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.
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.
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.