Sunday, June 24, 2012

What's in a name?

So...  should I call this the Pansy Flower Hexagon or the Double Shamrock?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

When Life is Interrupted

Here's The Beeb and his wife,
"Aunt Elaine from Spain" at
a family brunch last summer.

Bored Beeb with Elainey

My mother and her sister were very close, and consequently, my sister and I and our two cousins are very close.  We were raised almost like a brother and three sisters. I consider my cousins' children to be my nephews.  Our boy cousin (or as I used to refer to him, our big-boy cousin) is the second oldest of the four.  We grew up calling him "Beebo," or "The Beeb."  To this day, if he leaves a message on my phone, it begins, "Hi Auntie Juju, it's The Beeb." 

The Beeb and Elainey showing off their Chanukah
gifts I knitted for them last year.

My nephews in their Chanukah hats.

This past Tuesday, The Beeb took a fall and is now in ICU.  Life slowed to a crawl.  I've spent hour upon hour in the hospital watching him lay there in an induced coma.  As the medication levels were reduced and the coma receded, he began to attempt to get out of bed.  He'd try to rip the cast off of his broken arm.  It was good that he was moving around, but we didn't want him to move around too much, thus pulling all his tubes and monitors out.  He hasn't said a word, but a couple days ago, he began to open his eyes when the nurse would shout his name in his face.  

During this time, I've sat, with his wife and his parents, his sister and his friends, and watched.  I've kept his wife company.  I've brought an iPod with speakers so we could play music he likes.  We've tried to make conversation, about each other's health, work, the weather, politics.  Once, a nurse shouted his name in his face and he opened his eyes with such an expression of annoyance on his face that we all had to laugh.  His son, imitating what he must be thinking, said "Why would you do that?  I was sound asleep!"  We all cracked up.  The Beeb groaned.  Silence.

Lots of times, I'd be there alone with him.  Sometimes I'd try to hold his hand or put a cool cloth on his forehead.  I tried to think of things to say.

"If you think this means you're not going to see Siegel Schwall with me in September, you can forget it.  You're going."

"Look, Beebo, my family has gotten small enough in the past few years.  I can't spare anyone else.  You'd just better recover."

Beyond that, I sat and crocheted.  I've been working on coming up with some new and original motifs. I want to be part of that great wave of granny squares sweeping the nation.  Sitting there watching my cousin, wondering if he's really in there somewhere or if we've lost him for good, my hook has been going a-mile-a-minute.  Chain chain chain, connect with sl st.  Hmm let's see.  I'll try this, then that.... and before I knew it, I had what I've decided to call the Chrysanthemum Hexagon.

And then yesterday, a miracle happened.  Elaine's brother and wife, having come in from out of town, were sitting at his bedside when I walked in.  I whispered, "Beebo?  It's Jilly."  He opened his eyes and looked right at me, and then reached up his arms for me.  I kissed him and held his hands.  The nurse snapped at me that by touching him, I was making him more agitated.  I started to pull away, and he wrapped his arms around my arm.  So I sat there with him, rubbing his shoulder and telling him I knew how annoying this must be, but he had to try to lie still.  The nurse told me he didn't know what he was doing and didn't know it was I sitting there.  Later, his brother-in-law (a doctor) said "He absolutely knew it was you.  You're so good with him.  It's amazing."

I don't know if he'll come all the way back.  But I do know he's in there.  And I know what I saw.  He responded to the voice of someone who loves him.  Maybe he didn't know it was I; but he knew someone was there who loved him, and he held on to that.  So at least we have that.  That and the Chrysanthemum Hexagon.

Who knows, maybe today he'll sit up and talk.........and I'll have designed a dress!

Post Script:  Visited again today.  Told him we'd had pizza at Lou Malnati's.  He whispered, "I hate you."  I could have wept for joy.  He's back!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover

These Granny motifs were made as part of my submission for the
CGOA Master of Advanced Stitches and Techniques Certification.

One of the staples of crochet is the granny square.  In my beginner classes, the second project we do is based on the standard, traditional granny square.  Crocheters like the granny square so much that we seem to compete to come up with new and different motifs.

There are untold numbers of books:  A Bazillion and One Granny Squares, 5000 New Granny Square Designs, Women Who Make Too Many Granny Squares, Granny Squares and the Women who Love Them, Flower Granny Squares, Solid Granny Squares, Lacy Granny Squares, Mitered Granny Squares.... and don't even get me started about all the other crochet motifs, triangles, hexagons, pentagons, octagons, rounds, flowers, leaves............  

For years I've been trying to dream up a granny square motif that no one else had done.  Now, I'm not saying I've been successful.  I'm sure somewhere on the planet, someone has or is coming up with my design at this very moment.  But I will say that I don't recall ever having seen this particular granny square motif in any book, pamphlet, magazine or on-line.  

But first, allow me to share a story with you.  You know those little plastic adapters we used to use to fit 45 RPM records on the spindles of our record players?  We used to call them spiders, remember? Well, if you're a baby-boomer, you remember.

Once upon a time, I had this great idea of having a jeweler cast one of those little plastic adapters in silver or gold.  I thought to myself, "Self," I thought, "wouldn't that be a cute idea for a pendant or even earrings?"  The Adapter Pendant, I thought I'd call it.  Maybe I'd even have the word, "adapt" engraved on one of the arms.  Every baby-boomer would want one.  I'd be rich and famous.  I'd be hawking my new jewelry design on QVC or some other television shopping channel.  I'd probably be awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom, the Pulitzer, or a Grammy.

The very next day after this idea popped into my head, I turned on the TV to watch the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame inductions, and there was Smokey Robinson, wearing a sterling spider pendant on a chain around his neck!  And the next thing I knew, this humble, utilitarian little object was popping up in jewelry designs everywhere I turned.

Now I love love love Smokey Robinson.  And that love was probably my only consolation for having my  million-dollar jewelry design idea "stolen."

But what, you  might be asking yourself, does this little anecdote, charming though it is, have to do with crochet granny squares?  Funny you should ask.  So, though I'm still drafting the pattern for my new granny square, and still working on one or two variations of the design, and though I only have one rather fuzzy photo of the motif at the moment, I really don't want to open next month's Crochet! magazine to find that Smokey Robinson has taken up crochet and has designed this new motif.

Therefore, without further delay, Yarnover Chicago proudly announces (drum roll please):
the Four-Leaf-Clover Granny Square.

Four Leaf Clover Square by Yarnover Chicago

Check back here or on Ravelry for some variations on this motif, and for patterns and yarn suggestions.

Post Script:  Okay, I confess.  I do own the earrings.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Favorite Grandchild

Crochet connects women through the generations (and men too).  We all have memories of family members who crocheted or knit or did needlepoint.  I didn't come from a family that did a lot of crafting.  What could be made by hand was better if purchased in a store.  I came from a reading family, an opinionated family, an animal-loving family, but definitely not a DIY family.  But even in my decidedly non-DIY family, I still feel connected to earlier generations through crochet.

My grandmother and I didn’t always get along.  I felt, rightly or wrongly, that I was her least favorite of her four grandchildren.  It may just have been that I took her criticism more to heart than my cousins did.  Nonetheless, toward the end of her days, when my sister and I would visit her in that stiflingly hot condo in Hallandale, FL, my grandmother and I finally bonded. 

Often she didn’t quite remember who I was, though she knew we were related.  She definitely remembered the faults she found in me (didn’t I think I could stand to lose a few lbs., was I dating anyone), and was sure to mention them at every opportunity, but still, I’d sit with her and crochet while she watched TV. 

And then one day she asked, “what kind of shell stitch is that?”  I described the repeat: 2 double crochets, 2 chains and 1sc.  She looked at me for a moment.  I wrote it on a piece of paper:
“Oh, and you work that into each 2-chain space in the row before?” she asked, and took the baby blanket I was making out of my hands.  I moved closer to her and watched as she stitched a couple rows. 
“This is an easier way to hold the yarn.  It won’t hurt your hands as much and you’ll get a more even stitch.” 
Though she didn’t say it, I knew that she was happy we had something to share.  It was something special because neither of her daughters nor any of her other grandchildren crocheted, knit, or did any kind of needlework.  Before that day, I hadn’t even known that she’d been a crocheter.  She wasn’t one of those grandmas who made little slippers and hats for everyone.  But for whatever reason, she’d learned crochet at some point in her life and the muscle memory remained.

So it was that crochet became the catalyst that created a bond between my grandmother and me; a bond that could not be extended to include any other grandchild.  And during those few hours we spent together amidst hooks and yarn, I was, at last, the favorite grandchild.