I started the afghan back when I still thought we’d soon be celebrating the election of our first woman president.
I’ve been making a lot of afghans lately, having finally admitted after several decades of knitting that I’m incapable of making a sweater that’s not lumpy and that I’m not really much of a scarf or wrap kind of woman. Afghans, on the other hand … those are useful. Everyone gets cold, and they look so nice strewn across a sofa. (Plus they hide stains. Our sofas have a lot of stains.)
A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through free knitting patterns online (aka, my porn) when I saw one that was just rows and rows of different colors. It wasn’t much of a pattern: You basically just changed colors when you wanted to and used up your leftover yarn that way. In fact, the woman who made the pattern suggested putting all your old skeins in a trash bag and blindly pulling out one at a time so your colors are truly random. I didn’t do that—I trusted that my innate lack of color sense would do the trick. I don’t need help to be random.
“I never watch TV during the day. It’s too dangerous when you’re a self-employed writer: Once you open the door to daytime viewing, you’re basically kissing your career goodbye.”
I had maybe a foot or so of the afghan already completed the night we sat down to watch the election results with friends.
We all know how that evening went.
I went to bed not knowing the final results, not wanting to know the final results, clinging to a tiny, tiny shred of hope. But in the morning I had to face reality, the darkest reality I’ve known in my life.
Or did I?
I got the high schooler off to the bus, said hi and bye to my husband (who’d spent the night trying to get out the vote in Nevada and now had a full day of work in front of him), then wandered around the house, trembling and queasy. I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t work, couldn’t look at my laptop, couldn’t listen to news, couldn’t function.
Then my currently unemployed young adult son woke up. He was as devastated as I was, but had a plan for dealing with it: He said we should sit and watch episodes of a reality show called Cutthroat Kitchen. He promised it would distract me.
I never watch TV during the day. It’s too dangerous when you’re a self-employed writer: Once you open the door to daytime viewing, you’re basically kissing your career goodbye. But that day I knew I wasn’t going to get any work done. So I grabbed my knitting, found a spot on the sofa, and my son turned on the TV.
“And I knit. I knit and I knit and I knit. I knit my anger and my pain and my fear into the afghan. I knit my hope and my love and my safe haven into that afghan.”
We sat there for hours, watching episode after episode of Cutthroat Kitchen, pretending there was no world beyond the family room, and that the only thing that mattered to our lives was whether Chef Todd could make an edible key lime pie without using either limes or his entire right hand.
And I knit. I knit and I knit and I knit. I knit my anger and my pain and my fear into the afghan. I knit my hope and my love and my safe haven into that afghan. For a single miraculous day, the world narrowed down to one small room, one companion, one TV show, and one brilliantly colored afghan that grew with every stitch I put into it.
Since then, I’ve slowly crawled out of my cave. I’m still avoiding too much news—the headlines are all I can take and even those are rough—and I’m assuaging my conscience and tempering my fears by donating to organizations that will fight the battles I’m too much of a wimp to fight myself, like the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, and the Trevor Project. Because there are so many battles ahead of us. This country can’t lose its identity as a refuge for all and a bastion of equality and democracy. It can’t. But we’ve got some rough years ahead of us when a lot of people are going to be trying to do just that.
I can’t spend the next four years in a heightened state of fear and anxiety, though. That benefits no one. So every night, after I’ve done the things I need to do, I crawl into bed, turn on the TV, and pick up my knitting.
And I make something that will last, something that I can hold and feel proud of. Because sometimes, when the big things are too overwhelming, when we fear destruction of all we value, we cling to the small acts of creation.
About that afghan … you might not think such random yarns would work so well together, that all those different shades and textures could make something so beautiful. But they do. They do.
For free knitting patterns and inspiration, here are a couple of Claire’s picks: https://www.ravelry.com/account/login and https://www.craftsy.com