Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The afghan from my hopeless chest

Did I tell you I am moving? Like throwing or giving away half of everything I own, packing up the rest, and moving seven miles up the road? Well, I am. On Friday. My life is a complete disaster... but somehow I keep knitting, don't I?!

At the top of my bedroom closet, I found the very first thing I ever made: a white granny square afghan for my hope chest. I hooked it during high school after teaching myself to crochet using the Learn How Book, the venerable green booklet sold at every dime store in America for much of the 20th century. Someone gave me a bag of ancient knitting paraphernalia and this little gem was among the old wool and crochet hooks. The musty-smelling Learn How Book had vintage patterns that I'd never, ever make, but I could teach myself to crochet with the how-to photographs.

My mom passed on exactly zero crafty genes to me, but she did admire my zeal. I learned to knit from my Swiss aunt when I was four and my mother marveled at my natural ability. She was my greatest cheerleader and made sure I was always well plied with yarn. In fact, every time she went to a dime store, she'd grab another skein of white worsted. She didn't know wool from polyester; to her, white was the only thing that mattered. So I whipped up a white granny square wedding blanket from a gazillion different brands of white yarn.

It's funny... if I heard of a high school girl today who was crocheting a wedding blanket for her hope chest, I'd snap her retro ass up and drag her to a N.O.W. meeting. But back in the day, my hope chest was very important to me. A ridiculous waste of time and energy since I didn't get married until I was 36 and couldn't have children! Everything that went into that hope chest was completely and utterly hopeless.

I'm past the hope chest but still like to nest. Recently I've been cruising afghan patterns trying to settle on a block-based blanket for my new place. I finally decided to make Mary Beth Temple's Marmalade Skies afghan from the current issue of Interweave Crochet. Crochet, you ask? Yes. Crochet. Because it moves faster - I can make a square in 15 minutes every day without distracting from my main knitting tasks. If I plug away at it, the blanket will take care of itself. Plus I love the wacky new take on granny squares. I'm going to make a black and red blanket that will look like a falling checkerboard. What a hoot.

I chose Berroco Comfort Chunky to make the whole venture go even faster. I actually went to a LYS and bought the yarn since I was skeptical that I would like a nylon/acrylic blend, but I do. It's soft, plush, and perfect for an afghan. Nice stitch definition, too. Apparently it's washable but I don't believe in washing anything handmade. Too much work to risk such ruin.

So here's to hopeful middle age rather than a hopelessly naive youth. And to warm blankets made with love that last for years and years.


  1. OK..remember to breathe now!
    I can almost visualize Moose just standing on the sidelines and watching all the activity!
    BTW..do you know the wealth that collector's item of a Learn How Book would bring on Ebay?!
    But..for the memories, it is priceless.

  2. The idea of a Hope Chest is kind of sweet, I think -- but you're right, in a totally nostalgic, in no way practical today sort of way! If I met a young lady crocheting blankets made of dreams for her hope chest, I'd smile and nod and admire her handiwork, of course -- and give her a copy of just about any Suze Orman book to tuck into that chest all comfy with the afghan! ;)

    Good luck with the move! I've moved nearly every-other-year for the past decade, and I'll be doing a cross-country move in the next few months. I hope everything settles down to a dull roar for you quickly!


  3. This is my favorite entry of all. You write beautifully. Your talent is awaiting the right venue! More people should be reading your writing,in my humble opinion. xoxo

  4. Teresa, Moose is useless... he stands there looking worried. But of course, he's a pug and they always look worried!

    Trace, the Suze Orman money book for women is exactly what high school girls should be packing in their hope chests - that would do them some actual good!

    And Chris, all I can say is from your lips to God's ears. Plus xxxooo!

  5. Oh my! moving! That's something I try to avoid at all cost. I am probably traumatized by the fact that I moved 11 times in 2 years when I was 19, by then end, I was not even unpacking, I lived right out of the boxes.

    Why don't you wash a few granny squares and see if they survive, then you would know if the whole afghan could be machine washed. Crochet is going through a sort of revival it seems, and magazines are coming up with really inventive patterns. It's a great time to be a knitter/crocheter!

  6. Oh this post makes me wish so badly that I could crochet. But I can't seem to grasp it! (I think it is because I am a FREAKY left handed person!)
    I never had an actual hope chest, however I do have some handmade lace from my grandmother, silver spoons from my mother, and a quilt from my Grandma that I'm keeping for someday. And although sometimes I feel like I'm going to be alone forever (a lot of my friends are entering the getting married stage of there lives!) I like to keep the things because I'm hopeful that even if I don't get married someday when I'm older I'll have my own house and I'll want to put those things out to remind me of where I came from! :)

    Good luck on the blanket! I wouldn't want to have to sew in all those edges! (Which is my most HATED this and the thing that is keeping me from doing a sock yarn blanket!)

  7. Miss Katie, you can definitely learn to crochet because I'm a FREAKY left-handed person, too!

    I envy you your lace, spoons, and quilt. What wonderful heirlooms. Treasure them always.

    BTW!!!! You're like 22 years old. You will NOT be alone forever and you do NOT need to get married when you're this young. So chill, girl. The right dude will come along. This whole marriage thing is a marathon, not a sprint. xxxooo

  8. Michele, I want to do a knit/crochet hybrid sweater one of these days. I like the looking of knitting much more except for edgings, so maybe I could knit something in stockinette and then add a little lace on the edge. Maybe something like this:


    When in heaven did you have to move so many times when you were 19? You poor thing...