I had decided to buy this four-unit building in Brooklyn with my brother. It was 2005 and at the time, I had been living with my boyfriend for a few years. The idea was that I would renovate the place, and then he would move into one of the apartments with me. I had no idea what I was getting into—how much work it would be to buy it, gut it completely and make it a home for four families. It seemed really doable at the time, although now I can’t really understand how I thought that. I guess I wasn’t good at stepping down from that kind of challenge.
I’ve always crocheted. It’s been something I’ve done on and off since I was a little kid. Periodically, I’d just decide to make something and this was one of those times. I loved the yarn I had and the colors of the wool. I didn’t have a pattern, didn’t have a plan. I started playing with the yarn, crocheting back and forth when I realized one part could be a cuff and it just turned into a pair of mittens.
The whole house project got really hard. I remember describing it to a friend—it felt like having a giant dinosaur attached to your butt. I needed to remind myself to ‘hold on’ because the dinosaur was going to do whatever it was going to do. I just had to hang on. So that’s what I wrote on the mittens. I had this red merino wool I got at a farmer’s market and I crocheted on the palms ‘HOLD ON.’ This journey is going to go wherever it’s going to go and you just need to hang on. I’d walk around with these mittens and periodically look down at my palms and think, just hold on.
At a certain point in the process of renovating this building, I realized that my boyfriend wasn’t going to move in with me. There were lots of ideas I’d had about how things were going to go with that relationship and I began to see that they weren’t going to happen. I realized I needed to let go. And I needed to do this at the same time that I was holding on.
So, I crocheted ‘LET GO’ on the back of the mittens in blue wool. I could see those words when I looked at the back of my hands with my palms away from me, like the gesture of letting go.
Now they’re kind of worn out and not super effective as mittens anymore. But I still wear them because they please me and make me feel triumphant. I don’t have a lot of regrets about that time. I love my home so much and I know I needed to lose the things I lost. Wearing the mittens is like, yeah, I was able to do that—to hold on and to let go.
Callie Janoff is the founder of the Church of Craft, DIY doyen, crochet instructor, unconventional wedding officiant, and maker of Callieco Rad Bags. She is currently working towards her Master of Divinity Degree at Union Theological Seminary.