I have a special affection for 1970s design because that was the decade I grew up. I thought the 70s was how the world was. I didn’t know I was part of a trend.
I love the sensibility, the choice of color, the idea about what looked good. I relish movies done with accurate sets, cool outfits and macramé plant holders.
I collect 1970s crochet pattern books. I love to look through the shelves at thrift stores and stumble upon a new book I don’t already have.
This weekend, I went to Rosebud, a tiny town in Missouri, for a fun horse carriage ride with family and friends. We wandered through a few antique stores. I checked for books to add to my collection but found nothing from my favored decade. Either too early or too late (you’re on your own, ‘60s and ‘80s).
One building had a hand drawn sign outside reading: garage sale. I was going to pass by but my son stopped to check it out. I drifted in behind him. I ended up feeling glad he had stopped. On a plastic shelf, in a cardboard box, I saw old papers that looked promising. Most were quilting and cross stitch patterns but then, in the back, I found my treasure. 1974. It could be mine for 25 cents. That was 75 percent off from its original price 40+ years ago. Quite the deal considering inflation!
The sunset colors of the ripple afghan on the cover drew me in. That afghan with its rust and ripples made me think of the orange couches in my memory with these afghans flung over the back. I felt nostalgic.
I thought about the last time I tried to make a ripple afghan. It was two years ago. I had found a retro pattern that won my heart. The pattern said, “it was sure to be a family heirloom, treasured for generations.” Who doesn’t want to make a family heirloom that would be treasured for generations?
I immediately ordered brown and blue acrylic yarn from online. I had some surgery planned in early 2015 and then weeks at home afterward. I imagined I would spend my post-surgery recovery crocheting a ripple afghan. I pictured myself in a hazy bliss of healing, making a gorgeous tribute to the 1970s that I—and future generations—would relish.
It was a fiasco.
The pattern required counting stitches to make the ripple afghan work correctly. Between the pain, nausea and physical fatigue, I could not count to ten stitches. My zig zags that should have been even and sharp were lumpy and misshapen. My project resembled what it might look like if a cat vomited yarn. I grew discouraged. I grew sad. Then I gave up. The project represented disappointment and failure—my inability to count and my weakness. I gave the yarn away.
That was the last time I tried to make a ripple afghan.
Saturday, I looked at the photo of my new treasure and wondered if I was ready to try again. I was stronger now. The pattern was easier. It was even advertised as EXTRA EASY INSTRUCTIONS with a 1970s flair font. I would only have to count to four with this one. I could try. It wouldn’t hurt to try again.
Ripple blankets are special because they have peaks and valleys. They look complicated to make but if you can count your stitches, they are not hard. Up and down the slopes your hook travels, never too long in one place.
I appreciated the anonymous designer (I imagine her as female). She directs us, “(it is especially important to start with a loose chain on an afghan; otherwise, the bottom will be tight, and as you work, the afghan will start spreading out but a tight bottom chain will never stretch. Disaster!)”
I love the way she punches the result of a tight bottom chain: Disaster!
Personal disasters happen, in yarn and in life.
Disappointment, depression, an unexpected diagnosis – these things happen.
Don’t give up.
Don’t give up on yourself.
Don’t give up on your future and the idea that it will get better.
It will get better.
Let there be valleys in your life. It’s OK to feel low. It’s OK to give away the things that represent failure, the things you don’t need, the thoughts that don’t serve you, the expectations that didn’t work out. You’ll be lighter.
Remember valleys only exist because of mountains.
Find your mountains and prepare to climb them again. When you reach the peak, you will see for miles and make sense of your life. You will see the valley and know it was only part of your travels. You’ll have a clear mind.
Pattern in hand, I was ready to try again.
I shopped for the colors to make the blanket. It called for three colors of orange and one of yellow. Modern day stores don’t sell dark rust so I had to substitute brown.
I knew how wrong an afghan could go, remembering my attempt after surgery on many pills. Disaster! You better believe I started this new afghan with a loose bottom chain.
I added a row of dark orange, then medium orange, then light orange.
I saw the hills and valleys for what they were: part of the whole, dependent on each other to define each other.
I began to take courage.
I might succeed this time. I might recreate a memory of the 1970s, the decade of sunset colors and a love of home.
I might embody that feeling of hope, hope that I’ll reach the end, wrapped up in warmth and coziness after my work is done.