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  • Debra Scala Giokas

International Crochet Day

The idea for an International Crochet Day began in 2007 with Jimbo, the author of the blog called “Jimbo’s Front Porch,” who hand carved wooden crochet hooks to raise money for a building project at his ranch. He wanted the art of crochet to get the appreciation he felt it deserved. And so we have it. A movement arose among crocheters and people into arts and crafts. International Crochet Day is celebrated on September 12, and one of the ways to celebrate is to share pictures of your crocheted creations on social media. So here goes...

How I Learned To Crochet

My grandmother taught me how to crochet when I was seven. She crocheted outfits for all of my dolls, including Barbie and Dawn dolls. Sometimes she made dolls from plastic figurines bought from the Five and Dime store, and I kept them all of these years. I learned on an F hook, and we would make granny squares together and she would attach them to make blankets. Here is my first doll blanket. It's one big granny square, and it's lasted a very long time!

I put my hook down when I became more involved with my studies and school sports. It wasn’t until 2012 that I picked it up again. I would spend time during my lunch hour in craft stores, looking at all the yarn, being mesmerized by the colors and the textures and the possibilities. It also reminded me of my grandmother taking me to the Five and Dime and letting me pick out what shades I wanted. Crochet is a lot like cooking or baking in that regard, as it ignites our memories and brings people back to us.

My Crocheted Dolls

This time, I kept at it. I was making squares and donating prayer blankets, and when my dad became ill, I made a doll for his nurse’s daughter. After he passed, I created Debra Ann Dolls (“DAD”) and that set me on a journey. These doll bodies are made using the Japanese style of crocheting in the rounds which is called amigurumi.

I donated dolls to causes such as breast cancer awareness, Cancer Can Rock, and the American Heart Association. My dolls celebrated weddings and 80th birthdays. I made dolls to look like people. I crocheted hula girls and ballerinas and mermaids. Some dolls told stories, like the one for a girl who loved blue sneakers and dinosaurs. I made a doll for the daughter of a Marine and she took her to the movies, and I also made a doll to travel to Guatemala with a student nurse on a service trip who gave her to a deserving child.

These dolls brought many different people into my life. Before the pandemic, I worked craft fairs, too. Now, these dolls are sold on my etsy shop.

I became a professional member of the Crochet Guild of America, too. I also belong to a crafting group of women in the marketing field that meets monthly via zoom. It is amazing what yarn can do.

How Ida McKinley Inspired My Book

I was inspired to write my book, LADIES, FIRST: COMMON THREADS, when I first learned about Ida McKinley’s crocheted slippers. Over the course of her lifetime, she made 4,000 pairs of her slippers and gave them away to various charities. At the time I learned about this, I was crocheting dolls and giving them away to charities, too. She was my inspiration.

First Lady Ida McKinley

Courtesy of Library of Congress

My International Pen Pal

As a result of my book, I now have a pen pal in England. She is an embroiderer and has a special place in her heart for literature and Abigail Adams and of course, Queen Elizabeth II. My deepest condolences go out to my new friend, the Royal Family, the Brits, the Scots, and all of us, really, as the loss of Queen Elizabeth II is devastating for our world. She reigned during the tenure of 14 United States presidents and she met all of them, from Harry Truman to Joe Biden, with the exception of Lyndon Baines Johnson. She was a constant and a rock. She served with grace.

Queen Elizabeth was also a knitter. During the jubilee, there was much ado about a knitted Queen Elizabeth doll. I thought I’d share the story here.

Another international craft tidbit is that Margaret Seaman, a 92-year-old great-great-grandmother, spent up to 15 hours a day for two years creating a knitted version of Sandringham Estate. This fundraising project during the pandemic raised money for local hospitals. To see that masterpiece, read this article from Architectural Digest.

Crocheters, knitters and needle workers can raise money for charities, give handmade gifts of love, and also reap health benefits from this meditative practice. It truly does bring a sense of calm. We need that more than ever in our tumultuous world.

I hope you pick up a crochet hook or knitting needles and make something. And if you do, tell me about it...or at least share it on social media to celebrate International Crochet Day on September 12. By the way, Ida McKinley's ancestral home in Canton, Ohio is now the National First Ladies Library and Museum. I will be presenting a talk, virtually, on December 19 about the first ladies and their needle crafts. I hope you can join me. Please check back here in the future for further details.

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