In the midst of what felt like the lowest of my lows, I picked up crocheting. It was the winter of 2020. My first December in Michigan. I struggled to accept the unexplainable health issues that had become my day-to-day over the previous several months. Feeling depleted and lost in the trance of separation, I bought a crochet hook and cheap yarn, and set out to teach myself how to gather the strands I now held.
I could not yet tell you then what it was about crochet that ultimately made me choose it as a form—as my first taste—of healing. I needed to remember that I had the capacity to create something, even in my state of despair. That it was still possible to weave parts together and be better somehow for having done so.
I learned quickly. With yarn curled delicately around my fingers, my left hand secures in place the work in progress. My right hand loops the yarn around the hook and guides it through its next movement. Again and again, the same motion and technique, maintaining just the right tension. To pull on the yarn too tightly deforms the piece. To hold it too loosely compromises its shape. To apply steady but comfortable pressure means to find balance. To allow myself to remain there.
Each repeated movement requires my eyes, attention, and care. When a string of yarn hesitates or forces its way down the hook, I notice I am holding my breath, grasping at my tools too hard— as if the movement required an unattainable perfection, as if the fears I carried might somehow feel nurtured by my force, my feigned control.
When a string of yarn ceases to move with ease, to adapt to the pull of the hook and the turns of my hand, there is imbalance. In those moments, I remember that this art of weaving—this balancing act—asks only that I remain present, aware of the aliveness inside my resting body. I take a deep breath, relax my body, quiet my insides, and again, con amor, guide the hook and yarn through its steady dance.
The final piece does not yet exist. The weaving of these strands requires only that I place my full awareness on a single stitch over and over again. Perhaps I look at the growing work in progress with excitement. I might celebrate the accumulation of stitches along the way.
But to return to the single movement that comprises the art of crocheting is to find my center once again, to show up fully and vulnerably in my current state of being, and to be the weaving that braids these strands into a whole.
At some point in creation, we—yarn, hook, and I—get to where we’re going.
When we arrive inside of wholeness, there is no more doing.
We can only let be what has become.
My grandmother, Natalia Fernandez, was a seamstress, known for the beauty she could create with fabric, a sewing kit, and her sewing machine. The women in her community in Santiago, Dominican Republic, and Dominican women in Paterson, New Jersey, sought out her services to ensure that their girls were always well dressed for special events. She made many of the dresses my mother and I had worn for significant moments in our lives, as well as many of the gowns the women in our extended family wore over the years.