Extract | Crochet and conquer
On a farm
While trying to deal with the end
of an abusive 45-year marriage,
Grietjie turns to crochet.
I met him at a Christian student conference. My roommate introduced us.”
Grietjie* is a slender woman with short hair and a broad smile. She
speaks about her great love, her ex-husband.
“It was so romantic. I accompanied Gerhard* to his farewell ball at the University of the Free State and shortly thereafter, in December, we were a couple. He then went off to Durban for a six-month course
and we saw each other only once during this time.
“After completing his course, Gerhard went back to his family farm,
Jongenfontein. I was in my third year of studying to be a teacher. We saw each other every six weeks or so. He could not attend my last yearend ball because he was too busy on the farm.
“I got a teaching job at a girls’ school in a relatively large Western Cape town and stayed in a hostel. Gerhard and I didn’t get to see much of each other during this time. We got engaged in September that year and planned to get married the following March.
During this time we were invited to my best friend’s wedding and, for the first time in my life, I had to play the organ in front of an audience. On the Friday before the wedding, I got a call from Gerhard. He could no longer attend the wedding because the sheep shearers had arrived and he was needed on the farm. I was devastated. I went home and I remember by dad’s words to this day: ‘Taking off an engagement ring is easier than taking off a wedding ring.’ Regardless, that December I made myself a wedding dress.
“The following year I took a post at a primary school in another town,
closer to Gerhard’s family farm, and rented a room from an old lady. Gerhard and I then rented a railway house and painted it on Saturdays. Finally, our wedding day arrived. The day was wonderful, a bride’s dream come true, but my mother-in-law cried throughout the whole thing. She isn’t smiling in a single picture.
“We went to the seaside for our honeymoon, but it was cut short after two days. Gerhard’s dad called. It had rained on the farm and Gerhard had to go back to plough. After being married for six weeks, Gerhard was called up for three months’ military service on the border. After his return I fell pregnant almost immediately and had to quit teaching.”
Grietjie hesitates for a moment.
“I should have known something was seriously wrong with our relationship before we got married. But you don’t always notice these things.
“In retrospect, there was no loyalty, no love and no respect.
“A short while later, we bought a farm about 20 kilometres from the family farm. The farmstead was a mess; my sister and sister-in-law helped to clean it out. I was heavily pregnant and uncomfortable. We filled holes in the walls with toothpaste because money was scarce. Whenever the wind picked up, paint would fall to the floor from the ceilings.
“We moved to the farm in March. Gerhard literally only slept there. Every day, he would drive out to the family farm. If he wasn’t there every morning at five o’clock, his dad would call. Our first child was born then.
“Gerhard would often talk about what a good team we were. His sister gave up her university studies and spent a lot of time with us. He saw a gap and brought her in to babysit to free me up to help him with farm work. I had to run after sheep until my lungs felt like they were burning up, and would load hay onto the open tractor in the scorching heat. Come bedtime, I would be exhausted … but then Gerhard would want sex. I pleaded with him that I just wanted to get some sleep, but he would get what he wanted time after time.
“I fell pregnant for the second time and I realised that my life was turning into a nightmare. My eldest wasn’t sleeping well because of colic. Gerhard slept through all of it. A few weeks before the birth of my second child, I asked him to help out with the colicky baby. He responded by smacking him.
“My second child was born and, in the meantime, my sister-in-law had found work. With two babies in the house and no help, I could no longer work outside. Then Gerhard’s criticism began in earnest: how badly I ran the household, how tasteless my food was, how I could only fix eggs on toast for dinner. ‘What do you do all day?’ I was asked regularly.
“To the outside world, we looked like a happy couple. In front of other people, he acted affectionately towards me. It made me hope that things would improve because he could be loving at times. But at home, it was a different story altogether. I learnt to build walls around me to absorb all the insults. I got very lonely between these walls of mine on that farm.
“Then I fell pregnant again. How stupid can one be? While I was pregnant, harvest time arrived and I had to take meals to the fields. My husband and father-in-law expected lunch to be served at twelve o’clock, on the dot. One day, I arrived 10 minutes late and had to endure my father-in-law’s wrath. He really let me have it. And Gerhard, my husband who should be there for me, didn’t open his mouth. When I spoke to him about it that night, he just said that I should have stood up for myself.
“Two months later, I was lying on the maternity bed and it felt like the pain was tearing my body apart. ‘It’s what you deserve for the unpleasantness during the harvest.’ I gritted my teeth, but the realisation that my husband was not really there for me made me feel like I wanted to cry and never stop. “I had two toddlers and a baby to think about. Where was I going to go with them?
I felt lost and alone on earth. At that point, I had no friends I could visit because ‘petrol is too expensive’. So, I just went back home and kept my mouth shut. But Gerhard’s harsh words in the delivery room had left deep, raw wounds within me. His verbal abuse became even worse after that and sometimes I was afraid he would physically assault me. He also knew exactly what would hurt me most; there were always comments about how badly I performed in bed, how ‘cold’ I was.
“He then started playing rugby for the town’s team. After matches, the men would go out drinking and I started to worry about the level of his alcohol abuse. As always, I was being ‘ridiculous’ and didn’t know what I was talking about. I still hear his words: I’m prudish, narrow-minded and Victorian.
“During this cold period, I took up sewing. I made the children’s clothes myself and knitted jerseys for them. I also start crocheting – my grandmother had taught me to crochet when I was in primary school. It soothes my mind when someone compliments me on my beautiful handiwork. “I also did a machine embroidery course and made a throw for our bed. Gerhard walked past and asked, ‘And where are you going to put this thing? Hopefully not in our bedroom.’ Condescending and degrading. That throw is still stuffed in the closet.
“One day, I saw on Facebook that a woman, Hilda Steyn, wanted to make a heritage blanket and was inviting people to join in with projects of their own. My blanket was made of crocheted and knitted patches that I decorated with bits and pieces of my own.
I tried to concentrate on the patterns so that I could forget about all the stuff happening around the house that was suffocating me. I gave the blanket to my daughter, and the joy she got from it convinced me that it had all been worth it – that I could create something special with my hands that other people liked and found pretty. Things that my husband would never appreciate.
“My sons also got a blanket each, made from difficult patterns that really challenged my abilities, otherwise I would have lost my mind completely.
“Meanwhile, the situation had become unbearable. The verbal abuse slowly made way for physical abuse. I was pushed around and even kicked off the bed. In the beginning of 2017, Gerhard walked out on me. He initiated divorce proceedings.
“I now live alone on the farm. I have trouble concentrating and I don’t do any crocheting at present. “As I was working on this story, I wondered how one would go about expressing 45 years of loneliness. How does one describe this incredible isolation, even – or especially – in a marriage? How do you fill this 45-year-old void? “This story is a summary of a life that was, in reality, just a burden. The knowledge that I have the ability to create beautiful things with my hands helps me to stay sane. It makes some days more tolerable. “At night, I sit on the veranda, smoke long cigarettes and drink coffee by the litre.
I agonise over forgiveness, over redemption; I try to find answers from the stars above me. I hope that the Lord will provide some answers.” Three weeks after our chat, Grietjie sent word that she was crocheting again and that she had completed a bedspread. It’s a cheerful piece in bold pink and shades of purple.
Begin with ch6, ss in the 1st ch to create a loop, crochet round 1 into the loop.
Round 1: ch1, htr12, ss in 1st htr to close rnd.
Round 2: ttc, ch3, [(tr2 in next st) x3 times, ch3] x3 times, (tr2 in next st) twice, tr1 in the same sp as the 1st st, ss in the 3ch-sp to close rnd (make a long slip-stitch towards the centre of the 3ch-cnr-sp).
Round 3: (ttc, tr3) all in the 3ch-cnrsp, ch2, [htr6, ch2, tr6 in the 3chcnr-sp, ch2] x3 times, htr6, ch2, tr2 in the 3ch-cnr-sp (over the ss of rnd 2), ss between the next 2 tr to close rnd.
Round 4: ttc, [ch4, sk3, ss in next 2ch-sp, (ch3, dtr2tog) all in the 2chsp, sk6, (dtr2tog, ch3, ss) all in next 2ch-sp, ch4, sk3, tr1 between the next 2 tr] x3 times, ch4, sk3, ss in next 2ch-sp, (ch3, dtr2tog) all in the same 2ch-sp, sk6, (dtr2tog, ch3, ss) all in next 2ch-sp, ch4, sk3, ss in the 1st ttc to close rnd.
Round 5: (ttc, tr3) all in 4ch-sp, [ch4, dc1 between the dtr groups from the prev rnd, ch4, tr4 in next 4ch-sp, ch3, tr4 in next 4ch-sp] x3 times, ch4, dc1 between the dtr groups from the prev rnd, ch4, tr4 in next 4ch-sp, ch3, ss in the ttc to close rnd.
Round 6: ch1, htr1 in the same st, htr3, [(htr3 in next 4ch-sp), htr2tog with the 1st st in the same 4ch-sp, and the 2nd st in the next 4ch-sp, htr3 in the same 4ch-sp, htr4, (htr2, ch3, htr2) all in 3ch-cnr-sp, htr4] x3 times, (htr3 in next 4ch-sp), htr2tog with the 1st st in the same 4ch-sp, and the 2nd st in the next 4ch-sp, htr3 in the same 4ch-sp, htr4, (htr2, ch3, htr2) all in 3ch-cnr-sp, e/off and close rnd with invisible join.
If you use baby-weight yarn for the squares, you can make a beautiful baby blanket.
◊ 4 x MoYa Caresse Dove (colour 1)
◊ 4 x MoYa Caresse Skye (colour 2)
◊ 4 x MoYa Caresse Thyme (colour 3)
◊ 4 x MoYa Caresse Natural (colour 4)
◊ 4 mm crochet hook
◊ 4.5 mm crochet hook
Crochet 20 squares each in colours 1, 2 and 3, using a 4 mm crochet hook. Each square is crocheted in only one colour (fewer tails – yeah!). The diagram includes colour indications only for the sake of clarity. Crochet four half-squares as follows: (one in colour 1, two in colour 2 and one in colour 3). Begin with ch4, ss in 1st ch to form a loop, crochet round 1 into the loop.
Row 1: htr6, turn.
Row 2: ch4, tr4 in 1st st, (tr2 in next st) twice, ch3, (tr2 in next st) twice (tr1, ch1, dtr1) all in the last st, turn.
Row 3: ch4, htr1 in the same st already used, htr5, ch2, tr6 in the 3ch-cnr-sp, ch2, htr5, (htr1, ch1, tr1) in the ch-sp on the side.
Row 4: ch6, ss in the ch-sp, ch3, dtr2tog in the same ch-sp, sk6, dtr2tog in next 2ch-sp, ch3, ss in the same 2ch-sp, ch4, sk3, tr1 between the next 2 sts, sk3, ch4, ss in the 2ch-sp, ch3, dtr2tog in the same 2ch-sp, sk6, dtr2tog in the next ch1- sp, ch3, ss in the same ch-sp, ch4, tr in the last st, turn.
Row 5: ch4, tr4 in next 4ch-sp, ch4, dc1 between the dtr groups from the prev row, ch4, tr4 in the next 4ch-sp, ch3, tr4 in the next 4ch-sp, ch4, dc1 between the dtr groups from the prev row, ch4, (tr4, ch1, dtr1) all in the last 4ch-sp, turn.
Row 6: ch1, htr1 in the same st, htr1 in the ch-sp, htr4, htr3 in next 4ch-sp, htr2tog with 1st st in the same 4ch-sp and the 2nd st in the next 4ch-sp, htr3 in the same 4chsp, htr3, (htr2, ch3, htr2) all in the 3ch-cnr-sp, htr4, htr3 in next 4chsp, htr2tog with 1st st in the same 4ch-sp and the 2nd st in the next 4ch- sp, htr3 in the same 4ch-sp, htr4, htr2 in the ch-sp, e/off.
Use the layout provided to join the squares. Use a 4.5 mm crochet hook and the slip-stitch in the front joining method (also known as flat zipper).
Start in a corner, in line with the join, and use a 4.5 mm crochet hook.
Round 1: str, pm, [tr2 around the ch from row 6 of the half-square, htr4 around the ch from row 5, htr2 around the ch from row 4, htr2 around the ch from row 3, htr4 around the ch from row 2, htr1 around the ch from row 1, htr3 in the centre ring, htr1 around the ch from row 1, htr4 around the ch from row 2, htr3 around the ch from row 3, htr3 around the ch from row 4, htr4 around the ch from row 5, tr2 around the ch from row 6, tr1 in the corner in line with the join, pm] x3 times, tr2 around the ch from row 6 of the half-square, htr4 around the ch from row 5, htr3 around the ch from row 4, htr3 around the ch from row3, htr4 around the ch from row 2, htr1 around the ch from row 1, htr3 in the centre ring, htr1 around the ch from row 1, htr4 around the ch from row 2, htr3 around the ch from row 3, htr3 around the ch from row 4, htr4 around the ch from row 5, tr2 around the ch from row 6, e/off and close rnd with invisible join.
Round 2: start in any st with a shtr, htr1 in each st from rnd 1; when you reach the marker, htr3tog using the st before the marker, the stitch with the marker and the stitch after the marker. At the end of the round, e/off and close rnd with invisible join. Repeat round 2 until the length is to your preference. The poncho in the photo has 9 htr rounds in total. Change to a 4 mm crochet hook and do a sdc in any stitch, crochet one round of double crochet without any decreases. Close the round with an invisible join.
Start in any 3ch-cnr sp.
Round 1: 1st side: (str, ch3, tr2) all in the 3ch-cnr-sp, [sk1, htr18, tr1 in 3ch-cnr-sp, tr2tog with 1st st in the same 3ch-cnr-sp and the 2nd st in the next 3ch-cnr-sp, tr1 in the same 3ch-cnr-sp] x7 times, htr18, (tr2, ch3, tr2) all in the 3ch-cnr-sp.
2nd side: [sk1, htr18, tr1 in 3chcnr-sp, tr2tog with the 1st st in the same 3ch-cnr-sp and the 2nd st in the next 3ch-cnr-sp, tr1 in the same 3ch-cnr-sp] x7 times, htr18, (tr2, ch3, tr2) all in the 3ch-cnr-sp.
3rd side: [sk1, htr18, tr1 in 3chcnr-sp, tr2tog with the 1st st in the same 3ch-cnr-sp and the 2nd st in the next 3ch-cnr-sp, tr1 in the same 3ch-cnr-sp] x7 times, htr18, (tr2, ch3, tr2) all in the 3ch-cnr-sp.
4th side: [sk1, htr18, tr1 in 3chcnr- sp, tr2tog with the 1st st in the same 3ch-cnr-sp and the 2nd st in the next 3ch-cnr-sp, tr1 in the same 3ch-cnr-sp] x7 times, htr18, tr2 in the 3ch-cnr-sp already used, e/off and close rnd with invisible join.
Round 2: Start in any st with a shtr and crochet htr1 in each st of round 1, with (htr2, ch2, htr2) in the 3chcnr- sps, e/off and close rnd with invisible join.
Round 3: Start in any st with a shtr and crochet htr1 in each st of round 2, with htr3 in the 2ch-cnr-sp, e/off and close rnd with invisible join.
Embellish the corners with tassels.