Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why I (Still) Love Crochet

<--My sock yarn granny square last week.

Years ago, back when we were living on Long Island, a neighbor said this to me: "Rich women needlepoint; the rest of us crochet."
I remember the statement very clearly, some 30-something years later. At the time I was 24, married, unemployed, and living in our very first house. A house, I might add, that had pretty much come down around our ears. (We had to re-wall every room, re-wire, re-floor, re-ceiling, put down flooring . . . I could go on but I'll spare you. It was a rude introduction to the joys of home ownership, I can tell you that.)

Anyway, I was and have always been an avid crocheter. It was the first needle art I learned (from my mother, at about 5 years old) and the one to which I always return. Crocheting for me is like breathing. I do it fast, well, and sometimes without thinking. Muscle memory takes over the second my hand grasps the hook and I'm flying. It never once occurred to me that there was a rich girl/poor girl divide or that my beloved granny squares would become an object of derision.

Pop Culture Observation: Want to label a living room as belonging to a low-rent, working class couple? Drape a granny afghan over the back of the then cut out early because your work is done.

With apologies to no one, I LOVE GRANNY AFGHANS. I loved them when I was a kid. I loved them as a young woman. I love them now in my fifties. They remind me of patchwork quilts, a beautiful way to use up leftover bits and pieces and turn them into something pleasing to the eye and to the soul. My mother always had a bag of granny squares tucked away. No scrap of yarn longer than a few inches escaped her crochet hook. The rules were simple: as long as you could coax a stitch or two from the scrap, it went into a square which went into a strip which went into an afghan.

Which became a wonderland for an introspective only child who liked to lie on the living room floor on a snowy afternoon watching The Early Show (anyone remember the theme song, The Syncopated Clock?) and dreaming up her own stories. I can still see some of those wonderful squares in my memory--what delight to follow the short run of red/white/blue which led into a sparkly gold which moved swiftly to sea green then navy blue then a long stretch of something variegated and autumnal. My mother (also a great believer in the chaos theory of artistic expression) had just one rule she followed with her grannies: they were always edged in a bright yellow, which just happened to be her daughter's favorite color. When she made them as gifts, someone might have black borders or cherry red but at home, yellow reigned supreme.

I still have some of those afghans. The one in the photo is around 50 years old. The photo, however, is only five minutes old.

I resigned myself years ago to the fact that kids wouldn't be in my future. That wasn't what fate had in store for me. I'm usually okay with that but it's times like this, when I lay my hand on one of my mother's afghans, that I wish I had a daughter to pass this love, this craft, on to.
Maybe it's time to reclaim the granny square and give it the respect it's due!


Blogger Nicole said...

Okay, you got me. I think I shall set aside my left-over sock yarn to be made into squares for a granny square afghan. Because I can. Though I think that instead of doing a large square like the one you're making now (though it looks cool) I will want to do several smaller squares like in your second photo. Fits my sense of order better, I guess.

Thanks for the inspiration!

3:29 PM  
Blogger kshotz said...

Speaking as a 41 yr. old woman with a profession that has left her without biological family located physically nearby, I am so thankful for the women in my life who have become my mothers, aunts and grandmothers! Although you might not pass down a family heirloom, I'll bet there is a woman you know who would love to learn the craft from you, spend time crocheting (or knitting) together and sharing stories and life, etc. She may become like a daughter, sister, niece, etc.

In fact, I'd love to read a book like that! (and if the women happen to have sexy guys in their lives, all the better!)


5:57 PM  
Blogger Sue J. said...

Amen to the Granny Square. I both crochet and knit, having done so since my early teens. There is, indeed, something warm and comforting about a granny square afghan. If that makes me middle class, so be it. I love your sock yarn Granny. I'm gathering scraps for mine, too. I'll be very anxious to watch yours progress.

6:07 PM  
Blogger LauraP said...

I love granny squares. They remind me of my own grandmother, who always had something in progress. My favorite - a granny square sweater jacket I lived in throughout high school. It was totally uncool, which suited the rebel in me just fine.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

Barbara, your sock yarn granny square is looking fabulous!

The only crocheting I ever did were those snowflake ornaments that you dipped in glue or starch or some stiffening medium, sprinkled glitter on and hung on the Christmas tree. We sold them at our church bazaar when I was a child--a long, long time ago. Did anyone else make those?

10:51 PM  
Blogger Lori's Light Extemporanea said...

I can't crochet worth a hoot but I finally learned to knit and I've been quilting for years. Please pass your craft on to someone else, even if she is not related. She will be your daughter in crafts! (Or I guess he could be your son in crafts.) The lady who taught me to tat was a sister quilter and I'll always remember her as the person who finally taught me to tat (a craft I wanted to learn because my great-grandmother had done it but not my grandmother or mother).


7:48 AM  
Blogger georg said...

I teach my friends- often. I'd teach my niece if she lived near me. But I didn't learn a lot from my family so I don't feel badly about passing it on to family. In a way, I think I'd feel worse if I had a daughter who refused to learn.

8:33 AM  
Blogger georg said...

Nancy, my friend Keran makes those snowflakes. She passes them out for Kissmoose presents. She taught me to crochet (and read the patterns). She's another woman who never had children. Never married either. But we both teach, and that's important. I drool over her fabric stash!

8:36 AM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

Very cool to know the snowflakes live on, Georg! You should crochet a few yourself! :-)

3:29 PM  
Blogger Dawn Brocco said...

Hi Barbara,

This is all from a designer's POV.

I too have crocheted for ages (about 18 years) before teaching myself to knit.

But yes it's still considered the b*st*rd child of needlework (as one shop owner expressed to me).

They (crochet patterns) just don't sell. Not looking for sympathy! - just stating a fact, yet, every now and then I can't help but design a crochet garment.

Maybe if more crocheters frequented *knitting* shops, crochet could finally be respected ss a valid textile form.

In the meantime, I need to fight those urges, except to use crochet on edges (which seems to pass OK with knitters) - a designer can only throw away so much time!

7:28 PM  
Blogger Kenyetta said...

How long did that take and how big is the square? How much yarn did that one take? I don't I have enough leftover sock yarn to make an afghan.I also can't crochet so it's a moot point- just curious, looking for ways to use up leftovers.

10:46 PM  

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