A few years ago, a friend gave me a bag she got from an estate sale.
Inside was the beginning of a crochet project and four skeins of yarn in mustard, rust, khaki and coffee brown. Yes, it was yarn from the 1970s.
The project was a ripple afghan, the kind that were ubiquitous on the back of every couch in every house I visited as a kid. Sometimes I would see a granny square afghan but the ripple afghans were the most common.
The afghan was about one-tenth done, six inches wide and 48 inches across.
I felt the maker’s pain immediately. I could imagine her thoughts (because I thought of this partial-afghan maker as a woman), The project looks so great in the picture! How exciting! How nice it will look on the back of the couch in my glass and metal 1970s modern house!
Then the slog. Stitch by stitch. Slow climb up the hill and slow climb down into the valley.
Will this afghan ever be finished?
Apparently not. I took out the skeins of yarn and the faded, ripped directions.
I too know what it is to be stumped by a ripple afghan.
About four years ago, I saw a photo on Ravelry (the social network for knitters and crocheters) that was identical to an afghan I knew growing up. I asked where it had come from. She told me the pattern was from a modern book of vintage patterns. I ordered the book. I needed to order the yarn online because the beautiful 1970s colorway isn’t available in stores.
My book arrived and my yarn arrived. I decided it would be my recovery project while I was home recovering from a surgery.
With boldness and a sense of adventure, I started the 141 stitches that would make my glorious earth and sky ripple afghan, thinking, How exciting! How nice it will looking on the back of the couch in my 1990s trailer home!
With a fuzzy mind and an exhausted body, I couldn’t consistently count to 12. When my count was off by one stitch, the entire afghan failed. The problem was that I didn’t see my mistake until many stitches later. Sometimes, many rows later.
Who wants to undo hours of work?
Not me. I abandoned my ripple afghan and called it a failure. I decided ripple afghans were too hard for me.
Fast forward three years. I am stronger, better and willing to try again.
That afghan isn’t going to get the best of me! I ordered the yarn again. I pulled the book off the shelf and studied the pattern.
After all, it’s only an afghan. Try, try again!
I want success because I want to show myself I can do it. I am competent, diligent and determined. I can count to 12. I can make it happen.
I want a little piece of my childhood memory. I want to feel the ridges of the yarn under my fingers like I did as a child, seeing it on the back of the couch. I want my whole life to be accessible to me. I want to hold onto what was mine before, even if it was only an experience of sitting on a couch, brown and turquoise yarn under my hand, the memory of some unknown woman’s work done successfully.
This time will be different.
This time, I will use stitch markers, to help support my creative process.
This time, if it doesn’t work out, I won’t feel bad about myself.
This time, I have a plan.
I currently use the tiny mustard, rust, khaki and coffee brown afghan made by some unknown woman in the 1970s as a little draft protector in the sill for one of my windows. If my own ripple afghan doesn’t work out, then I will turn mine into another one.
There is no failure! I am either making an afghan…or a window sill draft protector.
The yarn came yesterday and I started my project. I saw from the label that the yarn was made in 2006. I worry that it might not be manufactured anymore. Maybe I ordered from some stack in a warehouse that won’t be replenished.
This might be the last chance to make this exact color of afghan, this replica of a memory from decades ago.
As I started to work, I prayed as I often do when I crochet. Lighten my heart and make nimble my fingers.
I prayed for those affected by fires in California.
I prayed for those in nursing homes.
I prayed for everyone on hospice, those who are aware of how their time is limited.
All our time is limited, truly. It is just a matter of awareness. 12 months, 12 stitches. Up the hill, down into the valley. Even though I am going down into the valley, I am not afraid. Christ, my love and my Lord, will meet me there.
I prayed for the lonely and cold, those who feel forgotten in this season of sparkling snow and family gatherings.
I prayed for the strength to take a run at the hill again, a brown and turquoise hill, the same hill I remember from my childhood decades ago.
I prayed we would all feel hope, enough hope to become our true selves and live with grateful hearts, even as we fail.