Goodness GRACIOUS do I have an incredible post for you today!
I am so proud of my first book, Making With Meaning, and am so appreciative of all of your support surrounding it!! It has been an honest dream come true to have been able to become an author. <3
Before the book was officially published, I received an email from Kathryn Vercillo from Happily Hooked Magazine, letting me know that she was excited to review it. Today, I am MORE than humbled and grateful for the incredible article she put together in Issue 81 of HHM to share about her takeaways and favorite parts of the book (you might be surprised to learn it's NOT the actual patterns!!). You can read her entire review in Issue 81 of Happily Hooked Magazine.
After connecting with Kathryn, I learned that she, too, was an author and wrote a book sharing how crochet manifests in similar ways for her and how it has impacted her life. I purchased her book, Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet, off of Amazon (find it here) and it is so encouraging to know that we have so much in common and we both have a passion to share what we've learned with others.
The team at HHM allowed me to share the interview I had with Kathryn that is inside Issue 81. In addition to this extensive interview, you can also find reviews for Making With Meaning as well as The Hook Nook products! Thank you so much to Kathryn, Courtney and Shawna for this absolutely mindblowing feature.
You can get your hands on a hard copy of Happily Hooked Magazine at your local newsstand, or you can purchase a digital copy on their website (affiliate link) - https://ak220.isrefer.com/go/smile/thnjessica/
- I love that you learned to crochet to pass something along to your daughter. How did you learn the craft?
In 2011 when I taught myself to crochet via various YouTube videos, I was a stay-at-home-mom while my husband was working a city away as a tattoo artist. While my infant daughter would nap or play quietly, I would continue learning how to crochet. It took me awhile to learn how to hold the yarn and the hook, how to comfortably yarn over and just basically learn the motions. I would guess it took a solid six months of trial and error before I became comfortable with the stitches and learned them by name. Once I found my groove, I literally never stopped.
- What did you make for your daughter? Have you made other heirloom pieces since then?
When I first learned to crochet, I really wanted to make my daughter beanies/toques. I might not recommend a first-time learner to begin learning in the round, but that’s what I had decided to do. In my first year of crocheting, I made my daughter various things ranging from character-style beanies to blankets to stuffed animals/amigurumi, and so much more. Since then, her most favorite item I have made to date is her amigurumi unicorn I gifted to her for Christmas when she was four years old (she is now nearing her tenth birthday). My husband and I have also welcomed a son into our family and I have made him a variety of items as well, but his favorite is the blanket I crocheted for him while I was still pregnant with him.
- What's your very favorite thing that you have ever crocheted and why?
Oh goodness - this is a hard question. I don't think I have a favorite thing I’ve crocheted, but I do have favorite fibers to have worked with. More than the final product, the full experience of crochet is why I do it. Using different fibers and materials and feeling the textures run through my fingers and watch the design they create as they’re stitched up, is so fascinating. As for items though, I suppose I’ll say my Nolan Top as it is the first garment design I created and it has been featured as a kit from We Are Knitters and now can be found in my first book, Making With Meaning. Once I made my first garment, it sparked a fire in me wanting to continue to see what I could make.
- How did you come to discover that crochet was healing for you? Was it a gradual process or did something happen that really struck you with its power?
Honestly, I didn’t realize the impact that crochet had on me until years after I had been comfortable with the craft. I have dealt with many, many years of undiagnosed anxiety, depression and complex PTSD. However, I began to realize that while I was crocheting, things didn’t feel as “heavy” as they did normally. It almost feels like the anxiety begins to calm down as my hands become focused on the stitch work which allows my mind to repurpose the anxious feelings into the stitches and begin unraveling the chaos that I’ve allowed to build up within my mind. It was definitely a gradual process but once I began to witness the unexpected positives, I became obsessed with that “peace” any time I was able to hone into it.
- Can you think of one specific example when crochet really helped you through a tough time?
So, I don’t think I have one specific moment, but over years of realizing that what I was feeling was anxiety, depression and PTSD, it was because of crochet. I realized during those moments that I wasn’t crazy, but maybe I actually did need help. It allowed me to view my reality in a new way allowing me to perceive my truths in a new way which ultimately led me to further healing.
- How did this book come about from idea to finished product? What were the biggest joys and challenges of creating it? Was there anything you thought would be in the book that wasn’t?
Oh goodness.. The process of the book is a long one - I will try to make it quick. I always knew I wanted to write a book and had declined a few book offers from publishers in the years prior because I knew I wanted to be in a season of life where I didn't feel stretched a million ways and could put my best work into the project. Over the course of about four months in 2018, I received four book offers from various publishers and, after being encouraged by a friend to go for it, I did. I emailed all four companies a copy of my book proposal and let them know that others were interested, and to submit their best offer by the end of the month.
In January 2019 I signed my contract with Abrams Books and spent the next year and a half or so writing the essays, working with JOANN Stores and American Crafts acquiring all of the materials needed to complete the projects, crocheting the new designs, writing the patterns, participating in photo shoots at a local photography studio and working with my team at Abrams to combine all of the materials. It was, by far, my largest accomplishment for SURE, and one that I feel most encompasses all of my goals into one product.
My biggest joys of this journey have been to be able to accomplish a lifetime goal of mine, while also hearing how the words have impacted others. All I've ever wanted to do is share my story.
- You bravely share a bit about a history of trauma, anxiety, and depression in your introduction. Would you be open to elaborating on any of that? (Of course, no pressure - do what's right for you here!) If so, anything you'd be open to sharing about the experience ... and about how crochet might have helped you cope or process over time …)
As I’ve gotten older, met more people, had more experiences and just generally matured, I learned a lot about myself and how I grew up, and how all of that has led to my view of reality as I allow those things to still take hold of me. I realized that I unknowingly expect people to leave my life and, as a coping mechanism, try to be best friends with everyone in hopes that someone likes me enough to not leave. I realized I had complex PTSD and, when triggered, would have similar symptoms that would manifest in different ways, but once I realized it, I saw the pattern and learned the triggers.
I have been anxious most of my life, but didn't even know it. I learned that I had probably been dealing with depression as well starting in high school - all of which was undiagnosed until after I had my second baby and knew I wasn’t ok, but dealt with because I felt like I should be able to handle my own life, but then ended up breaking down to the doctor asking for help one day. I never picked up my prescriptions from that appointment because I felt guilty. However, years later it led to a mental breakdown where I went into a near psychosis one night days after getting home from traveling for work (which triggered a lot of anxiety, even though I didn’t want it to).
As mentioned in the book, I also dealt with sexual abuse for an extended period of time by my stepdad. In addition to this, I dealt with many obstacles as I grew up which all built upon each other, ultimately leading to my anxiety coping mechanism, people-pleasing. As I’ve been healing, I have noticed that there are patterns in my behavior when I feel overwhelmed, overstimulated or out of control of my environment. I tend to “hermit” and recluse at home and surround myself with comfortable and predictable things as to curate an environment that doesn't feel chaotic and I can just simply exist. This would make a lot of sense to why crochet can feel therapeutic to myself and others.
Typically crochet is done with soft-feeling yarns to create something that is most likely a comfortable item of sorts. This “good” touch and experience ties in with the muscle memory and meditative opportunity while doing the actual stitch work. Besides, once I finish a project to completion, I am filled with a sense of pride in myself and following through with something - something that I had taken the time and effort to learn in the first place. I’m sure a scientist or psychologist could explain it better and more accurately, but these are my layman observations. I think I best explain how crochet has helped me personally cope and process in my book, Making With Meaning, so I do encourage readers to learn there those valuable insights I learned.
- I LOVE the way you describe processing thoughts as you crochet as "life digestion" - can you elaborate at all on how that feels / works / what the experience is for you?
I suppose I view it as a designated time where I’ve found that my anxiety is at bay and I have the wherewithal to think clearly and go through each item in my mind individually, or just find myself really digging through a particular train of thought. I guess it just happens, though. I don't plan what I’m going to think about or anything like that, it just more or less feels like hanging out with myself and catching up with myself because during the day I feel pulled in several directions and don’t always feel like I can have multiple “tabs” open in my mind, if you know what I mean. Those that know me in real life quite possibly know that I am not very awesome at multitasking in general, so the moments where I can process everything is sometimes something I have to prioritize, otherwise I just continue to feel overwhelmed.
- How did you come up with the book's five themes? And how did you decide which projects made sense for each theme? Of the five themes, which is coming up as the biggest in your life / thoughts right now?
Choosing the themes were difficult at first, but as I thought about it and considered expanding on each topic, it became easier. I ended up combining a couple ideas because, in the way I wanted to talk about them, they were similar. I always heard that you want to write what you know, and these were themes that I felt a relation to and felt comfortable discussing and elaborating on. As for the projects, I first decided on which kinds of items I wanted in the book, then considered any particular existing designs that I wanted to include. Any remaining patterns to create, I worked those up and both paid attention to what I meditated on, or thought about, while creating the project and/or considered the final use of the item and how it best related to the themes.
Currently, of the five themes, I am finding that I’m needing to practice intention more lately. How I spend my time, who I let within my daily circle of life (I mean this out of love and boundary-setting), how I treat my body, and what steps I need to take to achieve my goals. I am easily distracted, and that combined with my inability to multitask just means I have to recognize where I need to give myself more grace and adjust my environment to support that part of me. I’m finding value in prioritizing these things.
- If you had to pick, which is your favorite crochet pattern in this book and why?
If you have been following along for awhile, you may recognize the Nolan Top. That design was the first garment I ever designed and created and what made me fall in love with garment-making. That pattern was eventually exclusively available within crochet kits offered by We Are Knitters based out of Spain, but now I am beyond proud and elated to be able to offer it in this book. It’s just an incredible reminder of what trying something new can do, and taking the leap to step outside of your comfort zone, even at the risk of failure.
- As your work has grown you've started making things that you "want to see in the industry". ... What can you share with us about what things are important to you, as an adult woman and mother in 2020, and how you are using crochet to reflect these things?
Yes, when I began garment-making, that statement - “want to see in the industry” - originated from wanting to make something I could wear, but wasn’t able to find something that felt easy enough while also being “cute” enough. However, today as an adult woman and mother in 2020, how I use crochet to reflect these things is not the same I’m finding. To be completely transparent, I had a mental breakdown in the fall of 2019 from me ignoring my anxiety and it boiling up to what I describe as a “glitch” in my mind. Since then, I have worked with my doctor to find a medication that worked for me because I had to finally admit to myself I couldn't do it myself, no matter how badly I wanted to, or felt that I should be able to. Thanks to my medication, my anxiety hasn’t been even remotely the same inhibitor in my life. I’ve been doing the work in my foundation (self) and have begun to be able to take a bigger bite and work within my household. I’ve set boundaries for myself as I continue to heal and am continuing to work on expanding my ability to take new things into the mix. It might sound silly to someone else, but learning how to support and create strength from my weaknesses has been important to me for my mental health.
- You mention that you listen to music while crocheting - what are some of your current or go-to favorite bands or songs? What other fun things can you share: favorite shows or podcasts, what your craft space looks like, weirdest place you've ever crocheted?
Yes! I love to listen to music most of the day. I’m not a big tv person (again, going back to the inability to multitask) so I tend to turn on different kinds of music or just sit in the silence. I like to listen to fun energy music from Dirty Heads, Macklemore, Post Malone, Sia and more when I’m cleaning or packaging orders or doing other things that I’m probably moving around. I prefer to listen to more calm-style music while I crochet or work through emails or other computer-based work. However, I turn on Mozart or other classical and instrumental music without lyrics while I type or think or plan. Sometimes I do prefer to not have any sound on at all (just like I have right now as I type this) so I can properly explore my thoughts and answer without distraction.
Oh man, my craft space has evolved over the years and I actually just finished updating it with the help of a friend of mine. I tend to wake up before the rest of my family so I spend a lot of the morning in my office. I’ve set my coffee pot up here, mini fridge with bubbly waters, LOTS of yarn stored in my Dreambox (if you don't know what a Dreambox is, you're about to have your mindblown when you look it up), and alllllllllllll of the craft supplies you could imagine. Ok, well maybe not “all”, but there’s a boat load of stuff in here - ha! I have learned that I am most creative when I surround myself with an environment that simply feels good, is warm, smells nice and is filled with things that make me happy.
- If you had to define it, what is the number one way that crochet has helped heal you?
Through crochet, I was able to learn that I am able to accomplish anything I set my mind to and follow through with. I’ve learned to be proud of myself, despite my difficulty with multitasking.
- If you had a craft party and could invite five people - living or dead, real or fictional - who would you invite and why?
Oh goodness… I want to hear people TALK and share wisdoms. Even if it were a craft party, I’d probably still be most overjoyed to sit in the presence of Jesus, Jim Carrey, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King Jr, and Amelia Earhart. I just might not ask them to craft and would strap microphones to them and record every single word they said.
- What are you working on now/ next?
Each day feels like something new, so I’ve been trying to create my online shop to be something different and unique and special and intentional. I’ve been working with other designers from all over the world to create crochet and knit kits to offer that include a wide variety of project types and yarn from The Hook Nook Collection. I just want to find out how my brand can support creatives worldwide and grow the perception of creativity. Crochet, knit, and just any craft in general is more than making something - it is an opportunity to discover yourself and the world around you in a new perspective.
- What else would you like us to know?
I absolutely love connecting with other makers and helping them share their stories, talents and wisdoms. If anyone would be interested in joining our community to support other makers, I want to invite you to sign up for my email newsletter so you can stay up to date on when we host our quarterly Maker Calls and seek submissions from you to share on The Hook Nook Life Blog, as well as other exciting ways to become involved. I truly do hope everyone has an opportunity to peruse my first book, Making With Meaning, and find a sentence, or two, that allows them to love themselves further and be proud of all that they have accomplished so far.
Thank you to EVERYONE who has supported me, encouraged me and just simply double-tapped an image over the years. Being there for others when they are going through a difficult time is a gift unlike anything in this world - especially when you’re helping just by simply being you.
I am so so grateful for this stunning feature from my friends at Happily Hooked Magazine!! Don't forget, you can subscribe to their magazine by clicking here. Aaaaaand now I'm headed out to go find some hard copies of this issue because I am just so happy and honored!!! I'll race you there!!