinking about a contrasting blueberry or lemon ribbed trim to cover the uneven bottom edge, and have been wondering if there is enough loop from the slip stitch to crochet a distracting design on the body of the hat. Mistakes often birth an even better idea, and I may just be able to make this “pattern hat” my own (and one that can be worn in public).

Carry on, crocheters, even when it’s the slip stitch. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that bedevil us the most, and consequently, teach us the most. I tell myself I am learning patience, building new neural connections in my brain (not a bad idea at this point) and even building character through perseverance. Crochet never fails to teach me something, especially when I step back from the project.

Do you have a favorite hated stitch or project? Did you learn something unexpected from making that project work, or even giving up on? Would love to hear about your experience. In the world of creative risk, you’re in good company!

When all else fails: The Bubble Wrap De-Stressor


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