This is the story of my most cherished vintage afghan… where memories of my grandmother, its creator, are weaved tightly within it, and that I will always and forever save from a holey death.
Growing up, I was fascinated by my grandmother’s ability to weave a ball of yarn into something wonderful with two sticks. I couldn’t understand the language that was printed in her pattern books, but I could understand that in order to accomplish making the gorgeous sweaters that were in the patterns’ pictures, my Granny had to make magic with knitting needles.
For a few years in the early 80s, my grandmother went on a tear with knitting. Her passion seemed to be for knitted afghans as I never once knew her to knit any sweaters. For a time when my sister and I went over to visit with her every weekend, she would put on the TV for us and I remember watching Dallas with the gentle sound of her clicking needles in the background. She was always knitting something afghan, and eventually we would see the fruits of her labour. One Christmas, she made my mom, my aunt, my sister and me each an afghan. She also managed to make afghans for our elementary school’s fundraising projects and for special charities she was involved with. The lady was talented…and BUSY!
My grandmother stuck with two styles of afghan that were popular at the time – the chevron, (also known as the zig zag or flying V), and the fan and feather (the wave). Of course, the colour scheme of these blankets represented the colours popular at the time – golds, yellows, oranges, rusts and browns. Colours may come and go, but I had told myself no matter what, I would never give away my grandmother’s afghan.
Years later, I still have one of these afghans – my sister’s – a constant reminder of my grandmother. This chevron-patterned blanket has been on several moves, seen many a washing machine and a lot of snuggle time. Believe it or not, after everything this blanket has been through, it still smells like my grandmother’s place.
Of course, a 30-year-old handmade afghan is bound to need some repairs sooner or later. One day a few years ago, I noticed a hole in the afghan, right in the centre of one of the panels. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fix it – one of those “when I get around to it” scenarios. Recently, I got the nerve to look at the hole, and assess how complicated it would be to fix it. Being a knitter for 20 years, initially taught by my grandmother, and with many projects under my belt, I knew I could do it. But, not having any familiarity with the chevron pattern itself, I thought it best to seek out the pattern in case I had to unravel the panel and then could easily knit it back up again. I looked through my stash of patterns my grandmother had given me years ago, to no avail. Okay, time to pray to Google I could locate a free pattern somewhere! The original pattern came from a Patons Beehive afghan pattern book from 1977 (no. 106, to be precise) and I could have sworn my grandmother had given me her copy when she moved into the home. Nope, I couldn’t find it anywhere. (As an aside, I was shocked to discover people are charging upwards of $10+ on eBay and etsy for this five-page leaflet! Wow!) After some extensive searches, I found a free pattern online. This pattern was close enough to the exact afghan I was trying to fix. Hooray for the internet!
And the fun begins…
After much study, I ended up unsewing the affected panel, and unravelling it a third of the way down past the hole. I read where you could try and use a crochet hook to pick up the dropped stitches, but couldn’t figure out how with the complexity of the pattern, and the fact that the wool was cut (hence the hole). Instead, I figured it would be less work to unravel and knit it back up.
That ended up to be a very wise decision…but not without a huge snag: I had run out of yarn, and short about two inches from completion! D’oh!
I am not sure why this happened – perhaps my knitting tension was looser than my grandmother’s which caused me to use up more yarn. Maybe I used the wrong sized needles; I don’t know. At any rate, it was the end of the line, and now I needed to somehow find a matching yarn in a burnt orange colour. Luckily, harvest colours seem to be coming back en vogue as I found a close shade in Vanna White’s line of wool from Tiger Brand (yes, THAT Vanna White…). The colour I used is a shade lighter, and has more yellow than the original, but for what it’s worth, it looks fine. I sewed up the panels, and voila! My grandmother’s afghan is all fixed, ready for more snugglers.
This project has since given me a glimmer of confidence to tackle other projects I had been putting off knitting and fixing, including a wedding afghan that I made for friends years ago that fell apart in Year One (embarrassing!). I have definitely learned from this experience, and it has made me a stronger knitter because of it; exactly what my grandmother, my Knitting Guru, would have wanted.
I have since managed to get my hands on two copies of the Patons Beehive Afghan pattern book…
My mother-in-law happened to have a copy in her stash of wool donated to her via the hubs’ paternal grandmother. That was a nice Christmas surprise.
Months after I repaired my grandmother’s afghan, the hubs and I were in North Bay, Ontario at a junk shop where I found a copy of the Patons Beehive pattern book I had been looking for. I already had a copy, but couldn’t ignore my luck. When I asked the lady at the cash how much she was charging, she said, “Make me an offer.” I said, “Fifty cents”. SOLD! Quite a discrepancy from $10, isn’t it? The original price was 65 cents, and that was 1977 prices! I got this for a steal! 🙂