Get out your knitting needles!

Beehive knitting booklets

Do these these look familiar, people? Booklets featuring knitting and crochet pattens for “shells” (sleeveless sweaters), raglans (what are “raglans,” anyway?) and more to the point – for tonight’s post, anyway – “carefree afghans” that one could create using Patons Beehive yarns? Don’t you just love the hairstyles on the models in the middle one? Ah, the memories…

A while back I wrote a post (which is here, if you’re interested) about a very entertaining find I made at the used-books-for-sale cart at the Tweed Public Library: to wit, a couple of vintage booklets containing instructions and patterns to create macramé delights. And I am talking delights, people! Why, with those instructions you could macramé yourself a hanging-plant holder, or a lampshade, or even a wine rack! (I am not making this up.) And if you happened to do such a thing today, and installed your creation in your home, you would instantly create a mid-1970s time warp. All good clean fun, if you ask me. Not that I’m quite prepared to try it at the Manse.

Anyway, what I didn’t include in that post, and in fact was saving for just the right moment (which happens to be now), was another find I made in that same pile of vintage handicrafts how-to booklets. As I was riffling through it and smiling at the 1970s macramé memories, I suddenly came upon one booklet that was so familiar, from so long ago, that it almost made me gasp. Here is the cover:

Carefree Afghans

What a flashback! That same booklet had sat for years around the very house where I am writing this post – the Manse, of course, in Queensborough – back in the early 1970s, when my mum, Lorna, had (along with much of the rest of the female population of North America) taken up knitting such things as “carefree afghans.” To take advantage of that knitting craze – a wave that seems to crest every 20 or 25 years, in my experience, not that I’ve ever been much more than a very casual surfer on it – the good folks at Patons, makers of Beehive yarns (100-per-cent artificial fibres, as I recall) produced booklets of instructions like this. There were probably quite a few booklets of afghan patterns out there, but the instant I spotted this one I knew that it was the one my mum had used here at the Manse.

Okay, let’s take a brief pause and ask the obvious question: why were those knitted blankets, or throws, or whatever we might call them now, called “afghans,” do you suppose? I leave that to the wisdom of the readership to answer.

Oh, and let’s take a second pause and ask a second question: How on earth did my mother, who was a full-time high-school teacher, mother of four young children, and United Church minister‘s wife who was expected to carry out all the minister’s-wife duties of the time (including  preparing and hosting dinner parties for families who were members of the church congregation every single Sunday night), have time to sit around and knit afghans? That, my friends, is a huge mystery to me. (Also, I might add, to my mother.)

Anyway. I should tell you that the reason you did not see a post from me here at Meanwhile, at the Manse last evening was that we were celebrating Mum’s birthday at her home in Port Hope, Ont. I took advantage of the family gathering to bring along my Carefree Afghans find – and sure enough, it elicited gasps of recognition from my mum and my sister, Melanie, just as it had from me. Now I must show you the back cover, on which is the pattern my mum liked best and made into not one but two “carefree afghans”:

Carefree Afghans (back)

It’s the one with the mod squares in pink, plum, red and scarlet, the very colours Mum used for her second go at that afghan; her first one was in various shades of green. “Toned Tiles,” this carefree afghan is called in the Patons book. “Designed for the modern living room or recreation room,” it says in the introduction to the knitting instructions.

Both Mum’s red and green “Toned Tiles” afghans were well-loved and well-used in our “modern living room” – notably for keeping knees warm while watching Hockey Night in Canada on the telly – for many, many years; those Patons 100-per-cent-artificial-fibres yarns were pretty much indestructible, even in a family with four rambunctious children. And in fact, the green Toned Tiles afghan is, Melanie informed us last night, still extant and in occasional use up at the home at the Sedgwick family farm in Haliburton County. More than 40 years after it was knitted!

Talk about a carefree afghan built to last. I suspect it needs to find a permanent home at the Manse – where that pattern was carefully followed by a very busy young mother, all those years ago.

4 thoughts on “Get out your knitting needles!

  1. Katherine, A raglan sleeve extends to a point at the shoulder. It is named for Lord Raglan who is said to have worn such a sleeve after losing his arm at the Battle of Waterloo. He was Commander of the British forces in the Crimean War, and was blamed for the tragic Charge of the Light Brigade. (From Wikipedia and other sources of irrelevant but interesting information.

    • Thank you so much for this, Doris! I was absolutely delighted that an old friend in France, whom I met in my year studying there, and you, a new friend (with old connections) in good old Hastings County, both were able to enlighten me about Lord Raglan and the Battle of Waterloo and his lasting effect on Canadian midcentury sweaters. The connections I am able to forge, and the knowledge I am able to gather, through Meanwhile, at the Manse never cease to amaze me.

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