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What I love about crochet is its meditative quality. When engrossed in a project that doesn’t require constant vigilance, my mind tends to wander, and often to places that I don’t expect. That’s what happened when working on this scarf. The recent loss of a good friend preoccupied my thoughts. Here’s what happened.

I’ve been seeing the beautiful crochet results that can be achieved with nothing more than a whole bunch of slip stitches. The smallest of the crochet stitches, but one that can make a big impact. Yep, with the right yarn and hook size, the slip stitch can create a wonderful stretchy fabric; a result that is completely different from the bad experience I had when I trimmed a cotton hat with a row of slip stitching and discovered the hat would no longer stretch enough to fit on a human head. Bummer.

slip stitch scarf and susan brockman

So happy with this super soft scarf, my first totally slip stitched project.

Well, with more crocheting under my belt, I’ve discovered the wonders of the humble slip stitch, a large hook, super bulky yarn and a simple pattern–voila!–the mega length, super squishy slip stitch scarf (see picture). This was created simply by piling on row after row of slip stitches inserted into the back loop of the previous row. A fabric resembling knitting or tunisian crochet is the stunning result, and best of all, it’s super easy. No pattern is needed, so grab a big hook and bulky yarn and get going!

Because it is so easy to do, my mind wandered as I worked, and–because of the slip stitch and the time of year–I begin remembering my beautiful friend Lisa who passed away a couple of months ago after a six-year battle with cancer. We were diagnosed at the same time, both with lymphoma. Fortunately, my primary lymphoma (yep, I have two different kinds), was highly curable and after eight months of chemotherapy, my Hodgkins lymphoma went into remission and so far has not returned. Lisa’s cancer–a more aggressive form–could not be subdued, but she fought valiantly and continued to make her mark working hard for political candidates and causes she believed in. She was not a person to wait for someone else to fight for goodness and justice; she believed it was the duty of every individual to take action. She faced her health issues with the same committed outlook, and inspired everyone who shared that journey with her.

But Lisa also believed in me and my completely frivolous avocation of crocheting hats, hats and more hats. She purchased one from me every year when I would roll out my latest creations at our local art center’s holiday gift event. She insisted on paying me whatever I asked because she knew how hard I worked on these and, I believe, wanted to show she respected me as an “artist.”

When she asked me to teach her to crochet, I did my best, but I’m not a good teacher. She never could figure out the single crochet (my fault, I’m sure), but the slip stitch she mastered. I remember her showing me the small blue hat she made, explaining she didn’t do it the way I showed her, but that she was very happy with it. Lisa, an artist herself (she was a goldsmith who also created beautiful ceramic tiles), instinctively knew that art was all about personal expression, not about blindly following some rigid instruction or technique.

So, as I slip stitched row after orderly row, gradually building something warm and cuddly, memories of Lisa danced around in my head. What would she say about this project? I’m not sure she would like the colors–she preferred blues, grays and blacks–but I know she would “like” any pictures I might post of this and other projects and might even ask me to make her one just like this one, but in her blues, blacks and grays.

cabin at Lake Hope

Lisa loved the early morning light at Lake Hope.

As I worked, I felt sad knowing she would not be around to see this year’s hats and scarves, but more importantly, she is not here to weigh in on the mess in Syria or to convince me that I need to support her candidate for mayor or to remind us to recycle our beer and wine bottles that accumulate during our annual Fall trip to Lake Hope (photo).

All of us who knew and loved Lisa are going on with our lives, though we all have had to adapt to the void that was once filled by our irreplaceable friend. For me, this void is most noticeable when I am scrolling through Facebook and her intelligent insights are missing, or when I am crocheting yet another hat and wondering if Lisa would approve. I’m still not volunteering to make phone calls for political candidates or picketing for peace. Even with Lisa as a role model, I’m one who waits for the Lisas of the world to make a difference and am fiercely grateful to them.

In the meantime, I continue to crochet and think, to love my family and friends, to sign petitions and believe in justice, hopeful that someday these will be enough to make a difference.

Please take a moment to “like” Storyline Creations on Facebook and to visit my etsy shop (new inventory on the way). If you live in the area, I will see you at CyclopsFest in Yellow Springs, Ohio on September 14, 2013.

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