Growing up in a tiny town in the high desert in the Sierra Nevada mountains meant one thing: 100% red heart acrylic yarn.
Oh, yes, I know, it meant many, many things, but for the purposes of my story with yarn … this is what it means.
We didn’t have a Michael’s or Joanns to go to for our red heart yarn. Instead, I haunted the five and dime shops (two!) on Main Street of our little town.
Ben Franklin’s (Do they still exist? I loooved Ben Franklin’s!) and another that I just can’t remember the name of.
The one for which I cannot remember the name was the BEST. I still have dreams about this five and dime, with rows and shelves of treasure: embroidery skeins, preprinted cross stitch and embroidery pillowcases and dinner napkins, cake decorating tools, tiny pots of acrylic and poster paints, googley eyes for doll making, coats and clark sewing thread, little packages of sewing needles, brightly colored metal knitting needles and … of course … yarn.
Not just any yarn: red heart acrylic yarn in rich 1970’s variegated colors! Avocado, burnt orange and white! Christmas red, holly green and white! Dayglo single colors, like hot pink or lime green. And just one weight, which may or may not have been defined. That certainly explains why I struggled so to understand yarn weights later in life. I think those yarns were worsted weight. Maybe more of a sport weight?
There were knitting and crochet pattern leaflets and magazines in full 70’s glory: tams, tabards, dickies, hot pants, maxi skirts and dresses. Scarves and berets and mittens. Toilet paper covers in the form of a full skirt, from which emerged half of a doll at the top (those were BIG). Oh, and the crocheted beer can hats. (You know you’re dying to google that – go ahead! I’ll wait!)
I joined 4-H like any redblooded girl growing up in the country, but instead of raising bunnies or sheep, I joined the home ec and craft groups. I crocheted long curly … curls of yarn. I have no idea what the purpose was. I crocheted potholders. I made jewelry from safety pins and turquoise colored beads (that was b-i-g in the mid 70’s). I learned how to macrame. And promptly forgot how to macrame.
Once I hit junior high school (we didn’t call it “middle school” in those days), we got a free day or play day once a week or month or something like that during the Winter. We didn’t get to stay at home and watch TV; instead, this was a day to participate in some kind of sanctioned activity. Most of the kids signed up for skiing. Remember how big skiing was where I grew up? Well, I knew we didn’t have the money for snow gear and ski rentals and lift tickets, so I joined the crafts activities, like needlepoint. Exciting, right? But – try to remain calm – I was also in home ec every semester, which was my hands on Martha Stewart education: cooking, baking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, needlepoint, etc. (I continued to take home ec all the way through high school – I sewed most of my own clothes!)
Despite all this wonderful, crafty education, I really had no idea how to knit or what to do with yarn. Other than crochet long, curling worms. It took me a few years beyond high school to start figuring out a world beyond red heart acrylic yarn in dayglo colors.
Next time: You can really make THAT by knitting???