Wednesday, January 15, 2020

By their stash shall ye know them


Many of my friends know about my never-ending conceptual art project that I have been calling "mile-o-crochet" even though it will probably not get to be a mile long.  I'm using up leftover yarn to crochet a series of l-o-n-g strips that have no purpose at all except to be rolled up into cakes.  As the word has gotten around, I have become the recipient of many bags of yarn bits.

Today I scored seven bags of stuff from a friend of a friend, and spent a couple of hours sorting it into piles -- worsted weight for the mile-o-crochet, delicate baby yarn, other sport-weight yarns, rug yarn, needlepoint wool, novelty yarns for fancy knitted scarves, a pile of miscellaneous for art, and a little bit in the wastebasket. 

I know the donor of this stash must feel great thinking that the leftovers from decades of handwork will go to a good cause.  I wish I could assure her that it will happen -- I will definitely make the mile-o- and the baby afghans, but since I no longer do needlepoint and don't really know how to knit, I will take the rest to my fiber art group grab bag tomorrow and hope that somebody else will grab.

But what struck me as I sorted through the bags was how much of this woman's life is revealed by her stash.  From the envelopes of patterns she ordered, I know her maiden name, her mother's address and one of her still-in-town-but-my-own-place addresses before she moved to Louisville.  (Note to those in witness protection: go through your bags of yarn carefully before de-accessioning.)  I know that in the 70s she made a bazillion crocheted caps -- or at least she bought or cut out a bazillion patterns for crocheted caps.

I know that she drafted her own patterns for needlepoint, often making personalized belts and other stuff with appropriate symbols, logos and lettering. 

I know she bought a lot of rug yarn, and at least three rug hooks, but never made the rug(s).  I know from a note on the bag that her mother liked to knit and crochet stuff for the church bazaar, like this crocodile/hot mitt.
























Here's a giveaway thimble marked "Don't get stuck.  Re-elect SENATOR JOHN SHERMAN COOPER", which my husband says might be worth some money to a collector of political memorabilia, as Cooper was a nationally prominent Republican who served on the Warren Commission.  She herself was active in politics, once running for judge (a crochet pattern written on a piece of her campaign stationery).

I've always liked working with leftovers and hand-me-down projects.  Knowing that some other woman once sat in the evenings making something useful and beautiful out of this yarn, this canvas, this fabric, gives me an energy that I don't get from virgin materials.  I'm not a woo-woo person, but I do think there's an aura to pre-owned and pre-used things -- usually a good aura that I seek to capture and amplify with my own subsequent work.

Sometimes the other woman is one I love -- my grandmothers, my mother, my sister.  Sometimes she is totally unknown to me and I can try to imagine her as I stitch.  Sometimes I know who she is without having ever met her -- in many cases, the mothers or grandmothers of my friends.  In this case, it's a woman whose husband I ran into occasionally in my long-ago reporter days, whose name is familiar to me but whom I don't think I have ever met.  And yet her life is now a little bit entwined with mine. 

I hope this doesn't sound creepy, like I'm stalking her.  But since I know who she is, maybe I will call her up, thank her for the stash and see if she wants her John Sherman Cooper thimble back.


4 comments:

  1. My mother and my aunt cleaned out their mother's household goods when she died. Mom stuck the contents of a kitchen drawer designated for recipes in a box, unsorted. When I cleaned out my mother's kitchen and house, I found that box. Sorting through it was like an archeologic dig; I had no idea my grandmother went to fancy cooking lessons or that she dreamed of a modern kitchen or a washing machine with a wringer. Or that she kept recipes for home-made beauty cream.
    I gave that stack of stuff to the University for their archives' I gave them a huge box, they returned a small envelope as items not currently in their archives.

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  2. Not creepy at all, quite poetic.

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  3. Well THAT's interesting. I suppose there is a lot of information about me laying around my "room" and on my shelves. But I am usually pretty alert to leaving my address on something. Nice stash of yarn you got!!
    xx, Carol

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  4. So amazing that thimbles used to be campaign swag!

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