Finding healing and resilience through yarn

A crochet lesson with Ivonne of Montano Crochet

Ani Lee
Jan 17, 2019

Ever thought of learning to crochet over Skype? I just tried it, with the help and friendly guidance of designer Ivonne of Montaño: Hand-Crafted Crochet. What started out as a bit of friendly Instagram commenting eventuated into a full-blown crochet lesson over Skype. As Making Things went live, I discovered Ivonne’s bonnets, and commented, “this might be the thing that makes me learn to crochet” and Ivonne slid into the DMs to reply, “I’ll teach you!” And so we did just that - jumped on a video call and attempted a virtual crochet lesson. Ivonne very patiently guided me through the basics of crochet, using her Modern Bonnet pattern on Making Things. Throughout the lesson, Ivonne shared some of her remarkable story - growing up in a small town in Minnesota, joining the army at age 17, and finding her way into fiber arts for healing from PTSD and processing her emotions.

As we settled in and started chatting, I admitted to Ivonne, “I don’t have a lot of faith in myself to digest information in this context, but I figure we should give it a go”, and she proved an incredible teacher in spite of the unusual teaching format. Before jumping on the call, I picked out her pattern, Modern Bonnet, and she confirmed it was a great beginner choice. She pointed me in the right direction with yarn and hook, and I set off to buy them from my LYS The Black Squirrel. Once online, we discussed my yarn choice, the yardage and bonnet sizing (for a hypothetical non-existent child). I could make multiple bonnets from this one skein, or maybe even a more advanced bonnet, if I got more comfortable with my crochet abilities in time.

I had so many questions about Ivonne’s background and how she got into crocheting and designing. Raised in a small town in Minnesota, she felt a bit stifled. Eager to travel, she decided to join the military at the tender age of 17 - a joining age which required her parents’ permission. Hesitantly, they signed the paperwork. After attending multiple training sessions in her summer breaks, she was deployed to Afghanistan shortly into her college career. After 2 years in Afghanistan, she was stationed back in the states - corresponding with her husband over MySpace. A few years later, they received orders to move to Italy, and her husband was deployed for 2 years while she raised her young child there.

Feeling isolated and far from family and the familiar, she noticed a group of women in the military store area. They were hanging out, drinking coffee and crocheting. “I didn’t know the word for it”, Ivonne admitted, “they just seemed happy and warm, and I wanted that”. Eventually, she approached them to ask what they were doing. They met every Thursday, outside the Popeye’s - to gather and crochet, and told her they’d happily teach her. So she joined, and finished crocheting a scarf almost overnight - the women were dazzled by her quick progress when she joined them the following Thursday. Reflecting on that time, she recounts how it truly created an outlet for her emotions that she wasn’t aware she needed.

“It’s been an insane process of self growth… I didn’t think that crochet would help me grow”. It’s helped her become aware of her emotions, quite literally. She finds herself projecting her feelings onto her yarn, and her projects become a physical manifestation of her internal state. When she’s feeling upset or stressed, her tension is markedly different than if she is relaxed and at ease. Growing up in a family and culture that encouraged a suppression of emotions in general, crochet “allowed [her] a safer place to quietly just show those feelings, without needing to talk, and sometimes you just need that, even if you’re happy and you need to celebrate by yourself… it’s interesting how your emotions really affect your work”.

Working as a paraprofessional in special education, she was encouraged to hide her emotions from the kids as they intuitively picked up on negative emotional states. It wasn’t evident to her how much weight she was carrying until she started crocheting - her work over that period consistently reflected how tense she felt. She shared with me that her biggest takeaway from this time was to be more present with her emotions during the time she’s crocheting. Now, she aims to keep an awareness of her emotions no matter what they are - even the “negative” ones like fear, anger, stress, to allow herself space to physically let go of them. She finds mindfulness in it, which she never expected of herself nor her practice.

Ivonne’s story, how crochet found its way to her, gives me so much hope for the many ways that yarn and fiber craft help us to heal from trauma in our lives - no matter the origin. Her crochet practice, helping her find solace in the midst of PTSD from her time serving in the military, has become an instrumental tool in her life. She now uses crochet not only to process emotions, but through the sales of her crocheted garments and online patterns, to generate income for her family and not-for-profits dedicated to providing resources for women healing from PTSD.

I must admit - though Ivonne was a fantastic teacher, and incredibly patient with me, I reveled in hearing the details of her life and practice, perhaps more than the lesson itself. I managed to create a chain, read the first few rows of the pattern, and begin crocheting the bonnet. Really though, I was just excited to transcribe our interview and share her remarkable story with all of you. My bonnet is going to be adorable one day, but I’m in no major rush to get there - it’ll always be in my “currently making” on Making Things for me to go back to when the time is right.

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