There are a few memes floating around the internet urging people to share influential books from their childhood or recent reading lives. I've never seen a 'how-to' book mentioned on any of these lists (or a recipe book for that matter) but I was recently reunited with one of the influential books of my life.
Bethwyn picked this up along with a pile of other old books to contribute to our altered book project, Frugal with the Brughel (have you noticed I spell the B word differently every single time I type it?). She had no idea that I would fall upon it with coos of delight and sighs of nostalgic rapture. I had no idea I would either, but every single spread was deeply familiar even though I can't have seen my, or any other, copy of First Steps in Crochet since at least the early 80s.
My first copy would have been well thumbed through the mid-70s, when I taught myself to crochet by laboriously following the excellent diagrams and instructions provided by the 'Editress: Patience Horne of Clackmannashire'. I don't remember actually following any of the patterns to make a 'dashing little bolero' or 'jaunty little hat'.
I suspect that even at a tender age I was more interested using traditional methods to make my own original designs. I do remember working a sky blue wool with the tension too tight, and my frustration at not having the manual dexterity at 8 or ten years to be able to satisfactorily manifest the creation I imagined. Even if all I ever finished was that wobbly-edged scarf I must have studied the whole book very closely to have imprinted it so deeply on my memory.
My first real success with a craft was knitting, which I took up some ten years later, after disappointing dabblings in sewing, embroidery and zine making etc. Penelope started making me a complicated fair isle pullover and then stopped at the sleeves, leaving the body for me to finish. So I was forced to learn to knit but at least I didn't have to cast on until I'd made a whole garment. I became addicted to knitting and didn't stop for about ten years until I'd made everyone I knew a jersey or a hat, and gave myself OOS.
Bethwyn was so thrilled at my delight in reconnecting with First Steps in Crochet, that she withdrew it from our altered book pile (one of our rules is that either of us can withdraw any book from contention for cutting up at any time) and gave it to me as a birthday present.
And then for Christmas Bethwyn gave me this even better gift, a badge made out of an old blanket label (I think it's the label from the blue blanket I used as the ocean background for Ross Island). I love it so much, even though when I wear it, everyone I meet peers at my chest and says 'Hospital? wha?'. The fabric in the background is the excellent bag that Anna sewed for me as a Christmas present. And below are some (just some) of the insane variety of cookies that my mother and I made together last week.