Abigail Padilla
Social Media Manager

Michelle De La O is very focused on their hands. They pop out from under her white long sleeve that makes her peachy pink dress a suitable choice for 60 degree weather. The clips in their hair compliment the color — mauve with pink flowers, caramel hearts, cream hearts, and clear-pink mini flowers, all serving the purpose of keeping her black hair out of her face. After all, such a craftsmith cannot afford to lose the use of a hand to push the hair out of sight each time it falls in front of their face. Their time is spent perfecting their craft, which at the moment, is crochet and yarn work. 

“I started with writing, but I’m not the most confident with that.” the Whittier College third-year started, “ so I turned to working with my hands, and I felt very fond of making jewelry and then blankets and rugs. But so far on my list, I’ve made two blankets. And the first one I ever made it was this just huge thing that lasted from the whole summer. And I couldn’t use it until the winter because it was too hot to use it in the summer. But whenever I had company, I’d always make sure to bring it out or have someone mention it casually just so I could brag about it and show everyone like, look, I made this with my hands, and I learned this without help.” 

Honestly, it was not the answer I was expecting. As an English major, I would expect them to be a little more into their writing. 

“When I’m writing, I always want to know how the outline is supposed to look, what I need to put in it, and if I add something I will most likely ask ‘is it ok if I put this’ because if not I’ll take it out and put something completely different. I always want to put what they want instead of putting what I think should be in it.” they revealed to me. 

It’s harder for them to be creative in an academic setting. Quarantine was an opportunity for her to explore other ways to feed her desire to create. 

Michelle makes Afghan blankets, which don’t refer to the material and design but rather the size itself. 

“Before I actually used the needle, I was just like using this brand of yarn that had actual loops. And I just practiced doing it with my hands.” She explained, “and then from there, I watched somebody else, how they held the needle, and then I just mimicked them. Then I used a bigger needle, so that way I couldn’t tangle myself with the smaller one. I started with bigger yarn so I could still use my hands. But that’s how I began. I couldn’t figure out how to hold it (the needle) at first, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep using it because I was like, ‘oh, it’s too hard’. And I have to keep watching the video to see how she’s holding it. But I was like, no, I’m going to stick with it so then it’ll be much easier. My hands won’t cramp up as much.” 

The first blanket was made with acrylic pink and yellow yarn.

Image Courtesy of Michelle De La O.

“I used a pink and yellow one because they remind me of pink lemonade and they were both like really fluffy and I loved it too. In that first blanket I wanted every section to be perfect (for both the yellow and pink) but I didn’t have enough pink or I didn’t have enough yellow(at a given time) so I went to go buy some, and even then it wasn’t enough. So there’s a big patch of yellow at the beginning, and a really small amount of pink at the end, in the middle it’s the same. But – it’s still cute!” 

The other blanket they made was more ambitious; different shades of purple yarn were crocheted square by square, and then sewed together to make one big piece.

Image Courtesy of Michelle DeLa O.

“I did [it] by squares because I didn’t want to do it line by line again. But I ended up making a bunch of squares line by line, and it was probably way harder and way longer than the last one I made. And I picked these (colors) because it reminded me of my mom mostly. And I thought I was going to give the blanket to her, but I kept it for myself because I liked it too much.” She confessed, her lips curling at the sides and her mouth letting out a giggle. “There were so many threads hanging out and I was like ok, I’ll just put them all inside the blanket later and it’ll look absolutely perfect and it’ll look exactly how I wanted it to. But I never got around to doing it, so all the threads are still hanging out. When I sewed all the squares together there were some big holes, and I just left it like that because I was like you know what… that’s how it’s supposed to be. Because that’s how I made it. and I’m just gonna leave it like that.”

As Bob Ross said, there are no mistakes. Just happy accidents. 

Her next creative conquest will be a pom-pom rug

“I’m not making it with a gun or anything. I’m doing like a pompom rug, so I have to make each pompom ball. And I chose, like, yellow, different shades of yellow and then black because it reminded me of a Bumblebee.” She said, explaining her vision to me. “I can’t wait to do it because I’ve been working on it, but since I don’t have the money or time to finish it, I’m like, okay, I’m just going to push it off to the summer.” 

In describing the process to me, she said, “I tie (the yarn) around a piece of cardboard, and then I tie it with a smaller piece of yarn, and then I cut the ends and it leaves a fat mess. There’s so much fuzzy stuff at the end.” 

Michelle has a lot of self-doubt, in both academic and free creative spaces. However, it seems once the final product shows itself, the pride masks all the doubt that lingers within her. All that pride comes from her hands. 

“Sometimes I’ll just look at my hands and be like, they did good things. They’ve made things and written things, they’ve rubbed someone’s back to make them feel less anxious, they’ve done a lot of things for others. For me, they’ve calmed me down when I needed to, they help me do my makeup when I don’t wanna look like I’m tired… they make me feel less anxious and less doubtful about myself.” She tells me, holding up her hands and turning them back and forth, inspecting them. 

Out of all the things they create, she says blankets are the most fulfilling. “Every time I started it I always had high hopes of how it would turn out, and in the middle that’s when I would get my self-doubts; It’s not gonna be finished, I won’t be able to do this, but then when I finish it, or when I’m close to the end, I get a super happy feeling! (creating) just makes me so happy.”

Looking forward, Michelle hopes to do something with teaching. Right now she’s interested in little kids, kindergarten through about 2nd grade. She says she hopes to teach them how much they can do with their hands. “I know when I was smaller I was like -scoff- I can’t do anything with these, they’re so clumsy! But, I feel like if you have more confidence with your hands, just starting with those, you notice how strong you are with all your other attributes.” 

Featured Image Courtesy of Michelle De La O/Quaker Campus. 

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Goth Barbie and Disney Villain. Wanna be Tattoo artist and educator.

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