Ballastexistenz: Expressions of PosAutivity: #AutismPositivity2014, Crocheting and Dancing


Crocheting and dancing. from Mel Baggs on Vimeo.

Crocheting is my new perseveration.  You can call what I was doing in this video stimming, dancing, or whatever you want, but it’s how my body moved naturally and it felt great.

I was making granny hexagons for an afghan that’s turned into an all-purpose piece of fabric, that I’ve used as a blanket, a shawl, and a skirt.  I’ve also made a wide variety of other things, shown below:

crochetafghanshawl crochetafghanskirt crochetbabyblanket crochetbooties01 crochetfuzzyyellowhat crochetowl01 crochetowl02 crochetpurplefuzzyhat crochetpurplehat01 crochetscarf01 crochetshawlkeys crochetshawlsyellowbamboo crochetyellowhat01 crochetyellowshawlbutton crochetafghanblanket crochetafghan01

Closeup of a crocheted afghan worn as a shawl, with a shawl pin.


There’s hats, scarves, shawls, baby booties, and even a stuffed owl with a jar inside.

Crocheting is pretty much all I do these days.  It’s nice to have something I can do with my hands that doesn’t require language or strenuous activity.  I’m running into a lot of financial trouble because I keep buying yarn even when I can’t afford it.  But I love crocheting, and it’s completely taken over my life.

I could never crochet or knit, growing up.  It was visually too confusing to find where the stitches were.  I had some of that problem when I was trying to learn this time, but apparently my visual processing is finally mature enough that I can distinguish what a stitch looks like.  Once I figured that out, the rest became easy, and I took off really fast.

As an autistic person, and my particular type of autistic person, I need things to do that aren’t words, aren’t abstract, and aren’t surfing the net.  I’ve been looking for something like this a long time.  I was trying to get into sewing, when I found my old childhood crochet hooks in my sewing box.  I never did get into sewing, because I took off so fast with crochet I haven’t looked back.  It’s my only real interest at this point, and I bore people by trying to talk about it.  But I love it.  I always have at least three projects going at once that I switch off between depending on how I’m feeling.

What does this have to do with autism?  Besides the ‘special interest’ thing, the basic thing is, I’m an autistic person and this is how I enjoy my life right now, and that’s all that matters.  Also in the video I’m dancing to the autistic band, The Raventones.  The movements make more sense with their music playing in the background.  ;-)


About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

9 responses »

  1. I’m so happy for you, finding a hobby that keeps you happily occupied producing beautiful things. I know the value of that.

    I want to suggest that if buying yarn becomes a restrictive expense for you, often knitting clubs (mine meets at the local church) have leftover donated yarn they are happy to share, if you ask.

    • Knitting clubs and donated yarn are my solution, too! Right now I have a big pile of yarn and a half-made blanket sitting on my floor waiting for me to start working on it again, and I paid only for the crochet hook. The women’s center at my university has a crochet/knitting group; we make blankets for foster children and we get a LOT of donated yarn. To be honest, I think the donating-blankets part of it came about mostly because so many of us had run out of family members to present with our crafts projects! We had to do something useful with them, and here were kids who could use something pretty and warm of their own… it works out nicely. And I think it helps us get more donated yarn, since people are much more willing to dig out the stash of yarn they’ve had sitting around forever when they know that the stuff you make out of it will actually be used.

  2. I really like the crochet stuff you make.

    I always have my crochet with me when I’m in public. I think it hides that my hands like to be up by my chest, or if i have my crochet project in my hands while they’re up by my chest, I look less odd. and it’s fun making stuff. right now i’m doing a doily pattern that i’m going to turn into a snood. i never understood doilies until i realised i could put them on my head. :)

    one way that you can get cheaper yarn is to get a sweater at a thrift shop and unravel it, but make sure that the sweater has knitted seams, not sewed seams because if it was machine made they often make a giant square piece of knitted thing and then cut a sweater shape out of it and so if you try to take it apart you jsut get little pieces of yarn because they’re cut so many times. but if it has knitted seams (you can tell because it doesnt have tiny sewing thread sewing them together going zigzag but looks like it could have been done by hand), then you can take it apart and wash the yarn and wrap it up and then have yarn. I did that with a child sized sweater i got at a thrift shop and it made a huge ball of yarn.

    When you’re unravelling the sweater, it is good to unravel it around the legs of a chair so that it doesn’t tangle, and then to tie it with scrap yarn in a bunch of places, weaving in and out, to keep it together, and then you can wash it. then you hang it up somewhere to dry and once it’s dry you can put it back on the legs of a chair and take out the ties and then roll it into a ball.

    Do you have a ravelry account? you can find lots of patterns on ravelry and look at pretty crochet stuff and you can upload pictures of your stuff and keep track of what yarn you have.

    I didn’t know the Raventones were autistic.

    Do you like untangling yarn? I do. It is like playing with the yarn and moving fingers almost randomly through the knots and then suddenly it unravels and it is fun to play with.

    My favourite texture yarn is a bamboo cotton blend and it is soft without being plasticky or making my hands cringe, sometimes soft is too soft, but it’s just the right amount of soft. it is expensive, though, so usually i end up with acryllic.

  3. wow, you have been successfully busy. And it makes me wonder if my son would be interested in crochet or maybe macramae. Also, i must say it is really, keenly, wonderful to hear from you and know that you are on to a ‘new-for-you’ hobby. peace ~ t.

  4. Wow! Those booties are really cool. I admire anyone who can successfully follow crochet patterns. Have you looked on at other crochet items? With your passion going so strong, I wonder if you might be able to sell some of your items online. That way you could then afford to buy more of the yarns that catch your fancy.

  5. Pingback: Ballastexistenz: Expressions of PosAutivity: #AutismPositivity2014, Crocheting and Dancing | Autism Positivity Day Flash Blog

  6. Your description of crochet captures a lot of why I do it–it’s not words, not abstract, not plugged in. It’s tangible, it’s tactile, it’s rhythmic. I crochet in public a lot, because it’s a socially-acceptable reason to keep my hands busy and my eyes to myself.

    As for yarn, it *is* expensive; I sometimes get lucky and find it in thriftshops.

  7. I learned to crochet in adulthood as well, after many failed attempts at learning crafty things as a kid. I still can’t knit worth a shit but I keep trying now and then. It feels good to stim and have the stim result in a useful thing. Or even just a thing!
    Something I also like is crewel-work embroidery. You can buy kits (not in stores much anymore because it isn’t popular, but places like ebay). It is basically embroidery but with big chunky yarn, and you make a picture. Like paint by numbers, but with different colors and stitches. Less portable than crochet, though.

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