Learn a Beautiful New Voice: Handcrafts – A Universal Language

Handcrafts are not often thought of as a language. There are over 7,000 known languages in the world. 1,422 of those (roughly one fifth) has 1,000 or less people who speak and understand them. But does Handcrafts really qualify?

I admit to speaking one language, knowing a few words or phrases in one other, and don’t even try to speak anything else out of fear of either butchering it, or insulting someone’s Mama.

But out of the list of spoken languages, there is one that might be questionable – Handcrafts. It’s a universal language. Translation isn’t needed, but communication efforts are quickly understood.

Without any words, friendships are made, wars become background static, and full hearts are translated by the warmest of smiles. And Handcrafts is one of the most beautiful languages alive today.

Handcrafts of any kind can be a universal language

On the Go

If you have ever seen me in public, you have probably seen my Go Bag. I carry it everywhere. It is filled with handcrafts that keep my hands and mind occupied while waiting.

This week, it has netting and yarn to make Pot Scrubbers (I call them ‘Scrubbies’); wool yarn for a scarf; cotton yarn for a Dish Cloth; assorted hooks and needles for each of the projects. It also has a notebook, pens, scissors, and more than likely some book I am using for research on even more handcrafts. The projects and supplies change, the bag stays the same.

Recently, I sat in a hospital waiting room, waiting as a friend went through a procedure. I noticed the woman across from me was ‘speaking Handcrafts’ through crocheting an absolutely gorgeous piece.

As I pulled my scrubby yarn out, I noticed her grinning. “You too, huh?” I smiled and nodded my head. “I love that pattern,” I responded. “It’s a shawl,” she answered. And instantly we had bonded over the shared language of Handcrafts, with crochet being the ‘dialectic’.

An Open Door

You may not ever actually have a conversation with someone about your craft, but there is something about watching a person knitting, crocheting or working on some other type of handcrafts that is intriguing.

A crochet hook opens the doors to memories of a grandmother. Knitting needles throw the window wide open to breathe in thoughts of cherished gifts. An embroidery needle brings images of a rocking chair in a sunny corner of the room. There is nothing else on earth that can almost instantly create comfort, smiles and a favored memory.

Handcrafting is a unique language. You cannot do it with a book. An open book in your lap strongly suggests your desire for privacy. It denotes that you are not open for discussions or small talk.

Most people will tiptoe around someone reading a book to prevent unnecessary interruptions. But a crochet hook? Knitting needles? These invite interest and conversation.


The beauty of handcrafts is that they speak any and every language. You may be English speaking, and happen to sit next to a person who only speaks Spanish. Yet, by pulling out the crochet hook or knitting needles, a conversation can be started.

It starts with a sweet sparkle in the eye. Next comes a gesture towards your project. A few hand motions, and you quickly figure out that they, too, either regularly engage in a craft, or know someone who does. It is a silent conversation, but then, words aren’t actually necessary. The craft itself is the translator, and speaks for itself.

My favorite craft to do while waiting is usually a small project. Scrubbies can be made in fifteen minutes or less. Once I complete one, I offer it to the person I am conversing with. Often times, they study it, then hand it back.

But I quickly tell them that they may keep it. It is a simple token of my appreciation of their company. I hope it serves as a reminder that just because you start out as strangers, it doesn’t mean you cannot bring a smile, warmth and a feeling of welcome into another person’s life.

Hurry Up and Wait

Waiting is a difficult time for most people. They easily become fidgety, thinking of everything they have to do. Some, as with doctor’s waiting rooms, have time on their hands to worry about an upcoming procedure, wondering if the results will show something dreadful, or stirring up strife and frustration over a previous conversation.

Handcrafts have a way of stopping the negative thoughts. They serve as a pleasant distraction, and have a tendency to bring folks together. Instead of reliving the fight you had with your husband, your mind is pulled to the flick of a hook popping in and out of a loop.

Instead of worrying about the results of a medical exam, you are mesmerized by the speed of two sticks wrapped with yarn. And your mind floats back to a beautiful afghan that was handmade by a favorite person.

Just for a moment, you can feel the relaxing of your mind, body, and spirit, and your worries seem to puddle at your feet. You find that the rest of your day is a bit more pleasant as you relive the click of the needles, or the feel of the yarn between your fingers. And you didn’t have to learn one of 7,000+ different languages to understand.

With Just a Simple Hook

As was the case of the last waiting room I visited – a crochet hook brought me not only a completed scrubby, but also scored me the pattern for that beautiful shawl. There was laughter, sharing, and enjoyment. And when I arrived home, there was also a sweet email in my box.

I do not share names without permission, but if she is reading this, I do want to offer this delightful woman my heartfelt appreciation:

‘M’ – Thank you for making an otherwise boring hour a fun memory. My friend and I both enjoyed our conversation with you and your daughter. I can’t wait to get started on a shawl (I saw a great yarn in the store the other day that I think would work perfectly – a cadet blue soft wool). Please know that you are now consistently in our prayers, offering up thanksgiving for a new ‘friend’. Thank you for speaking my language!

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Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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