On the Broadway stage, Sutton Foster is the perfect storm of magnetism, charisma and vocal ingenuity. It’s already won her two Tonys, and given her acclaimed turn in this year’s “The Music Man,” she’s front and center to take home a third.
But as with most things in showbiz, what you see isn’t quite what you get. Foster is a work in progress, who dealt with bullying when she first started out in a business not known for being kind and gentle. On stage, she found acclaim in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Anything Goes,” but at home, she was coping with a painful divorce and, later on, infertility. So she channeled all that anxiety into crafting, and if you’ve ever followed her on Instagram, you know the lady has a gift. She’s a crochet master, and she even wrote a book about it: “Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life.”
“Crocheting came out of a need to put my focus, my energy, somewhere. Before I even realized it, it became sort of a mental health tool. I was just organically drawn to it. While I’m talking to you right now, I have a crochet hook in my hand and I’m crocheting while I’m talking to you,” she says. “I love the art of making things. I make things. I make blankets; I make characters; I make chocolate chip cookies.”
For Foster, crocheting serves as a sort of through line to her career and life: “For every show or for every project that I’ve worked on creatively as an actor, the more common thread has been the things I’ve made with my hands.”
While she’s not promising that your first foray into crocheting will also yield a one-of-a-kind keepsake, here’s what you need to get started on your journey to becoming a crochet master.
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First, a definition: Crocheting simply means using hooks to interlock yarn, to ultimately create hats or sweaters or blankets or washcloths. Regardless of what you’re making, you need the foundation: a great yarn. “I love Lion Brand yarn," says Foster. "It’s a family-owned company, and they've been around for over a hundred years. They have all sorts of different types of yarn that you can work with."
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When you start out, you need to get the hang of following a “repetitive pattern. So you want to make sure each time you do a stitch, it's the same. So it just takes a second,” says Foster. She recommends taking the plunge with yarn that’s easy to handle, such as an acrylic or cotton blend.
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Next, of course, you need hooks. “I like Susan Bates. I’ve got one of her hooks with me. It’s a metal hook. It's very basic, but what I like about it is that it's not too slippy-slidey and it has a nice pointy hook, so you're able to really handle the yarn,” says Foster.
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Foster has numerous tutorials on her Instagram feed, but if you want a book, this one is a solid option. “My advice for anyone starting with crochet or any type of yarn, knitting or crocheting is to do something small first,” says Foster. “In my tutorials, I teach everyone how to do a washcloth. So it's something small, it's square and it's not a huge project to undertake, and you can practice and then you can move on from there.”
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Lots of pros recommend using a stitch holder to hold open stitches when they’re not on a needle, but Foster has an easier solution: “What I like more than a stitch holder is a safety pin. I find the stitch holders sometimes slide out. Safety pins are easier because then you just know they're not going to slide their way out.”
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Foster doesn’t have a preference for scissors, but she says to make sure they’re sharp and precise enough to cut through yarn.
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You want needles that are easy to thread and simple to maneuver. “So you want to get some needles that have big eyes so that you can feed the yarn through, and sew your ends,” says Foster.
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You need a soft, flexible tape measure so you can, well, obviously “measure your work,” says Foster.
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And last but not least, you need a home for your crocheting gear, especially if, like Foster, you take it on the road with you. “You're definitely going to need a cute crochet bag,” says Foster. This colorful one has 12 storage spaces for yarn, needles and other tools, plus convenient carry handles.