Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grandma's Binders

My childhood memories of my grandmother frequently consist of her with hook in hand making a blanket, or mittens, or hats.  Her favorite hook was made of bone, and she frequently used variegated yarn, though she often still complains that variegated skeins are smaller than solid colors.  She would crochet while my great uncle visited.  He would talk a blue streak and Grandma would nodded and "mhm" at appropriate moments, although every now and then she mhm'ed at the wrong time, but that never seemed to phase him.  Usually when my great uncle came to visit Grandpa would rush us into the kitchen, saying, "Girls, do you want ice cream?" We'd follow him enthusiastically and he would make us a ice cream cones and we sat in the kitchen with him while Grandma visited with her brother.  I know now that she was counting stitches, and that she probably did not hear even a fraction of what he was saying, because I have done the same thing myself, sometimes entire conversations can be had without my having any knowledge of the topic.  Crocheting is not necessarily a social activity.

Whenever I visit the family home I bring hook and skein.  She teases me, saying, "do you ever sit down and not crochet?"  During my last visit I sat down with her after having not crocheted for a couple of days and picked up hook and yarn.  She chuckled, "I thought you were going to make it all weekend without crocheting."  She teases, but she also enables.  She has provide me with hooks, yarn and thread, and patterns.  She is not outwardly affectionate, but I know that her teasing equals approval, so I am thankful for it. 

This last winter I complained to her that I has having trouble sizing mittens.  She told me to find a pattern in her binder.  Grandma has a shelf of binders, so I had to look through several before finding the mitten pattern.  Since I began to crochet she has told me that I should write out the patterns as I do them, and record the colors I use and the people I give things to.  After going through binders with recipes and one with schematics on German bombs I finally found the crochet binder.  Each page had a list of recipients in the margins, some had yarn taped to the page as sample of what she used.  Every project was dated.  There was page after page of hand outlines (the woman had six children and 13 grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren, so she has made a few mittens in her time).  Patterns from skein wrappers and magazines were attached to pages written in her own hand, as though the were translating the pattern into her own dialect.   It was a thing of beauty, and I wished that I had kept a binder of my own, perhaps its not too late to start.

I know though that I could never keep a faithful chronicle of my work.  While I inherited her pack rat gene I did not get the archival gene that keeps her from being an out and out hoarder.  She dates her mail, even the junk mail.  She has boxes of letters from her sons from the 1960's and articles clipped from the paper about family, friends and events (one such article was about my father's sister, which was clipped even before my parents started dating.  No one knows why.)  I am just messy.  I once unpacked a box when moving that contained letters from college, homework and notes passed in Junior High, childhood drawings, newspapers from 1968, and drawings by my Great Grandfather from 1910. Also in this box amongst many things...crayons, yarn, an sticky alarm clock and two straw bags.  I create what my father refers to as Meri residue.  I've rarely entered and left a room without leaving some debris in my wake.  Chaos has been my modus operandi for so long it would be counter intuitive to keep a binder.  Maybe, one day she will give me her binder, that would be better than anything I could come up with.  I do have a birthday coming up.

The Gift of Warmth

I have been told again and again to sell my work.  I have been giving it away for ages.  Most of my friends have blankets as gifts for weddings or babies.  I thrill at seeing photos posted on facebook of a dear friend's family cuddled up with a blanket I made for them.  I was visiting my family recently and decided to share a few of the gifts I have given over the years.  Of course the pictures below represent only a fraction of the gifts I've given to them over the years, and they can absolutely count on even more to come.

I suppose it's a good thing we live in a cold climate, and that my family has a comically large number of chairs, as my grandmother who taught me to crochet also lives in this home.  There is practically a blanket for every chair in the house...and more more squirreled around the house in baskets and closets, and who knows where else.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Filet crochet

I have gotten some mileage out of that small collection of crochet magazines from the estate sale.  A Halloween edition of one of these magazines had a pattern for an owl doily. After completing the owl filet crochet pattern I posted the image on Facebook to share my accomplishment with friends and family.  After seeing it a co-worker commissioned a squirrel.  I created my own pattern for the squirrel using graph paper.  I was pleased with the outcome, and even better- she was pleased, too. In fact she was so pleased that she commissioned a squirrel baby costume for her daughter's 1st birthday.

 If you are interested in creating this piece yourself I have included the pattern below. If you prefer, you could find  this piece on sale at my Etsy site



Kitty Rug

During the summer I had the opportunity to accompany a friend to an estate sale.  She sells vintage items through her shop Wise Apple Vintage on Etsy.  This particular estate sale yielded a plethora of crochet magazines, hooks, and some holiday yarn.  The magazines, most of which were printed in the 1990's were filled with delightful patterns that could keep me busy for ages.  One of these patterns was especially welcome, as I had inherited rug yarn and I had no idea what to do with it.
Behold the Kitty Rug, it brings me much joy. 
P.S. It's Kitty approved!


Crocheted food seems to be popular these days, although if this is true, I am not sure by what standards "popular" is determined.  I have avoided purchasing any books on food amigarumi, mainly because I've been able to figure out food "by feel". I have however found Twinkie Chan's book to be especially fun and helpful. I purchased it when Borders was going out of business (I hate to pay full price for anything).

Decorating with Crochet

A trip to the flea market yielded a delightful find.  Anne Halliday's "Decorating with Crochet", published in 1975.  I adore the decorations of the 60's and 70's and in the 70's crochet figures prominently.  There is something terribly appealing about the horror vacui of the decorating styles, the busy-ness and clashing patterns.  I love tacky.   Sadly, I have always had to share living quarters, and will for the foreseeable future. While my roommates have been gracious with accepting most of my bizarre decorating proclivities I have never been able to go off the deep end.

One day I will fill my home with bizarre and hideous tapestries, but for the time being I have made only this small throw, which is supposed to be a tablecloth.  I managed to de-seventies it by using blue and green rather than yellow and brown.  Come to find out it matches my roommates chair.  Everybody wins.


I've made many blankets over the years.  Prior to learning to read patterns I made blankets almost exclusively.  My grandmother teased me because I only knew the single crochet.  After many years and many blankets made with the single crochet she finally taught me a new pattern which required a double crochet.  It was as though a world of possibility burst forth for me. 

Making a blanket is definitely winter work, although air conditioning has allowed for some summer blankets as of late.  Still there is nothing quite so satisfying as pulling a nearly finished blanket over you and falling asleep with hook in hand...except maybe the feeling of tying off that last stitch.

Below I have included just a few of the blankets I've made over the years.  You'll notice that my cat appreciates the blankets, too.  It is actually difficult to take a picture of a blanket without her sitting on it.

Cats on a fence was the first pattern (beyond the single crochet)  This particular blanket was given to a co-worker whose daughter had just had her first child.  Come to find out the daughter was Ani Difranco.