Stitch by stitch: Patsy Lee enjoys crocheting for family, friends
Story by Rebekah Yancey
Photos by Jennifer Sherwood
Patsy Lee can rarely be seen without a crochet hook in her hand, working on a new project. For the Hartselle woman, grandmother and great-grandmother, the hobby she has had for most of her life is “good for the soul.”
Lee first picked up a crochet needle and began learning as a child, but as a left-hand dominant person, she said she found it difficult to learn from her mother who was right-handed.
As a young adult, working as a night-shift nurse, Lee was able to learn from a co-worker who was also a left-handed crocheter.
“I happened to be standing behind her, watching her hands and it dawned on me, just how the stitches were being cast,” Lee said. “That was around 1971-72 and I’ve never stopped.”
Crocheting is Lee’s favorite pastime, she said. For some time, it became somewhat of a business, bringing in more custom orders than she could keep up with. Now, at 80-years-old, Lee said she enjoys crocheting her special projects for friends and family on her own time and not to fill a quota, saying it became a second job quickly was too stressful.
“I spend most of my free time crocheting because that’s what I want to do, because I enjoy it so much,” Lee said. “I read my Bible in the morning and spend my time with God.”
Among her favorite projects to work on are crocheted trolls that both children and adults enjoy, fragrance sachets that can be used in drawers or for décor, baby blankets and full layette sets that include a shawl, shoes and bonnet. With near constant work, the layette sets take 10 days to two weeks of work to complete, Lee said.
“When I first started to make the trolls, it was something new, it was something new to try,” she added. “I get in these moods to make certain things and my mind won’t let me rest until I make some sort of progress on it.”
Somewhat of a self-admitted perfectionist, Lee said she spends a significant amount of time redoing work if it’s not up to her standards.
“It must be right or it’s not worth doing,” she said. “My husband Johnny Allen used to ask me how many times I was going to pull the stitches out and start over and I would say ‘Until I get it right.’”
Even with dropped stitches and the time it takes to redo her work, Lee said she can finish most projects she sets out to accomplish in short amount of time.
“Johnny Allen would say he was going to get a bucket of water to sit next to him to throw on me in case my crochet needle caught on fire because it was moving so fast,” she said with a laugh.
Lee has made everything from intricate bonnets made from 100-year-old patterns, crocheted unicorns and teddy bears for her grandchildren and layettes for young mothers. She keeps many projects on hand to give to people when needed.
“To me the most difficult projects are the oriental patterns that are more intricate and extensive,” she said. I don’t do much of that anymore. I would rather do drag out an old pattern or work on something by memory.”
Lee said as much as she loves to crochet, she loves to give her completed projects to people who will love and appreciate them just as much.
“If they’re pleased, I’m pleased,” she said. “Like the old saying goes, ‘I’m pleased to the bone.’
Lee said she has taught nearly a dozen people how to crochet through her years, using her talent wherever she can as a ministry.
“It’ll probably be one of the last things I do on this earth,” Lee said with a smile. “They ‘ll take a crochet hook out of my hand as I’m leaving.”