Need a holiday handknit? Time for a Schmatta!

Attic Archaeology

pennyquilt3.jpg
Dear Kay,
Thanks, all you optimists, for the good wishes about the book. When the time comes, we want to hit the road in a Winnebago and paste bumper stickers on the back from every yarn store we visit. Our goal: all fifty states, and Canada too.
Thank GAWD we got that miserable secret out there. It’s been eating at me like a tapeworm, rilly. Just munching away at the innards until, well you get the idea. I’ve got about fifty-leventy things to talk about, beginning with . . .
The attic.
But first:
A Mystery
A very dear, nonknitting (bless his heart) friend Charlie asks for help. He writes: “My mom recently gave me a box of my paternal grandmother’s crochet needles, hooks, etc., and this ring was with them. Mom said my grandma wore it when she was crocheting, not sure but maybe on a pinkie. I have spent a few hours browsing and Googling and have not turned up anything even remotely related.
“The ring appears to be made of copper and is a beautiful piece of precise craftsmanship. Underneath, there is an inscription: ‘Crane Products, Inc. Pat. Pend.’ The elongated wing has a spiraled form on the outer end, about the right size for threading a crochet thread. Under the knurled wheel on top, there is a spring-loaded ‘bobbin’ for lack of a better word.”
We must get an answer for Charlie so that he can stop the crochet-related Googling.

Has anybody out there used one? And if you did, was it satisfying?
Now, The Attic
Yesterday I spent five hours in our attic with Jane, a psychotherapist disguised as a professional organizer. Jane is the one who helped clean out Hubbo’s family’s house, a project during which we bonded like a couple of Tri Delts during pledge week. Jane is awe inspiring in her ability to smile sweetly, gently take the Treasured Object from your hands, and say, “Should we just let this one go?”
Excavations on yesterday’s expedition included:
Item A. One of my early works, Cholera, written for Mr. Bradley’s biology class. (Mr. Bradley was noted for the way he taught biology despite the fact that he didn’t believe in evolution. “It’s in the book, if you want to read that part for yourself,” he would say.) “History has shown epidemics of the sickness reaching as far back as 1830,” I wrote. Practically, like, forever ago and everything.
Item B. My 21 journals, which chronicle my excruciating inner monologue from eighth grade through college. Remember how I said I loved Jackson Browne songs? Did you know I often wrote them down as if they were poetry and taped them into my journal?
A reading from Book 7, page 573: “June 11, 1977, 2:50 pm: My first day of work [at the Vanderbilt endocrinology lab] was today. It was pretty much fun. Blood isn’t bad at all to work with. It’s the urine I’m gonna be worrying about.” Book 7 is otherwise devoted entirely to the topic of Ben Swift. Ben Swift, if you’re out there, if you ever need proof that you were adored in an obsessive, 15-year-old way, it’s all here.
I’m going to start a blog in which I post each entry of my journal so I can make myself miserable all over again.
Items C-K: UFOs galore, including, as a caution for you, dear Kay, who are contemplating needlepoint:
needlepointUFOs.jpg
So many stitches, yet so very incomplete. Is this what you want to find in your attic twenty years from now? (Anybody who wants to adopt these UFOs, please let me know.)
Item L: This misshapen, hairy clump of what might have been a mohair-based garment. I think there’s knitting in there somewhere.
Item M: Finally, the treasure amid the wreckage of my life. This cool ancestral batch of whatever was lovingly handmade by my dear great-aunt/cousin/great-grandmother/beloved next-door-neighbor Mabel/Idy/Barnett/Sue/Big Eleanor/Little Eleanor/Oneida. Who knows who made this?
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Aren’t family heirlooms great? So rich with memory, if only I had any relatives alive who could tell me what I’m supposed to be remembering.
There are three bed-length strips–can’t anybody in this family finish anything?
A sofa filled with pillows covered in these fantastic dots would be kind of great. Please, y’all, what is this technique called? I keep thinking penny quilts, but that’s not right.
I’d show you more of my treasures, but Jane gently took them out of my hands and said, “Should we let these go?”
Love,
Ann

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44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. Isn’t that ring used for making braided rugs? It helps keep the fold in the fabric. ?????

  2. The “quilt” pieces are known a yo-yos. They were really popular a few years ago. They are simple to make by hand. I wouldn’t get rid of them because you never know when the item may become a work of art, or could be used to repair a vintage quilt made with the material. Some people will pay high dollar amounts to repair a beloved quilt.

  3. A Life Laundry!!!! Just what I need. Now will this woman travel to London? Love the round things, but what are you going to DO with them? That’s how I try and limit the great piles of covetable stuff (I am getting there, honest). I look hard and tell myself what exactly and when I am going to DO something with said object. If nothing comes to mind within 10 seconds or with a 6 month time limit on it, it goes. If I’m ever left with nothing to do instead of finding something mothy / mouldy / mouse-eaten from somewhere in the house, I shall go out and BUY SOMETHING NEW TO DO, Hurrah! No idea on the ring, but suspect marital aid myself. I shredded all my diaries when we cleared Dad’s house out – was I really that sad? xx

  4. Is the ring a tensioner? So that rather than wrapping the crochet thread (yarn?) around your finger you thread it through there and change the tension to do what you want it to do?
    And, yup — you got yo-yos. You got a million yo-yos. You got vintage fabric that quilters love, but made into little yo-yos from which the creases will never leave.
    Maybe you should take it to one of those antique-shows-in-a-cheap-motel things you go to in the summer and see if anybody wants to buy it.
    My mom recently unearthed a box labelled “Mary’s William and Mary stuff,” from my college days. It had a lot of diary-type stuff in it which I glanced at, flinched, and re-cycled. Dear heavens, who was that person? And here’s the question I asked myself: “Do I want my sons to read this when I’m dead?” … and off it went!

  5. Ann, I need to know what you did with your journals – as I am a woman with a 4×3′ rubbermaid of journals! What does Jane say about this? Annhb

  6. I’m going for a marriage aid. Looks like a tongue clip to me. You know. For shutting up wayward spouses.
    Aren’t those scrunchies? The things we wore in our hair in the 80s? Very interesting.
    I love looking through my old journals. The shame is palpable. I could never get rid of them.

  7. Wow – I am in love with those strips of blanket. Totally in love with them. They are just gorgeous.. What a find!

  8. The fabric circles are yo-yos. You start off with a circle of fabric and sew a running stitch along the outer edge. Then you pull the thread and the fabric gathers forming a smaller circle that is now two sided.
    Here are some instructions on them:
    http://www.sewnews.com/resources/qa/qa1104b/
    A little bit of history:
    http://www.museum.state.ak.us/QuiltExhibit/quiltspdf/YoYo.pdf

  9. Are those yo-yo things the same as people make those clown dolls out of? I remember in Brownies in the 1970s (yes, back in the 20th century) making little circles and gathering the edges and someone made a doll. Which I hope they no longer have in their attic. You could make a life-size one and put the ring somewhere on it! The ring reminded me of a wonderful plastic tool for peeling oranges, but is obviously way more shmancy. (I originally said it was “complicated” but I couldn’t post the first three letters “com” after the “e” of more. How dirty can one get!?)
    Jeez, if only I had an attic, I could maybe find stuff like that…
    Keep de-cluttering! It’s surely good for you!
    Mary de B

  10. De-cluttering is a bad thing !Goes totally against the grain.I always regret chucking stuff,so keep that woman away from me ! People throw books away you know.Imagine !

  11. The yo yos appear to be from the 30’s and 40’s judging from the fabrics I see. Definitely sew them togther (use gray silk thread, so you don’t have to keep changing thread to match colors). It really is a great find!

  12. Is the ring an old fashioned version of one of these?
    http://tinyurl.com/b9kl3

  13. My Great-Grandma used one of those for thread crochet. It is really hard to get good tension on some of the teeny tiny thread she used (I think it was mostly tatting thread). I do thread crochet but use the more manageable medium sized thread. I can definately see how that would come in handy with the teeny tiny threads.
    If he is at all interested in selling any of her old crochet hooks please let me know. The old ones have a longer working area (shank) that makes it easier to do the longer stitches.

  14. What fun treasures! I want to adopt one of your needlepoint UFOs.
    I agree with Mary B. I think the ring is a tensioner.

  15. Yo-yos! Me, ME! Give ‘em to ME! Yes, they were popular in the 1930s and we used to make really impractical dolls out of them in Camp Fire Girls (as I recall, the feet were little tap shoes made of pop-bottle caps). All my grandma Mabel’s pals had cushions made from them on their sofas, and I got to say, Ann, I’m not sure this look is ‘you’. Perhaps if you’ve got some lonely wicker…..
    It does make me wonder why you bother going to the Tailgate Antiques Show, when you’ve got stuff like this in the attic.
    Who DIDN’T copy out entire Jackson Browne songs and write them in their journal? I can go back to as recently as, um 2003, and find:
    “Just do the steps that you’ve been shown/
    By everyone you’ve ever known/
    Until the dance becomes your very own”.
    I commend that to you Ann. Think on that awhile, until the dance becomes your very own.
    Ben Swift: Please leave a comment, Ben. Tell us what your journal says about Ann.
    I’m loving ‘Cholera’. I may have grown up in the sticks, but every one of my science teachers ‘believed’ in evolution. Darwin! Mendel! It was heady stuff for a 9th grader. Sorry you missed it and had to write about cholera. Did you note in your report that Cholera was a punishment from God?
    OK, I’m getting carried away with my radical leftism again. Apologies to Mr. Bradley. xoxo Kay

  16. The yo-yos are easy to attach as you only tack them together in 2-3 places. (Good TV stitching esp. if you use the neutral thread as Faith suggested.) Finished, it would prob bring big bucks on e-bay as vintage textiles are hot. I’ve also seen yo-yo strips used as a valance in a little girl’s room (OK, not for you, but maybe in the laundry room?). They would be very easy to convert to pillow tops. Just cut apart a “square” of yo-yos in the size you need and tack them to a neutral/coordinating/contrasting pillow. You could also cut apart a strip and stick it to one of those self adhesive lampshades that you can get at the craft store for a funky lamp (you’d prob need a big pom-pom fringe on the bottom ‘tho- do you pom-pom Ann?) Lastly (‘tho I could go on forever!!) you can make cute “flowers” to put in a plant pot (Grandma or teacher gift!) by glueing a yo-yo to a wide craft stick, glue a button in the center and glue a green ribbon “leaf” below the yo-yo (easy enuf for the boys to do) or stitch a row or two of yo-yos around the hem of a purchased skirt/jacket/sweater/sweatshirt/bucket hat for a gift for a little girl. PS- Jenny is home from A-stan! I’ll let you know what she says about the book, but she’ll prob say sure.

  17. The Yo-yo stips are lovely. My grandmother made one in the thirties and every once in a while i take it out and admire it, though it is much to fragile to use in my case.
    cheers

  18. Reading this post felt like reading a treasure-hunt trip! I have a hard time figuring out what the round things are … but boy, aren’t they spectacularly beautiful being put together?
    I had a smile on my face when I read the 15-year-old you writing down lyrics and pasting them onto your journals. I do believe despite the differences in races, culture and geographical locations, there are something linking the various human minds together! Teenagers in a small city called Hong Kong, now and 20 years ago, are doing similar things! How interesting.

  19. I have a yo-yo doll! My granny made him for me and threaded those yo-yos on elastic for his legs and arms. I loved him so much that his elastic stretched out. He had slanted embroidered eyes and was known as Mr. China Man (we weren’t culturally astute in those days). My grampy said he was everyone’s opponent in Solitare, which I found very confusing. Thanks for bringing up the memories!

  20. My ninth grade biology teacher did the same thing. He said, “You can read about evolution in the textbook, but I’m not going to teach it,” and then he proceeded to read to us from Genesis. Different name, same idiocy.
    Anyway, really enjoy your blog, and am looking forward to the book!

  21. I think the ring is a tensioner. I’ve seen newer (read: uglier, plastic) versions of these in catalogs like Patternworks etc.

  22. More stories about Mr. Bradley, if anyone’s interested. He used to commute into town from his farm, where, if you were a cow, you lived in constant threat of bizarre death.
    One got hung up on the “bob-wahr” fence and couldn’t get loose and died. Two were struck by lightning and killed. I think there was a barn collapse, too.
    He sure was weird. This was a real progressive hippie school, and we had this unreconstructed bio teacher. Go figure.

  23. I want to see more of your treasures! :)

  24. Oh yeah, Mary Neal–I forgot to mention that Mr. Bradley also played the saw with a violin bow. I recall a warbly “Lara’s Theme” played during a slow moment in class.

  25. Shall we make it official and re-name the blog Mason-Dixon Mr. Bradley Stories.com?
    Unreconstructed, indeed! Not even constructed the first time around!
    And stop it! You know I can’t stop the giggle fits when you people say bob-wahr!
    Hooty hoo! Kay

  26. My friend is a yo-yo maniac. She makes them all the time and then doesn’t do anything with them. She also handquilts tiny hexagons together. She has done about 2000 so far. She probably has that many yo-yos floating around her apartment too.

  27. The ring looks like part of the tension control on my sewing machine. It’s very ingenius. No more getting tangled up in yarn wound around fingers in complicated cibfugurations – personally, I control tension by pinching the yarn between my fore and middle finger, continental, I never learned to wrap. Too bad I didn’t have one of these doodads. What a find!

  28. It is a tension ring. A very helpful thing when working with fine yarns. Not only does it keep the yarn off one finger, thus lessening skin contact and grease transfer, it also prevents very fine threads from cutting into your skin. And believe me, very fine cotton crochet threads cut!

  29. Those things are yo yo’s, not too hard to make, but very time consumming and oh so pretty as a bed covering! What a treasure you have found!

  30. What great finds! I’ve started journals several times. I think the major hindrance was my mom reading mine when I was in middle school and then copying certain pages to show my dad. Ouch! Those unfinished crafts all look great, I think it’s a crafter’s curse :)

  31. It’s a tension thing for crochet – my grandmother used to use one, she did a lot of crochet in fine white thread. We used to have those sort of yo-yo things over too – made into ‘dolls’,a bit like clowns, you could buy a clown face to put on the front of the head. (well, where ele would you put it…..)

  32. We call them Suffolk Puffs.

  33. Those yo-yos are AWESOME! So much work! I remember making a traditional hexagon patchwork cushion when I was about 11 and your picture kind of reminds me of it. I’d get a length of lovely white linen and stitch them to it and then use it as one of those throws that you put across the end of the bed. Georgeous!

  34. wow…you just took me back about a gazillion years to my own college journals (circa 1980) with JB lyrics carefully written out. stored in an old trunk in my 5yr old son’s bedroom. hmm…do I really want him to read them someday and see that anguished girl? maybe.
    I want to know what became of the changes
    We waited for love to bring
    Were they only the fitful dreams
    Of some greater awakening
    I’ve been aware of the time going by
    They say in the end it’s the wink of an eye
    And when the morning light comes streaming in
    You’ll get up and do it again
    Amen

  35. But if you make your yo-yo’s into a bed throw wouldn’t you keep dropping biscuit crumbs down through the gaps ? crumby sheets – yeech ! or is it just me who eats biscuits in bed ??
    Anyway, see what happens when I turn my back ? you guys turn into bonafide literati (or should that be kniterati?) CONGRATS ! You are so smart. both of you. :0)

  36. Kelly. My “jane” is named Kelly. She can get me to throw out anything.

  37. I grew up in Kentucky, my Mr. Bradley was called Mrs. Damron. She didn’t believe in the moon landing and made us do minstral show routines in class (“Jump down, turn around, pick a bail of cotton,…”). If you needed to go to the restroom, you didn’t have to ask permission, but you had to take your textbook and place it under a chunk of lead with a crow’s foot tied to it that she kept on the corner of her desk. She was nearly killed once when her cow kicked her in the head.
    Maybe that happened a LOT.
    I would keep the yo-yos–they’re wonderful.

  38. Mr. Bradley. I had nearly forgotten. So what in tarnation is this EE-volution theory? I was the sort of student who couldn’t be bothered to read the book.
    By way of demonstrating God knows what, I once saw Mr. Bradley plug himself into a wall outlet. He took a lamp cord, plugged it in and latched on to the two bare ends of the wire with his hands. Kinda makes you wonder what really happened to those cows. There’s no telling what a man who will give himself a taste of the house current will do to livestock.

  39. OMG I had forgotten about the saw! Thank you! Thank you for reminding me. Lara’s theme!!
    (Who’s Tom?)
    Jeri Quest (her REAL name) and I took turns touching the static electricity ball thing. We both had really long hair, and it was pretty cool.
    Signing off from http://www.mrbradleymemories.com

  40. It’s a regular stroll down the third floor hall of the old high school. We’ll get to Mr. Kammerud next week.
    Tom, I knew exactly one Tom at University School, and he had a Studebaker. Be you he?

  41. I should stop now, but Mr. Kammerud! Back in the days when Ann was still in elementary school, I had Mr. Kammerud for Algebra in the IA building. Alex and Chris (no last names) used to open up a window and smoke joints. Mr. Kammerud was pretty out of it. Funny to think that our parents actually paid for this.

  42. Definately keep the yo-yo’s. Think of all of the hours of tiny stitches. Think of it this way, if you sat and make a sweater with itty bitty needles, and only had the pieces, would you not treasure it? My advice to you is to take this to a quilt shop and have them complete the quilt for you. Probably what they were doing was going to attach these to some strips that run down the center in between the strips of yo-you’s. Then he plain strips are quilted. They are quite gorgeous. These were popular in the 30’s during the depression, as women didn’t want to waste any scraps, so they would use the bitty pieces and sew them into something. Seriously, make this into a family heirloom. It’s gorgeous.

  43. online casino game In general, I feel if you can’t say it clearly you don’t understand it yourself.

  44. catching up on your blog – had to comment: My Mum called hers the “yo-yo” quilt – actually it was done by my Dad’s Mother – and, no, it was never finished either – see, all UFO families are unfinished each in their own way (with apologies to Ibsen)
    Jenni in Edmonton, wondering why she is still up and reading blogs, when she has to be the one to open up the Library Tuesday morning – oh yeah, I know why: it’s because I’m insane!!!