I’m pulling apart an old afghan I found by the side of the road—to be more specific, at the same apartment house where I found The Beloved Crockpot-- and making new things out of it. It is a distinctive acrylic yarn, made in the late 1970s that changes color through the rainbow. If you were alive then, you know it. You probably had an afghan or pillow in your house made out of it. So far, I have made two pairs of children’s mittens (very cute) and I’m working on an Ironic Vest. There has been a suggestion that I make leg warmers from some of it, to be worn on the Day of Salience or any other time a rainbow is needed. I’m all over the idea.
Some people have been giving the yarn puzzled looks—why are you messing around with that stuff? It is ugly! It may be, but, as Julia observed in the car yesterday, while watching me pull out and rewind three big balls of the stuff, I have a mystical connection to it. I’ve been pondering that connection all morning…
My first project with this yarn was in seventh grade. All the girls were required to take Home Economics (taught in my old second grade classroom with two sewing machines, a couple of tables, and nothing else. This was NOT a hands on experience !) while the boys had Industrial Arts in our math teachers classroom. (He had cancer and a long-term sub, so he clearly had no pushback rights to sawdust all over his space.) I DID NOT want to take Home Ick. I did not want to spend my time contemplating my wardrobe, filling out a worksheet on how many skirts and sweaters I had, what needed mending (everything) and what had to be replaced, taking into account color-coordination, because, as we were taught, you should have one main color and two accents in your wardrobe so that everything could mix and match. My mother did that; for years, everything she owned was red, navy blue, or white, usually one of each. She did it to me and my father as well. I did not like looking like the American flag all summer, but…she bought the clothes. My big rebellion was wearing poka dots with plaid, until she was onto that and bought only solids—so slimming, you know.
I glared at the teacher for several weeks, and then went to the Higher Ups, supported by my entire extended family of carpenters. I wanted out of Home Ick and into Industrial Arts. I wanted my chance at the power tools. “We can’t do that,” they replied. “Why not?” “Because then all of the girls would want to do it” was the logical reply. “Exactly,” I thought. “We all hate sewing.” So, they compromised. I could take Industrial Arts for two weeks, then I had to go back. For two sessions, I ran the power tools with the boys. Then I left, Debbie Fifick took my place for her two weeks, and we were done.
By then, I had another weapon—the yarn. My mother had taught me how to crochet and make granny squares, and I was obsessed. Rather than reading under the table—my usual way of avoiding schoolwork I did not like (perfected, I might add, it the same classroom where I was now tortured with clothing worksheets rather than seatwork math problems) – I crocheted madly around my giant square. For two weeks, the teacher was delighted. I was participating! I was sharing my knowledge of crochet with my neighbor! I was constructive! By the third week, as the square grew larger and larger, she had her doubts. I was not learning anything new. I was subverting the system in a new, and more devious, way. I was still a problem.
I finished the afghan a few months later, and spread it on my bed. I was proud. I learned a lot from the project. First, I had to think about how to turn the square into a rectangle, so that it was shaped to the bed. I learned how to apply knowledge and wing a new idea. Then, I ran out of yarn and could only find it in a tangled mass in the back room of a yarn shop—so I learned patience in detangling yarn—and other things. There’s a skill there. I learned persistence. I discovered the lovely addictive meditative state your brain slips into when you do any repetitive task for a long while.
I made many other things from that yarn. I made long knitted tubes that I sewed into mats and doilies and headbands. I made sweaters for the dolls sitting on my shelf. I made a trellis for my green beans. I made bookmarks. I made an octopus. I probably made a few dishcloths. It worked its way into two more granny square afghans. By the time I left high school, I was done with that yarn.
But then, there it was, sitting by the side of the dumpster. I picked it up, took it home, threw it in the wash and hung it in the sun, and started ripping. Who knows where it will take me this time.