A Belated Christmas Gift

Jessica was the second sibling to receive a hand-made crocheted blanket from me. As she pulled her Christmas gift from its wrapping, the family ooh’ed and aah’ed.

“How long did it take you to make that?” Meg, my youngest sister, asked.

“Forty hours,” I said, without hesitation.

“How do you know that?”

“Well, I timed how long it took to make each piece so I knew how much I’d have to do each day in order to finish it in time for Christmas.”

“And at the hourly rate she charges, that blanket is priceless,” my father chimed in. At the time, I was a very-well-paid medical computer systems consultant.

“Well,” Meg said, with a wry smile on her face, “I want a sixty hour blanket.” We all laughed, but a few years later Meg got her wish.

Meg was the first–and last–person I ever said could pick out the blanket they wanted me to make. I handed her a pattern book from which I’d made some afghans previously. She picked a pattern of squares, each with a different color flower in its center.

I started that pattern and grew quite frustrated at how poorly it was written. I then realized that not all the patterns in this book were written by the same person, so though other afghans in the book were not hard for me to figure out, this one was much more challenging.

I finally gave in and told Meg I was sorry, but I couldn’t make the one she picked out. Ever the understanding sibling, she laughed about it and assured me that whatever I made she would be happy with it.

That Christmas morning, Meg pulled her blanket from it’s packaging. After the requisite ooh’s and aah’s, Meg donned her familiar wry smile and asked “So how long did it take you to make?”

“Definitely more than Jessica’s,” I assured her.

“Yessss,” she said, eyeing Jessica.

Some years later, my only brother mentioned he wanted a hand-made blanket from me. I never thought to make him one, let alone imagined he would ever request one.

“But you have one Grandma Gallo made you. And you have the one Grandma Doss had on her couch when we were growing up.”

“But I don’t have one you made,” he said. Jeffrey sure knew how to charm his sisters.

And so it was that I set about finding a pattern for Jeffrey. No flowers. No fringe. Certainly no lacy open-work. The first pattern I picked, once I got started, I found boring. If I was bored making it, I’d surely never finish it. So a mere month before Christmas I decided on a different pattern: the Vortex Afghan.

Looking back now, I wonder what possessed me to try a blanket with such a name. Indeed, I felt sucked into a vortex every time I sat down to work on it. With other afghans, I would eventually have the pattern memorized for having repeated it so much. I could then talk to people and crochet at the same time. But not this one. There was never a part of this blanket I could do without the pattern right beside me. More than once, while attempting to watch television while making the blanket, I had to pull out some of it and start again, having lost where I was.

Even if you don’t crochet, you can appreciate this: Each of the twelve blocks started as a circle, and when I was finished it was a square with a circle inside. Not only that, but each circle has two colors, spiraling around each other.

The pattern was so time-consuming that I knew there was no way to have it finished by Christmas. Though I felt bad, I knew Jeffrey would understand.

Jeffrey has always been the most easy-going of my siblings. The only boy among four girls, he learned early on that the easiest thing to do was step aside and let the girls to their squabbling, their demanding. He would just sit back, take it all in, and every once in a while, when things were getting a little too tense, he would step in and change the subject so smoothly that not a single one of us could pick up on it.

For Christmas, I pinned together the six blocks I had made and wrote Jeffrey a letter explaining the situation:

A Christmas Letter

A Christmas Letter

My parents were due to visit me in Asheville in February and my goal was to have the blanket finished by then so they could bring it back to Jeffrey in New York. On Groundhog Day, I noted on Facebook that I was happy there were six more weeks of winter: that meant there was a chance it would be cold enough for Jeffrey to use his afghan this winter.

By the time my parents arrived, all the blocks were completed but I still had some assembling to do, then a border to complete. While Dad drove us to visit a small town in South Carolina, I sat in the backseat crocheting that border. It was the easiest part of the whole thing.

A Work-in-Progress

A Work-in-Progress

My parents left five days later, the completed blanket taking its place in their car.

Last night, Jeffrey’s fiance texted me a picture of him with his blanket, wrapped around his face like a nun’s habit.

IMG959363

Jeffrey would never say how many hours he wanted dedicated to his blanket. He might think it, but knew better than to say a word to me, the super-sensitive eldest. He didn’t have to, of course. Jeffrey, without having said a word, won the prize.

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

When The Time Is Right…

About this time last year, my then-two-year-old niece was the recipient of what I consider one of my best crocheted pieces yet: an adorable Seashells and Posies dress.  I started and then re-started this dress at least three times before I finally got it right, but it was worth it.  It’s the cutest thing ever, and Ava loves it.  I am thrilled every time my sister chooses to dress my niece in it.

Ava wore the dress for her little sister, Isabella’s, christening last month.  My sister considered having her wear it for Easter this year.  When my mother asked what Isabella would wear, my sister said, “I was kind of thinking I want them to wear the same dresses this year.”  Was this Liz’s way of asking if I’d make the same dress for my other niece?  I remembered back, not so fondly, to the days Liz would call me “Granny” as I sat and crocheted.  I never thought I’d see the day when she’d actually dress her kids in clothes I made for them, let alone imply that she might want me to make more.  But God has a funny way of messing with us.  My sister actually likes the things I make her kids.  And tells me so.  Which stills my heart each time I hear it.

So as I saw it, the challenge was on: either I make Isabella a dress just like Ava’s or they wear store-bought dresses for Easter.  “Do you think you can finish it by Easter?” Liz asked.  Um, I really have no idea.  It took me a month to make the last one.  And three false starts….

Then I started thinking about a couple other projects in my head that I’d yet to start.  A baby blanket and a wedding blanket- both of which need to be done in the next couple months.  Minor glitch: I’m going to be out of the country for the majority of the next couple months.  So all these things need to be made….really soon.

So what happens?  I get sick.  Not just a few days.  I’m down for a whole week.  It’s the kind of cold where I don’t have energy to do much of anything but sit on the couch.  When I get sick, it’s God’s way of saying, “Okay – time for you to slow down.  Here.  Try this.”

His timing (as usual) couldn’t have been more perfect.  Well, there’s never a good time to get sick.  But some times are better than others.  I happened to be sent this lovely little illness not while on the road, not while in another country, but while in a room upstairs in my parent’s house.  The yarn for all three projects had just come in (minus one skein that my youngest sister Meg hunted down for me).  And though I had no energy to leave the house for a week, I DID have enough energy to crochet.

I am thrilled to report that I left the house today – for the first time in a week.  I’m finally feeling better.  Isabella’s dress?  Just needs buttons sewed on the back and it will be finished.  Baby blanket? Done.  Wedding blanket?  Well, here’s hoping….

Isabella's Dress

Baby Blankets

No, I’m not pregnant.  Nor is anyone else I know.  But I’ve been making baby blankets lately.  Why?  Well, because one of the women in my Saturday morning knitting/crochet group volunteers with the WIC program (Women, Infants and Children).  Our group (affectionately named Purl Jam) takes scraps from former projects and makes baby blankets and other baby items to give to these women who probably don’t have anyone in their lives that would make their child a homemade blanket.

Here’s the one I completed today – my third since I joined the group! As you may recall, I went to this group for the first time as one of my “artist dates” and enjoyed the women so much, I go every weekend I’m in town.