Sunday, March 21, 2010
The closest thing I have to a crafting tradition in my family is the granny square afghans my mother and aunts crocheted while I was growing up. Sometime when I was in my early teens, my mother and aunts started getting together weekly for what they called their “sewing club.” My mother has six sisters, who all participated, except for Auntie Jo, who liked to wear sunglasses inside, and who was rarely without a cigarette hanging from her mouth. I don’t think the sewing club was quite her thing. Instead, my Auntie Helen, an aunt by marriage, joined the club.
They met on Wednesday nights after dinner, and took turns meeting at each other’s houses. The hostess was expected to provide tea and a dessert. Of course the real purpose of the sewing club was to get together and visit, which is remarkable to me in retrospect, because they spoke to each other continuously on the phone and in person. It was always someone’s birthday in my family, so there was a regular schedule of parties, and of course we got together for holidays. My Auntie Lu would often stop to have coffee with my mother after she’d dropped her kids at school, and before she had to show up for her part time job wrapping packages downtown at the Emporium. She’d arrive with her coat thrown hastily over her nightgown. However, Auntie Lu had to stop driving around town in this attire after her car broke down one morning. Fortunately, she was within walking distance of Auntie Helen’s, but she had to make the walk, as she later reported, sin calzones, without underpants, as she had again rushed out of the house wearing nightgown, coat, slippers, and nothing else.
When they first met for the sewing club, the aunts would bring pants to hem, or other mending. Auntie Nena was the first one who crocheted, and she quickly taught the others. Eventually, the granny square afghan, in its classic incarnation with black-bordered multicolored squares, became the sewing club’s official project.
The aunts swapped brightly colored acrylic yarns so that everyone had the maximum number of colors in their granny squares. They carefully chose what colors to contrast between rounds. They shared extra aluminum crochet hooks in size E with those who couldn’t find theirs. I don’t remember my mother working on her granny squares outside of sewing club meetings, and my aunts probably didn’t either, which is why the afghans seem to have been completed over many years. Eventually everyone finished one, and except for Auntie Nena, the original crocheter in the group, I don’t think anyone continued to crochet after the granny square afghans were done. Eventually the group disbanded. My aunt Helen separated from my uncle, my parents moved out of the city when my father’s plant relocated. But everyone had a granny square afghan proudly displayed in her home. It was an accomplishment they’d made together, as a group, as sisters.
The granny square afghan appears to be trendy again. Or maybe it’s that its trendiness has been acknowledged by a new generation. Check out the work of Attic24 . There are some remarkable examples in Flickr groups Attic24 Inspired and Crocheting Sunburst. As always, careful color selection is the key to the granny square.
I was inspired by a project in this post on Attic24, and by the sewing club afghans, to make a granny square scarf. It was fun to make, choosing from a selection of bright scraps. I got Allie to model it for me. She has the panache to make it look elegant. I’m going to wear it with my jean jacket now that the weather has been warmer.
The granny square captures some of the best parts of the crafting experience. It’s best executed when both yarn and experience are shared with others. It’s being fostered today in virtual sewing clubs all over the world.