Ozark Cards by Tina Oppenheimer
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By Tina Oppenheimer

Exerpts from my article in

It was a State of mind.
States of mind.

To be here now
To escape the here now
Something to think about
A launching pad for my mind to wander
To pass the time
To feel like I’m not wasting time
Something to hide behind
To smooth awkward moments
To give others something to focus on

When I was ten-ish I came across a hook and yarn, and proceeded to “figure out” how to crochet. I thought I had it and showed it to an elderly relative. “NoNoNoWhathaveyoudone?” She ripped it out and showed me how to REALLY crochet. I’d give anything now to see what it was that I did then, when I thought I had it figured out. Nevertheless, it caught on with me. The first thing I remember making was a lacy-looking string poncho, then a bag. I used a few doily patterns and learned some more stitches and stitch patterns that way, along with some practical concepts. The rest of the time I made everything up.

The first blanket I made was out of woolen tweed yarn when I was living in a Land Rover in Scotland. I remember sitting on a rock in a forest crocheting while my boyfriend read aloud “The Great War”. It was rows of squares, all different. The second one was rows of hexagons, made on a small yacht crossing the English Channel on a sailing adventure. As a craft crocheting was perfect for me, being so portable. All it took was a little hook and some yarn. Or not. I liked crocheting found materials. I dissected a HUGE piece of rope I found washed up on a North Sea beach and made bags. Bailing twine was perfect for rugs before it was made out of plastic. Back then the grocery stores in England didn’t have bags. I crocheted my sister several nylon string bags. She uses them to this day, over 35 years later.

I was living with friends in an interesting little community in upstate New York called Krumville. I always took my crocheting with me wherever I went. After some scary experience of a missing hook when it dislodged from my work, I would hold it in my hand when in route. I didn’t drive back then so not only was there no reason to ever put it down, but there was all that otherwise dead time be it not for my portable craft. The hook protruded from the sleeve end of my oversized sweater of choice, thus earning me the nickname 'Hook'. When questioned by less familiar acquaintances about this moniker 'I’m the Crochet Queen' I would explain, pronouncing it 'crotch-it' as I always have and still do. I was shocked, recently, to find a whole community of 'Hooks' and 'Crochet Queens' in the cyber land of our times. But I must have been among the first, those 35 years back.

In Vermont in the ‘70s I was picked up hitchhiking by John Kenneth Galbraith. It was dark, I was grateful for the ride back to Middlebury, but I didn’t recognize him, in fact, I’d never heard of him. He asked me what I did and I told him I was an artist. He said he liked art, he studied art in India. I told him I crocheted blankets and rugs and he invited me to bring some the next day to the Dean’s House where he would be staying and maybe he would buy one. I did and sure ‘nuff if he didn’t buy a big round wool rug for his son’s new house. Later I was to learn he was indeed in India, but as U.S. Ambassador, and he wrote a book about the art there.

Recently a friend sent an article about some huge humanesque crocheted sculptures, and reminded me of a blanket I’d made for a mutual friend years ago. I was up for a new challenge, but what to make? I surveyed friends for suggestions, but couldn’t come up with a worthy answer, so as a default I made — myself, a crocheted, life-sized self portrait. I started with my face. Surprised and relieved that that went rather well, I had a great time watching myself come to life in my hands. I looked in the mirror a lot and took measurements of my body parts. A heavy copper wire runs thru my arms and legs and up my spine into my head. I put part of a plastic ball in my scalp to keep the copper wire from poking out. I stuffed myself with Styrofoam peanuts and poly batting. My fingernails and toenails are purple and I don’t like to wear shoes. I was done in time for a show at the natural foods store where I worked. I sat in the corner of the deli seating area for a month, while rugs crocheted out of brightly colored fabric strips, a huge paisley wool blanket and my granddaughter’s name blanket hung on the walls. Everybody wanted their picture taken with me. Soon pictures of me with adoring staff, friends and customers were also hanging on the walls. Total strangers would sit with me to eat their lunches. Occasionally I worked at a register just to prove I’m not just another pretty face; there’s something in there.

At the end of the month I sold myself to a wonderful friend who puts me in public places. I’m grateful she bought me, I didn’t want to get stuck with me. I take up a lot of space. I was at a coffee shop for several months and got to enjoy plenty of live music, though I was taken advantage of by rude small townsfolk. I got my fifteen minutes of fame on YouTube when I appeared as a cameo in a video about music at the coffee shop. Well, OK, it was more like a fifteenth of a second, but still… Around Halloween I scared people at a print store. Now I’m at Hand Held Knitting, a little yarn store off the square in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where I’ll be teaching a class in radial intarsia crochet. Mandala-like designs, round, crocheted with two and more colors at once.

I was prolific in my cross-country hitchhiking years. “Mind if I crochet?” I would ask after pleasantries had been exchanged, then I’d whip it out. It softened the edges. Something to talk about, if needed. It was a statement about myself: I’m harmless... productive... practical... creative... unique... Worthy of a ride in your car.


Commission projects are available. They include mandalas, names, and your significant symbols. Contact Me at for more information.


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