Essay

The Single Object At Home Edition: Bent Crochet Hook

I have dived into crocheting and knitting during this time as the repetitive motions are meditative and wool gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. I have a pair of restless hands and a restless mind that needs making to calm down.

The object that has helped me through is my first crochet hook. It is a 2.5mm metal hook that I’ve had for many years. It’s a bit bent now and, as I have been obsessively using it over other hooks, it has morphed to fit my hand. I construct and connect my knotworks with this hook, the small size of it has helped a lot with making delicate knots and applying a smooth finish. However, the effort and the gesture of love this hook represents is what makes it the chosen tool, it is one of the most important ingredients in my practice.

I have used this time to practice, hoping I will be able to up-skill myself and eventually create something fine, delicate and neat - like how my mother is able to. I have thought about her a lot more during the lockdown. One of the reasons is that she is back home in Hong Kong, all the way in the northern hemisphere. The other is that the image of her sitting at home alone, crocheting or knitting, has popped into my mind many times. She never told me if she loved the solitude at all or if she’s lonely. All I know is that we both turn to yarn when there’s a chance - she must also love the feeling and fragrance of wool. 

It’s one of my bad habits that I don’t learn a new skill with projects that are easy and suitable for beginners. When I started crocheting, I set myself up with a difficult task of making a cardigan that was very fine-knitted and it required this small hook to complete. My mother made me a similar cardigan and I hoped to make something with the same fineness. I was drawn to crocheting and knitting because my hands always needed to craft, it wasn’t really an active decision to keep connected with my mother after moving to Auckland.  Now, I have realised, our craft does connect us. From learning to use this fine hook, I have come to understand that my mother - who seemed to be emotionally distant at times and who I have never had a heartfelt conversation with - does care about me. A lot. She sends me love letters in the form of fine cardigans - written with craftsmanship, immense effort, time, and sore hands and neck. A letter that’s only read years later when I no longer spend as much time with her.

When I am crocheting or knitting, it feels like I’m reading a letter from her over and over again.

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Wai Ching Chan is an artist based in Auckland.   Within her fibre-based works, she incorporates Chinese knots as her language to express the need to reconstruct and reinforce the connections and unity that exists between tauiwi and tangata whenua in Aotearoa. 

Works by Wai Ching Chan are included in Ā Mua: New Lineages of Making, an exhibition that explores the nature of craft in Aotearoa, on display at The Dowse Art Museum 6 June to 11 October 2020.

Wai Ching Chan, bent crochet hook

Wai Ching Chan, the cardigan my mother made me