Choosing and Using a Crochet “Word of the Year”
By Kathryn Vercillo
Some people choose a “word of the year” at the start of each new year to set an intention for the year. It is a terrific practice for giving focus to your life in the months ahead. Although it’s helpful to begin at the new year, choosing a word to work with is something that you can begin at any time of the year. Believe it or not, crochet can be a key part of working with your word for personal growth and development. In this post, you’ll learn a five-step process for choosing and using a word in crochet. Note that this presumes that you already know how to crochet – at least the basic crochet stitches – but that you don’t have to have any advanced crochet skills for this exercise.
Step One: Choosing a Word
There are many different approaches to choosing your word for the year. Personally, I do a lot of mulling over and journaling but also just let my mind wander and see what sticks. The word has to excite me enough that I think I'll want to commit a year to its use in my life, and I know in my gut immediately whether or not a word does that. That said, it's not at all unusual for me to select a word only to discover a week or two later that it's not the right word because there's a better one. For example, I thought for sure that my 2018 year was going to be "hope" but then later realized that instead I'm going to investigate (dis)comfort (technically two words, I know). If the right word comes at any time, stay open to recalibrating.
The word you choose does not have to be a lofty, abstract ideal or virtue. We often feel like we must choose such words (hope, gratitude, change, peace, discipline). And that's fine, but sometimes such words can be too limiting, too intangible, too hard to live up to. It's perfectly wonderful to choose a more common word, a noun (butterfly, shell, home) or a place (Hawaii, Iceland) or a word inspired by craft itself (which we'll explore more below). You can take the choosing of your word very seriously but you don't have to; this is meant to make your life better and easier and more fun, providing a little structure for your own growth but not in arms rigid, painful, stressful way.
How does this relate to crochet? First, you may use meditative crochet to help you find your word of the year. That downtime in crafting, the time when your hands are stitching away and colors flowing into shapes, is great for bringing a keyword to the surface. For a more active connection to crochet, you could brainstorm a list of words that you think of related to crochet and to choose your word from this list. You might include words that are specific to the craft (stitch, treble, rows, yarn) and you might include words that the craft makes you think of (cozy, inspired, relaxed, skillful).
Here is a list of words from the world of crochet that you might want to pull from in selecting your word of the year: Loop, hook, craft, granny, chain, single, double, treble, ripple, chevron, motif, doily, vintage, handmade, frog, skein, hank, hands, insert, pull through, popcorn, cluster, bullion, bobble, picot, edging, finish, weave, ends, join, cable, color, creativity, self-expression, arrange, lay flat, shell, Tunisian, basketweave, lace, stitch, row, round, gauge, freeform, art, decor, garment, toy, pattern, symbol, abbreviation, graph, increase, decrease, work in progress
Step Two: Investigating the Word
Once you have a word, spend a few weeks or months really digging into that word. Get curious about it in every way that you can and explore those curiosities. Of course, you'll probably do some version of this throughout the year but it’s especially important to immerse yourself in it early on. During this time, I look up the definition of the word and its synonyms and find books with the word in its title or subject and ask others what they think of when they hear this word. I try to generate even more interest in the word within myself than I had as the year began by getting to really know this word.
During your deep dive into the word, take some time to research the relationship of the word to crochet. Some Googling will get you started - pair your word with "crochet" or "yarn" or "craft" or "hobbies" to get inspired ideas about how your word might relate to crochet out there in the world. Ask crocheters that you know what the word makes them think of, particularly in regards to the craft. This year, I'll look at how crochet makes people comfortable / uncomfortable. Last year I learned about immersion dyeing of yarn and thought about the possibility of immersing myself in a crochet retreat. If you can't find strong links between your word and crochet, try synonyms of your word as well as tangents that your word makes you think about.
Step Three: Going Inside
In the process of learning all about the word, I certainly do a lot of thinking about what the word means to me personally. The next step is to dig even deeper into this. How do I relate to the word? What has come up emotionally or tangibly as I've investigated this word? I journal more during this time, pondering it more, working with it more as it relates directly to my own experience. In 2017, my word was “immerse”. I thought that maybe during this time I would immerse myself in one of those sensory deprivation tanks; I didn't do that, but I did think about why I would or wouldn't do that. It's good to have goals for this project and you still benefit when you don't meet all of them.
Let’s bring this back to crochet. Again, you can use meditative crochet to dig deeper into the word’s meaning for you. You can work with affirmations in crochet, repeating the same mantra after each round, to reflect upon the word. Sometimes coming up with the affirmation is easy ("I immerse myself in the joy of crochet") but even when it's less obvious, it can be done ("My crochet is like a butterfly, powerful in its transformation.")
Crochet can also be a way to lighten your exploration of the word and make it easier and more fun to work with. In journaling, you can only do so much with the word itself. Sometimes it feels too heavy and serious and frankly just confusing to ask yourself repeatedly, "what do I think about immersion today?" (or "when should I choose discomfort over comfort"). But you can tie the word with crochet and the investigation becomes a little simpler ... What do I feel about immersing myself in crochet? What are the benefits of doing so? It's easier to grasp onto this tangible thing and to work with it in small bites, through a yarn language that I understand. Pair your word with “crochet” and see where it takes you.
Step Four: Reaching Outside
Next, I try to turn the study of the word from inwards to outwards, and more specifically to how I can use this word to connect with others. In what ways does this word relate to my community, to my work, to my relationships, to the art I share? I didn't end up doing a whole lot with "immerse" in the third quarter of 2017, but one goal I had in mind was that when I went on a very special trip to my mom's hometown with her and my siblings, I would not take any work or other distractions and would fully immerse myself in being there with them. Doing so was invaluable.
Crochet can be a way to connect us with other people. We can gift our crochet, donate it to charity, crochet simply with the intention of another's benefit in mind. We can crochet to calm ourselves down and make ourselves happier with the secondary goal of improving our relationships with others, increasing our patience and kindness towards the world around us. We can crochet in ways that connect us to the people around us. These techniques can be combined with your word in creative ways as you think about how to use both to reach out to your community.
Find ways to relate your crochet to the word while linking it with your values. If I care about the environment, I learn about what yarn dye immersion is and how my choices around the purchasing of that fiber do and don't impact the environment. Or I think about how I can "immerse" myself in my crochet community. Or I immerse myself in a crochet project for a specific person. If your word is "butterfly", how does fiber processing impact their environment? Or what can we learn from the ways butterflies migrate to inform our own travels to other parts? Get creative, make links in your mind between the word, the craft and what matters most to you in relation to others outside of yourself.
When sharing your crochet, as gifts or online or in art shows, add labels and captions and messages that incorporate your word. Ask yourself how your crochet and this word can strengthen your connections and act upon that.
Step Five: Reflection
I don't like to put too much pressure on the word's power or importance. I like it to be a guiding point throughout the year but I don't ever want it to feel like an obligation. After researching and looking in and out, I have a good sense of the word, and I like to take time to just kind of relax with it and reflect upon it. Sometimes new things come up or I try things that I had thought of earlier in the year but didn't explore. Sometimes it's just a period of rest and rejuvenation and not paying too much attention to the word, letting it relax into the background while waiting for a new word to emerge to start the process over again.
We need time to rest with our word, and crochet is such a great way to rest. As your hands work with yarn, the loops come together into a fabric ... and the different stories and situations from throughout the year come together in a narrative in the mind. Crochet is the jumping off point for exploring our word and the tool that gives us space to reflect upon it.