Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Ugly Blanket Collection

The Pipsqueak lounging on one of our Ugly Blankets. 
 A discussion came up recently on Ravelry.com about the awful and sad items that end up in thrift stores or charity shops. The gist of it was that it's horrible when someone puts all their time and effort into hand-stitching (be it knit, crochet, cross stitch or needle point) a garment or blanket and it ends up in a thrift store, sold for mere pennies on the dollar. These items are cast-offs, they get no love and are not valued for nearly what they're worth in terms of the time and love put into them. It's ever needleworker's worst nightmare.

Well, I have a confession to make: I buy up these items from thrift stores and give them a new home. It all started with the intention of unraveling them for their yarn. There's an abundance of yarn to be had in so-called "ugly blankets" if only you know how to find seams and pick them apart. It's cheaper than buying new yarn and it's an eco-friendly way to create new products without placing an additional burden on resources - especially if you happen to like cotton (which, even organic cotton takes a LOT of resources to process into usable yarn) or acrylic (which is a petroleum byproduct. And as cheap and long-lasting as it is, can be re-used over and over again to no ill effect on the fiber.)

My grandmother was a knitter - she taught me to knit. Each of us children got a hand-knit blanket (heck, the adults did too!). Most of them were made from acrylic or a comparable fiber, though you'd never know or care based upon the intricate patterns and the sheer amount of work she put into them to make them lovely, warm and cozy. She taught me the value of a knit, but more importantly, the value of using what you had on hand to make something beautiful for someone else.

So when I started buying sweaters and blankets in hopes of liberating the yarn, I never in a million years expected my husband to show his softer side.

Turns out his great grandmother was a crocheter and made all sorts of granny square blankets from colors not-found-in-nature and should-never-be-put-together. Blankets in the very same style of the ones I was hoarding to harvest for their yarn. And he objected.

I figured that if those blankets gave him even just a little bit of joy, they were well worth the couple dollars spent on each one. They're every bit as warm, cozy and comfortable as the one my grandmother knit for me, and they have every bit as much love and time and effort put into them.

I grumbled and groaned about losing part of my stash yarn to the man, but what could I do? In time, I came to realize the virtue of The Ugly Blankets. Because they were charity store finds, I didn't feel bad about packing them up to take to the beach, or on picnics or to keep in the car for those emergency breakdowns that always seem to happen in bad weather.

The memories created by using these blankets in such varied settings has come to supersede their lack of visual appeal. There's the blanket that we took with Pipsqueak for her first time swimming at the lake (pictured above), there's the one that kept me warm on a 500 mile trip in a car with minimal heat. There's the afghan that saw me through the hot and cold flashes of the flu. There's the afghan I used to bundle up a dying cat on an emergency early morning day-after-Christmas trip to the only vet around who was open.

Both residents and guests alike have come to adore the Ugly Blanket collection. Some people have their favorites. Others just can't wait to see what they get next. And there's always enough to go around between the blankets I make and the ones I liberate from op shops. We could blanket a small developing country with the number of handknit and hand crocheted blankets in this house.

So next time you see an absolutely hideous blanket strewn about in some dark, dank corner of a thrift store, give it a second look. See past the ugliness to the possibilities and give someone's hard work and love a second chance to flourish.

Do you have a great handmade thrift store find that you'd like to share? Do you "liberate" yarn from op shop  items to make new objects? Are you a member of the Ugly Blanket Lovers Club? Let us know in the comments below.

No comments:

Post a Comment