Yarn Mania

A Genuine GRANNY-Square Afghan

When I was a child, a visit to my Grandma Ehrhart’s house in Quincy, Illinois, was like a visit to another era. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, where everything was new. And it was the 1950s, so people wanted to be modern, and architecture and home décor reflected that aim. My grandmother’s house was a Craftsman Bungalow dating from around the time she married my grandfather.* My father was their first child and he just turned 100, so that house was built a very long time ago. Everything in her house seemed exotic to me because nothing was modern. I especially loved this afghan, which is now mine.

It’s quite large.

It came to me when she downsized and moved into a very pleasant retirement complex. It’s fashioned from individually crocheted squares in a style called “granny squares.” It’s a great style for the novice crocheter to master because finishing a square provides an instant burst of gratification, and a square only takes about fifteen minutes. Also a granny-square project can be very portable since you’re just making one square at a time, not carrying a whole afghan-in-progress around.

Another great feature is that it’s a yarn version of a patchwork quilt–a way to use up odds and ends of yarn left from other projects. You can see that this afghan uses a great many different colors, and often different shades of the same color.

I think my grandmother really was using up odds and ends of yarn when she made it because some segments were less moth-resistant than others. At one point after it was mine, several of the squares began to unravel as one color of yarn or another disintegrated. I retaught myself how to make granny-squares–I learned to make them long ago but hadn’t done it for years–and somehow patched in new versions of the disintegrated sections. I say “somehow” because at this remove I honestly don’t know how I managed it–since to make a granny square from scratch one starts in the middle and moves outwards, and each new color fastens onto the previous one. The outermost color could easily be replaced, but in the picture above, the neon orange in the square on the left is a section I redid.

I am now making my own granny-square afghan.

I’ve been at it for about three years and have made 300 squares. I’m in the process of sewing them together. They can also be crocheted together, which is the technique my grandmother used. I’m using random colors with black borders, just like hers, though one can also make solid-color granny squares and/or choose a particular color scheme for an afghan.

*The house I now live in, in New Jersey, is even older than my grandmother’s house.

P.S. My sister saw this post and sent me a picture of the genuine GRANNY-square afghan when it was still in my grandmother’s house. She took the picture on a visit to Quincy with her son Richard in 1979.

PeggyA Genuine GRANNY-Square Afghan
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Flea Market Bear

I found this bear at the Brussels flea market while visiting my Brussels-based sister. The Brussels flea market is a flea market extravaganza, every day of the week in a huge square, with offerings ranging from curated goodies set out in booths to random odds and ends laid out on blankets on the cobblestones. That’s the environment in which I found the bear, jumbled among what seemed dubious booty from an attic cleanout. The bear doesn’t look handmade, though he was certainly well-loved and I was happy to rescue him. (Information about the Brussels flea market is easy to find online if you’re a flea-market aficionado planning a trip to Belgium.)

His outfit must have once had suspenders, but all that’s left is one button. Perhaps the ensemble was meant to be an old-fashioned bathing costume.

His face is not too expressive.

At first I thought he was a cat, but I realized he has no tail–except for a random yarn tail at his waist on the left.

PeggyFlea Market Bear
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Heirloom of the Future

My mother is constantly busy with her needlework, and kits for needlework projects have become most welcome gifts. A kit usually provides more yarn than needed to complete the project, so a devotee of needlework kits ends up with masses of leftover yarn, good-quality wool in a dazzling array of colors. My sister Penny is also a dedicated craftsperson, and has found a use for the leftovers. Inspired by the Frugal Knitter’s Scarf I invented as a knitting project in Murder, She Knit, Penny (yes, she is the inspiration for Pamela’s daughter Penny in my series), created a frugal crocheter’s afghan.

Photo courtesy of Penny, with the unexpected bonus of Murder, She Knit waiting on the arm of the sofa for a cozy read!

Here’s another view of the afghan.


PeggyHeirloom of the Future
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Antique Kitten

I found this kitten at an estate sale billed as offering “Americana.” Indeed the owners of the house had assembled a collection of silver pieces that looked as if Paul Revere could have made them, as well as lovely old wooden furniture and folk art. I don’t think this kitten is handmade but she certainly is old. At the sale she was sitting in a highchair made of wood so aged it must have served many generations of babies.

She even has a tail.

And such a sweet face.

PeggyAntique Kitten
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Vintage Woven-Square Blanket

I found this interesting blanket at a tag sale. The color combination struck me as quite old-fashioned, and soon afterwards an article in the Real Estate section of the New York Times included a photo of a bathroom in a 1924 house featuring exactly the same color scheme: tile in the lighter shade of green with trim in the darker shade of green–and salmon-pink plumbing fixtures! I suspect that bathroom had been updated some time after its1924 construction–modernized to reflect the happening colors of the 1940s or 1950s.

The other interesting thing about the blanket is that it looks handmade, as if it was assembled from individually woven squares and then finished with a crocheted edge.

You can see in this close-up of the reverse side that the squares have been sewn together, leaving little yarn tails at the corners. I did a bit of online research, looking for evidence of weaving kits that people might have used for this craft in the past, but I couldn’t find anything. If anyone reading this knows of weaving kits as a bygone hobby, please tell me. You can get in touch by clicking on the “Contact” tab.  Thanks!

Since I posted this, I’ve received a very interesting response, from Barbara Minerd, a retired professor of visual communication. She wrote, “Your photo blanket was woven on a ‘Weave-It’ loom made by Hero Manufacturing Co., Inc., in Middleboro, Massachusetts. They also made knitting needles, crochet hooks, accessories, and gift kits. I have two sizes: the one which was used for your photo blanket 3 7/8″, and the other makes a smaller square about 1 7/8”. The larger square takes me about 15 minutes to weave, so you can imagine how much time it takes to weave and then sew the squares together, plus crochet the edge. I enjoy designing different color schemes as well as repeating patterns. It is small enough to take to the beach or anywhere to be creative!”

Thank you, Barbara!

PeggyVintage Woven-Square Blanket
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Hand Crocheted By …

I found this beautiful scarf at an estate sale in a neighboring town. The house was charming  and old, and it was obvious the occupant had been a devoted crafter. I love the rounded ends, the color combination, and the quite random stripes. And the best part of the scarf is …I like to think the creator of this scarf would be happy to know her creation is still being admired.

 

PeggyHand Crocheted By …
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