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Yearning for Yarn, Especially Recycled

| 10/11/2016 12:06:00 PM

I was fortunate enough to begin learning knitting and crocheting under the tutelage of my grandmother, who was extremely patient at correcting my stitches. I think she loved seeing me working with yarn, as opposed to sitting in front of the screen of a computer, which she never understood. She passed away several years ago, not before seeing me make many blankets, hats, scarves, shawls and baby booties.


Above: a little cap I made while expecting my first child.

Grandma was an educated woman and, I would even say, rather career-oriented for her time (she was born in 1916), but when she and my grandfather were exiled to a small Siberian village during World War II, following a decree by Stalin, life became very difficult indeed. It was cold, food was scarce, and people were doing whatever they could in order to survive.

I guess I should clarify that my family did not commit any actual crime, but like many liberal-minded Jews, they were deemed undesirable and sent to settle a corner of the world nobody wanted to live in. For years, they had lived in the tundra, with wolves and bears for neighbors, and without many of the things we consider basic necessities today.

In order to bring in a little money, Grandma became a knitter. This meant that people would bring her old woolen clothing items – sweaters, afghans, hats, etc – and Grandma would unravel the yarn and make it into something else. Often there were knots and tangles in the old yarn, or it was partly eaten by moths. “Those people would bring me old tattered yarn and expect me to make something good out of it,” she complained to me seven decades later. Today, it’s called recycling yarn. Back then, it was called working with what you have. Grandma was paid a pittance, but that pittance was probably what saved her family from starving. 

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