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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Granny Squares and Rugs: Recalling Memories of Old

It's funny how much we forget over the years, and how the littlest thing can bring a flood of memories to mind.

Back to the Beginning
Back in the dark ages of the '70's, there was a girl named Jeannette who sat in front of me in in sixth grade.  She would come to school pretty much everyday with a ball of yarn and a crochet hook. Her seat was in the front row, and the teacher sat in the back of the class, so Jeannette could keep her WIP on her lap and sneak in a few stitches here and there until she would get caught.  Her main item was a shoulder bag and she had one in every color under the sun, using a different one everyday, and making more along the way.  She also crocheted granny square vests and the occasional baby blanket.  It was the bags that I coveted.

One day I brought in this scrap ball of yarn and my brand new crochet hook and asked her if she would teach me.  She took one look at the yarn and said it was unworkable and to buy a new skein and she would give me a lesson.  This was on a Monday.  I bought the hook with my allowance on Saturday and couldn't wait to get to school.  Now it would be a whole week until I could get back to her with the yarn.  I was feeling disappointed already.  That Saturday, I went back to the store to look for the yarn.

For those of you that remember back then, the yarn choices were slim at best.  Red Heart worsted, baby, rug and Knit-Cro-Sheen were about all you got at Woolworth's. And Woolworth's was the only store I had access to that carried yarn.  I had no idea what was what, so I bought the cheapest I could find, which happened to be rug yarn, a thick, coarse yarn used to make rugs.  She informed me I got the wrong yarn and made much fuss over this issue.  She was 12 and all ready high maintenance!!  But she would show me anyways.  But, not the bag which I was coveting.  Instead she showed me how to make a granny square.  As it was the end of the school year, and she lived too far away to visit, I had the entire summer to practice the chain, slip stitch and double crochet of the granny square.  The following September I barely saw her, so my lessons had come to a sad end.

It would be granny squares or nothing.  So it was granny squares.  Big ones and small ones, single colored  and multi-colored, one block and multi-blocked, I made granny squares until I couldn't make them any more.  It's like eating a food so often and for so long, that even though you loved it, you were just sick or it.  I hated granny squares.  The crocheting stopped, but the desire to do it did not.

Fast Forward a Few Years
I start crocheting again and while I'm sitting on a bus going from Somerville to Boston a lovely woman sitting next to me asked what I was making when I pulled out the yarn and hook.  I explained that I wanted a small rug and the granny square was the only thing I knew how to do. She asked if she could show me a better stitch to do a rug with, and I handed her my hook and yarn with a "Thank You"!  My second lesson began!

It was a perfect stitch for rugs. Where the granny square was thin and holey, the stitch she taught me was thick and dense.  I don't think she told me a name of the stitch, and I would go on to call it the 'Rug Stitch'.   I would only make a couple of rugs before I would again put crocheting into the back of the closet.  I would forget how to do the stitch, but the sub-conscience has a way of remembering.  For example, I remembered the name Rug Stitch, and I would find myself trying to recall a technique without realizing that I was attempting to do the Rug Stitch.

Teaching Myself (sort of)
One Christmas in the early/mid '80's I decided to make some crocheted gifts and while perusing the yarns and pattern books (I didn't know how to read them)  I came across a Leisure Arts leaflet for Fisherman Afghans.
Leisure Arts Leaflet #250 - Out of Print
The afghan on the right is the one I made and is called Armagh.

There was this one pattern I just loved, so I grabbed the book and was determined to learn to make it. The stitches were gorgeous and though it took me a great deal of time, I finally finished it.  (It came out a lot smaller than the instructions said it would be. I had always been told that I crocheted tight, but it wasn't until this afghan that I learned what they were talking about!)  I loved this afghan!  An ex-boyfriend asked to keep it when we broke up.

Current Day
That little thing to bring all of this back to me happened last night while looking over patterns at ravelry.com (use the link in the right-hand column), and came across this one for a potholder: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/siberian-stitch-potholder.  No, I wasn't looking for a potholder pattern, but the stitch looked like it may be a type of afghan (currently being called Tunisian) stitch, but I couldn't recall ever doing a stitch called Siberian. So I went to the pattern and watched the tutorial: http://siberianstitch.com/tutorial.html.

It wasn't an afghan stitch, but was in fact the Rug Stitch I had learned so many years ago!

I want to thank Mark Meier for bringing this memory back to me, and for sharing the stitch with everyone! Though I'll always call it the Rug Stitch, I understand his name for it - it is perfect for creating cold weather wear!  And I love his use of it for potholders! Brilliant idea!

And I want to thank the total stranger who took a moment to show a teenager on a bus something new. And to Jeannette for the first step.

I'm sure that I'll create something new to bring to everyone here using the Rug Stitch. I can see it being used for pet beds, yoga mats and pillows.  Maybe even a winter skirt using a lighter weight yarn. But don't expect me to design anything with granny squares - they are still off the menu!

Happy Hooking!
Sheila

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