This week, I’m so thrilled to bring you a guest post! Michelle and I have “known” each other online since our first kids were born – we met in a parenting message board group that has stayed together, and I’m privileged to count her among my real friends, even though we’ve never met in person! A couple of months ago, she began posting questions on Facebook for her “crochet friends” about a vintage afghan pattern she was trying. As some of us looked at the pictures and googled and Pinterest-ed and questioned her sanity, she began to tell the story of why this afghan was so important to her. Michelle is sharing with us how that story makes the struggle and the frustration (and the victory!) worth every minute – I love this story, and I hope it touches you, too.
Calming. Relaxing. Satisfying. Accomplishment. ……These are the words that come to mind when I think of crocheting. I try and make sure I carve out time for myself on a regular basis to crochet – whether I’m making blankets, hats, scarves, baby booties, even cup cozies….whatever comes my way. It is my wind-down at the end of a busy day. It is my sanity saver. It calms me. It is something for “me” in a schedule busy with taxiing kids, planning lessons, and the day to day ins and outs of family life and raising 3 kids. I enjoy the challenge as much as the finished product and the joy of sharing it with others. However, recently I took on a project that I have found to be a challenge beyond any crochet challenges I’ve had before. It has been trying, frustrating, and even aggravating at times. So why, if crocheting is my way of relaxing, would I take this on and torture myself? Isn’t there enough stress in life already? The answer is simple and complex all at the same time, and it is a story that comes from my childhood.
For me, this project is so much more than a pattern and some yarn. It is sentimental, a connection to the past, and it is a work of heart. You see, crocheting is a gift from my mom. It is a piece of my childhood and the tangible remains of my memories. I have many vivid memories of my mom sitting down in the evening working on a craft project of some sort. I inherited her love for crafting – it was an innate part of growing up for me. Among the countless, invaluable things a mother teaches her daughter, crafting wove its way into so many lessons….. patience, determination, giving… love. There was so much to learn from her, but unfortunately time was not on our side. At the age of rr, my mom was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Knowing each day was a gift, she made the most of every last one. (I have so much I could say about how amazing this woman was, but that is a whole other post!) During that time, she was always working on a project. Throughout the last months of her life my mom went back to crocheting. She said it helped her to keep her hands busy and it calmed her. It was during those months that she taught me to crochet. I completed my first project – a very basic afghan – during those months. I treasured that time with her. The conversations, the quiet, the company, the lessons, the memories – all of it a gift. Crocheting was truly one of her last gifts to me and I have continued to crochet ever since. When I became pregnant with my first child, I crocheted her baby blanket and made her Christmas stocking, as I did with each of my boys after that – just as my mom had done for my siblings and me. Crocheting has been a connection to my mom that I cannot put into words. It has also been a way for me to carry on a tradition that I grew up with – crafting items for my children and those I care about. Giving from the heart.
So what does any of this have to do with a frustrating, aggravating afghan pattern that has caused me to say more than a few unlady-like words? The afghan is a replica of one my mom made over 30 years ago. Growing up, it sat on the back of our couch. As a little girl I would curl up under it on a regular basis. A little over a year ago my dad had taken it out and immediately I was flooded with memories. At that moment I knew I had a mission. I was determined to make what she once had made. It took me awhile to track down the pattern. Hers had long since disappeared. When I finally found some tidbits of information about the pattern I learned it was no longer in print. Still determined, the hunt continued and by chance I found a copy of it on eBay. It was only recently I was finally able to start working on this afghan from my childhood. The yarn had been chosen and I was ready.
Then I read the pattern and immediately I was intimidated and discouraged. It was written a little differently than most other patterns I was used to. There were terms I was unfamiliar with and not even a Google or YouTube search was very helpful at times! I read, reread, searched, re-searched and even posted on Facebook for help (of which my husband was convinced I was speaking a foreign language!) FINALLY I felt like I had the stitches figured out. This pattern as 2 basic sections:
1) an aran pattern bordered on each side with a high ridge front stitch and knurl stitch.
… and 2) a basket weave pattern.
The last one was familiar territory – but almost every single thing about the first section was unfamiliar and a challenge. The terminology and the description took many read throughs to be certain I understood what to do. Then, once I thought I had the stitches and patterns figured out, working through it the first time had me second-guessing myself every step of the way. A double chain? Surely they must mean double crochet? No? Wait – what? Could that REALLY be right? Eventually it came together. I learned to break it down to small familiar nuggets. For example, the knurl really is a variation of the crab stitch. The double chains are really a way to create a cable effect. I began to understand the importance of how this pattern uses FLO and BLO to create a working design on the front and a smooth sc appearance on the back. The puzzle was becoming clear piece by piece.
Now that I have finally completed the first run through of all the stitches and patterns, I feel more confident. I also fee energized, and yes, even a little proud of myself. I have a LONG way to go! These two patterns will repeat several more times, but I already feel like I have conquered my own crochet version of Mt. Everrest by getting through this….. from tracking the pattern down to figuring out the unknown (mostly) on my own. In retrospect, having worked through it, the patterns are relatively simple now. But it certainly took more work and “research” than I would have thought, or even welcomed in most cases. As I work on it now – finally finding some calm in this crazy pattern I am determined to get through – I feel this incredible connection to my mom. I fell she is a part of me, that she is with me. This afghan, when finished, will truly be a work of heart with memories and love woven in to each stitch.