Hi everyone, Marly’s blog content director Kathryn here. A few months ago I reviewed Jessica Carey’s book Making with Meaning for Happily Hooked digital magazine. I also interviewed the author about how crochet heals her. Jessica recently announced some exciting news: she’ll be opening a new retail yarn store in Oregon soon! In honor and support of that, I wanted to share that book review with you today. I also want to let you know where you can read the interview.
Making with Meaning: Book Review
Making with Meaning is truly a special book. It’s got 150+ pages of interesting information for crocheters. It’s filled with 20 different meditative crochet projects, so if you’re looking for a book with some terrific patterns, then you won’t be disappointed.
But more than that, these patterns are complimented by essays and thoughts about how crochet helps us to relax, de-stress, and improve our wellbeing. It’s these words that really bring the meaning of the work to life.
“The more I crochet, the bigger the gift I am able to give myself, it seems.” – From the introduction to Making with Meaning
Each of the twenty crochet patterns in this book has a very simple pattern repeat. This allows you to easily learn the pattern so that you can stitch meditatively, mindfully, and in such a way that you make space for the many benefits of crochet that Jessica addresses in this book.
Jessica’s Personable Tone Makes This Book Relatable
Jessica speaks to the reader in a way that immediately feels warm and engaging. Her tone flows easily from inquiring therapist to supportive friend to a cheerleader for crafting through the hard times. You’ll find this even in the pattern descriptions but particularly in the book’s introduction and other writings. If you love reading as much as you love crochet, then you’ll find settling down with this book to be comforting, relaxing, and yes, therapeutic.
A Very Special Reason to Learn How to Crochet
Jessica shares some very personal stuff in Making with Meaning, including that there was abuse and trauma in her childhood. When she became a mother, she wanted to make sure to do things differently with her own children, in ways both big and small. One thing she wanted was to give her children special handmade items that they would always be able to take with them, knowing that their mama infused them with care and love – something she didn’t have from her own childhood. And so, when her daughter was almost one, Jessica decided that she would learn how to crochet.
Crochet as Life Digestion
My personal favorite quote from the introduction, which explains so much of what makes crochet healing for others is:
“As I work each stitch, I get lost in my thoughts, and I love to use this time to think about different things in my life, to explore potential outcomes to different issues, to piece together meaning in an unfortunate situation, to spend time in prayer, and to sit in the gratefulness that I have for all the lessons I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve had. It’s a perfect ‘life digestion’ situation.”
We all need ways to “digest life.” There is so much stuff swirling around in our minds all of the time, from the mental To Do lists to the traumas of the past to anxiety about the future. We need ways to come back to the present moment, and meditative crochet does that for us. The feel of the yarn in our hands, the rhythmic motion of the crochet hook moving back and forth, it soothes and calms us and settles the mind.
At the same time, it’s not as though our thoughts disappear. But it’s almost as if they fade into the background a little, sorting themselves out quietly while we craft. We digest them as we make something with our hands. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we’re processing a problem as we crochet, and yet, at the end of the project, we discover we have a solution.
Other Benefits of Crochet
Obviously, this entire book is a love letter to crochet. But here are some of the specific benefits that Jessica cites throughout the book:
- Crochet enhances the quality of life and can add deeper meaning to the day-to-day.
- Creating family heirlooms or special gifts for loved ones allows you to share love.
- Accomplishing crochet goals helps build self-worth.
- Connecting with others through crochet builds community.
- Crochet serves as a form of meditation, making a calm space in your mind.
- You can indulge in “something intangible about intentional coziness” that is immensely comforting and healing.
Plus, for Jess, crochet has allowed her to create a business that she absolutely loves, plus to realize her lifelong dream of writing a book.
Five Key Themes and Patterns to Support Them
Making with Meaning is divided into five key themes, each of which has projects that complement it. You see, these are not just crochet patterns, even though there are patterns that will give you lovely finished projects. They are ideas and projects for processing different life issues, for giving yourself space to be with your thoughts and feelings, for digging deeper into your own soul so that you can excavate the richness of life, and for bringing all of that back outwards in order to impact the world around you through the beauty of your crafting.
Gratefulness and Motivation
This is about using crochet to find ways to practice gratitude, which can give you the motivation to see the sunnier side of life, even during very tough times. Jessica also talks about how so often we want things in life to be other than what they are but if we practice gratitude for what we do have, it can make us less interested in the “what ifs” and “somedays” and more grounded in the beauty of the present moment. It can also motivate us to find ways to adapt our lives to have those things we want, without taking for granted all that we already do have.
Jessica emphasizes that even as we set and meet goals, it’s important to pause and see just how far we’ve already come – to be grateful for the journey. We can use crochet in all aspects of the journey – we can set and meet crochet goals, looking to the future while also taking pride in what we’ve already accomplished. And we can pause in the moment of making and feel gratitude for the process itself. Jessica suggests using intentional prayer or even just speaking out loud what you’re grateful for as you stitch.
Perspective and Mindfulness
Jessica explores how we can take on the challenging of broadening our own perspectives. She shares some of her own experiences of having to learn the hard way that her way wasn’t the “right” or “only” way but also that this doesn’t make her “bad” or “wrong” … that there are many perspectives among people and that we benefit when we see another point of view.
Jessica also introduces the idea of mindfulness practice, bringing awareness to exactly what’s happening in the present moment. This honors your own perspective and experience while making way for others to be as they are. She writes, “As Makers, we have the ability to create something new out of our materials. We are able to bring an idea to life and watch our dream become reality.” By sinking into our own experience and expressing it, we put new perspectives out into the world for others to learn from. And by opening our mind to others, we make our own worlds bigger.
Jessica moves here from mindfulness (awareness of the present moment) to intention (consciously choosing our action in the moment.) It’s unfortunately easy to go about our days on autopilot. However, each day, we have the opportunity to set and meet intentions. In doing so, we can create the lives we truly want to live. She encourages crafters to use the patterns in this section of the book to really focus and crochet with intention, to understand not just what you’re making but why and how you feel about it as you do.
Jessica says, “Through crochet, we are able to share ourselves in a special and thoughtful way. We are able to use our time, our talent, our sacrifices for a specific person.” As we learned already, she learned to crochet so that she could craft something with love for her daughter. Every single time that we craft for others, it’s an opportunity to express our love. And when we take the time to craft for ourselves, there is love in that as well; we model crafting as self-care to those that we love. The crochet patterns in this section are all stuffed animals, which you can make as a huggable, squeezable, tangible reminder of your love for someone else.
Acceptance and Forgiveness
We don’t forgive others so much for them as we do for ourselves. We find ways to let go of hurts so that we can live more fully. After all, we don’t have control over the things that happen to us. However, we do have some control over our reactions and how we choose to respond. This chapter, which ends the book, is all about crocheting things for yourself, to nurture and care for yourself as you work through the difficult emotions surrounding “your pain points and areas in your life where you could begin to venture into acceptance and forgiveness.” For example, there’s the Halo Blanket, an extra-soft, fuzzy, hug-in-the-form-of-a-blanket that you can crochet for yourself, enjoying the process as much as the final product.
Each section begins with an essay on the theme. And each essay ends with a challenge, giving you a good sense of how to utilize the patterns in that section to better understand and integrate the theme.
And a Few Basics
As you can tell, what I think is important about this crochet book is the “meaning” part of “Making with Meaning.” It’s so rich and unique and different from a regular crochet pattern book. But I don’t want to give you the false impression that the patterns aren’t just as important. Jessica has done a great job of the “making” part of the book, too. Here are some highlights:
- An “about crochet” section that shares some great information about the history of crochet, the materials of the craft, etc.
- Step-by-step photo-rich instructions for basic crochet stitches; beginners can use this book to learn how to crochet
- Easy-to-find, affordable yarn choices for each project
- All of the projects are 1-2 colors (or use a variegated yarn) so you don’t have to worry about color changes
- Clear written patterns with beautiful photos showing the finished item and details
- Projects are often made with large crochet hooks (many are size K) so they work up quickly
- Variety in projects from winter beanies to baby blankets, market bags to stuffed animals; there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
In summary, this is a great crochet book with twenty fun, simple, meditative patterns that are perfect to make for yourself or to give as gifts. But more than that, this is a book filled with thoughts and inspiration from a heartfelt crafter who makes herself vulnerable in order to inspire you to find new ways to use crochet to get in touch with yourself and enjoy a deeper, richer meaning from life.
Learn More About How Jessica Heals Through Crochet
This crochet book review originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of Happily Hooked digital magazine. It was accompanied by an interview with Jess about how crochet heals and benefits her. You can read the interview over at The Hook Nook blog.
Be sure to subscribe to Happily Hooked magazine to read Kathryn’s monthly Crochet Heals column and other book reviews and feature articles about crochet designers, authors, and artists.