Donation Day #2: (Thanks)Giving

“A powerful way to show how thankful you are for what you have is to give some of it to those who have less.” (Vincent DiCaro, CNN contributor)

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Donated winterwear… and Freya, wishing she could have a pair of baby booties.

On Saturday November 10, after many delays (mainly due to exhaustion) and thus a bit later than I would have liked, I finally made it up to the Safehouse to donate my late Grandma’s scarves and baby booties, as well as the hats I crocheted over the summer. The final tally came to 22: 11 pairs of baby booties, 6 scarves, and 5 hats. Everything I made, save for some of the embellishments, was crocheted using my Grandma’s yarn. Giving away the beautiful things that she had made, as well as a few of my own creations, felt so wonderful and rewarding. I thought that parting with her creations would make me sad, but it did not: I was happy knowing that I fulfilled a generous task that she had done in life.

There was a trend on Facebook that a couple of my friends were taking part in: every day for 30 days, they would make their status something they were thankful for. Thanksgiving certainly is a time to be thankful– I myself have many things to be thankful for– but frankly, some of these statuses struck me as… well, selfish. Even tactless. I am happy for people who are able to live comfortable lives and be mindful of how lucky they are, yet there are so many people out there who do not have much to be thankful for. For one of my friends who posted every day about what she was thankful for– like the fact that she has a warm bed, a good job in a sh*t economy, her own car, etc– I’d say she got an average of 5 likes per status. That’s about 150 for the month. When I posted a status about giving things to those in need, I got 2 likes.

Two.

Granted, it was only one status (though I just posted the beautiful story of the NYC cop, Larry DePrimo, who bought shoes and thermal socks for a homeless man, and it only has one like). Perhaps people thought I was being preachy. Perhaps the fact that I have about half as many friends as this one girl does means that two is about right if we’re thinking in terms of percentages. Perhaps people just don’t check Facebook on Saturday mornings. Or perhaps my friends– real or “less real” (aka the people I barely know and am only Facebook friends with just because)– too vividly remember how selfish I used to be not too long ago.

I suppose that a little bit of selfishness is to be expected when you spend years struggling to stay employed in a bad economy, then dive headfirst into grad school, and mix in the fact that I am an only child. My shift towards being a less selfish person really began near the end of my first semester of grad school: I, like many other grad students, rarely ever feel like I am doing well. Grad school made me hyper-conscious of myself and my actions, but one of the few things that made me feel good was being kind to others. When my Grandma died, it was like something permanently changed in me. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt for not having talked to her more in the months immediately preceding her passing. In a small way, my crocheting was an act of penance– for being a bad granddaughter and for being relatively selfish. Her death was a tragic catalyst that made me realize how much I wanted to do more good in the world.

Christmas is around the corner, and I am making plans to set up boxes at work and school to take donations of clothing and blankets to the Safehouse. This November and its 30 Days of Thankfulness may be over, but next year, I am thinking of doing my own version of it. And I won’t even care if I don’t get a single “like.”

Life Lessons and Vintage Photos

I spent the better part of the last month in an academic hole, preparing for and taking my comprehensive exams (and it has already been confirmed that I passed the minor portion). In my anxiety-ridden state, I thought a lot about my Grandma. I thought about words of comfort she may have had– especially her favorite quote, “This, too, shall pass”– or life lessons that are far more worth remembering than issues in the methodologies of Andre Breton versus Georges Bataille. Since it is high time that I upload the photos I said I would in my To Grandma(s) page (which has now been updated), I would like to share some of these thoughts.

ca. 1942

Always store your photos in acid-free materials.

ca. 1930

Take some time to relax and smell the flowers.

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Crochet project #4: Flower hat

I had been thinking about doing a flower hat for a toddler for some time since I started this hat-crocheting frenzy, and I had seen many examples of flower hats that people on WordPress have made themselves. However, I have never made a flower before, and I could only find a couple patterns between my Stitch ‘n’ Bitch and The Crochet Bible books. I started the hat yesterday while sitting at the DMV and was only thinking about the colors that would go well for a to-be-determined flower.

But then I was at Barnes and Noble last night, and lo and behold, I found this: 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet. Angels sang and grown men wept tears of joy.

Leslie Stanfield is absolutely amazing: the designs are based off of actual flowers! One could create their own yarny garden, if they wanted! Unfortunately, many of the flowers I like are knitted, and maybe when I get more confident in my flower-crocheting abilities, I will modify the patterns (or I’ll relearn how to knit). For now, I am particularly partial to the geranium, auricula, Irish rose, helenium, and dianthus patterns. The fuchsia flower is really beautiful too and would make for good tassels, though that may be going a bit overboard. I’m debating if I want to put one giant flower on the hat (Irish rose would be perfect) or if I want to put several smaller flowers. I am going to have to delve into my own yarn stash for this, since I have a wider variety of vibrant colors than my Grandma’s stash has, but I’m not breaking my self-imposed rules: the bulk of the hat is made of her own lovely Caron Simply Soft No Dye Lot yarn.

Crochet project #1: Complete!

Hat for a 0-3 month old baby

In spite of second degree burns on my right thumb and index finger, as well as caring for my post-surgical kitty, I have completed my first project to be donated to the safehouse my Grandma used to donate to! It took me only five days!

I used a double crochet stitch and two types of yarn on this hat: Red Heart Baby Fingering yarn for most of the hat (which I am fairly certain is no longer manufactured, but you can find its current equivalent here) and Caron Simply Soft’s “no dye lot yarn” for the brim. The Red Heart required a size F hook, and the Caron a size H. I decided to use the Caron because I wanted to  have a bulkier yarn to create a nice rib effect by putting my stitches into the back loops of the previous rows. Plus I needed a quicker way to put some length on the hat (the patience thing is going to take me a while). I crocheted the brim separately and then attached it to the hat when it was finished. Hopefully this hat will keep a baby boy (or baby girl whose mom likes blue!) nice and warm.

Next up: the same thing, but in pink! My goal is to finish 10 hats by the end of the summer, two for each gender in different age groups. I’m really looking forward to making a hat for a toddler girl because I want to put a pretty little flower or butterfly on it. Stay tuned!

Crochet project #1: Baby boy’s hat

I have finally begun my first project made with my Grandma’s yarn: a blue hat for a baby boy. Most of the yarn she owned is very fine: I am having to use a size F/5 – 3.75 mm hook, which I have never used before and for which I don’t have any patterns. I’m fairly certain that most of this yarn is no longer manufactured– I couldn’t find Red Heart Baby Fingering yarn on their website– and judging by the yarn used for her completed baby booties, she had been using a larger gauge for some time. I made a chain of 80 stitches and am using a double crochet stitch. So far I have completed two rounds; however, I had to restart once because I realized that 68 stitches, which I initially started out with, was going to be too small, even for a newborn. This is going to be a simple hat– I found this pattern online, which I am adjusting to fit the yarn gauge– just so I can get used to it. I’m hoping my next project will be a girl’s hat with a little flower on it.

There is so much yarn… I’m thinking a lot about my Grandma as I work, wondering how she acquired all of this fine yarn that she never used. Did someone give her all of it, not knowing she preferred another kind? Did she buy a bunch years ago and decide that it was inadequate for what she wanted to make? It is literally going to take me years to get though all of it, but I am happy to do it.

I was able to look up the email info for the safe house she used to donate her knitted scarves and baby booties to, asking what they typically need for the women and children they are sheltering. I am hoping that they remember her (though I can’t imagine that they could have forgotten her– she was an unforgettable person). I would like to donate everything in her name, if that is possible. I don’t want her to be forgotten.