Hello friends and fans of The Sow’s Ear! This is Rose, your regular writer here at the Ear, and I’m feeling very honored to be bringing a new voice to this blog today.

Several months ago, my dear friend Remy asked my advice in caring for a handmade blanket from her grandmother. I’d seen that blanket before many times (often as a backdrop to photos of her amazing cats) and I found myself unexpectedly moved by the request; my love for and knowledge of fiber crafts meant that I was able to help Remy tend to the physical manifestation of a love and a relationship that is deeply important to her life story.

Craft and story go hand in hand (just think about the word ‘yarn’!), so when I began dreaming up this idea of inviting folks from all over to share their stories of craft and connection, I immediately thought of Remy and was delighted when she accepted. I have a feeling you’ll be as moved as I am by this story of the love that is stored in a handmade blanket.

Perfection Not Required

by Remy Skye

In July of 2023, I moved away from my hometown for the very first time.

I had grown up, gone to college, met my wife, and got married all within a thirty-mile radius of my birthplace, and though I’d always hoped that I would not be there forever, I was still surprised by how painful it was to go.

As I packed my boxes, I sifted through the ache, asking myself what I most feared leaving behind. After all, friends could come visit me anytime and my family had moved out of the state years ago. The settings that served as the stage for my life came to mind first, those mythical places that I could never bring with me: the tiny library branch where my mother took me to pick out books twice a week, the diner where my sweetheart and I ordered pancakes at 3:00 a.m., and the distant mountain I was staring at when I knew to the depths of my marrow that she was my soulmate. But more than anything, I realized that I was terrified of losing the memories that were already beginning to fade at the edges like an old photograph.

This revelation struck me when I came across an afghan that I hadn’t seen for many years. The scene formed around me as I held it. There was a beautiful older woman with curly white hair and kind eyes and hands that had tenderly cared for hundreds of patients in her years as a nurse. But right now, those hands were occupied with the most important person of all, and that was the wide-eyed girl leaning around her recliner and witnessing what it meant to coax beauty out of yarn.

My grandmother was always incredibly clever. Though I was a shy child who spoke as rarely as I could get away with, somehow she knew the perfect way to draw me out of my shell. While I snuck a feel of the brightly dyed fibers, she asked what my favorite colors were (“Blue. Just blue.”). As I tried to follow the stitches with my eyes, dizzy from how quickly her fingers and hook moved, she wanted to know if I had ever heard of crocheting (“No.”). And when she wondered if I’d be interested in her teaching me, I didn’t respond at all. I was so small and she was practically a goddess in comparison. How could I ever be capable of what she could accomplish seemingly without any effort? Would it even be worth it to try?

The next time that I came to visit, she presented me with my very own crochet hook, then invited me to select a skein from the plethora that she had available. I was so worried I might disappoint her. As she taught me how to hold the hook and guided my fingers to make my first loop, I was distressed by how large it was—nothing like the tight, even ones she made—but with her gentle and lilting tone, she reminded me how every journey began with a single step. I had fallen down plenty of times when I was discovering how to walk. That occasionally painful process was simply called learning.

She stitched together a small, cute bag for me to tuck my new supplies in, and every time I was by her side, I whipped it out and made endless chains, biting my lip with intense focus while I fought to make my loops consistent. My grandmother, bless her, would from time to time try to show me new kinds of stitches, but I refused. I didn’t believe that I could advance in my training until I had achieved perfection.

At the end of the summer, she had one more gift for me. She brought out a blue bundle that she unfurled into a waterfall, light and dark splashes of color dancing together beautifully before my very eyes.

This afghan was the culmination of all our time spent together, a physical representation of her love so that she could keep me warm no matter how far apart we were. I was touched. Knowing she’d worked on it with me always on her mind seemed to infuse it with a glow that would chase away the scariest nightmares. It was too hot in the humid South to use it on my bed at that moment, but I kept it close by so I could thumb over the stitches every day and try to draw her strength from it during a difficult adjustment to middle school.

Ultimately that transition was what took my attention away from mastering the chain like I’d sworn I would. I put my hook down and picked up a pencil. My journeys to her house became less and less frequent. Soon my bag of supplies was tucked under my bed in a tote and my treasured afghan was moved to a shelf for safekeeping. Though they both waited patiently for my return, it was never the right time, not that year, not in high school, not even in college. As it often does, life became too busy for learning new hobbies and my heart was too dead set on keeping my grandmother’s crocheted gift in perfect condition as a symbol of my eternal gratitude.

On that day when I rediscovered it in the midst of packing, it was true, my afghan was indeed impeccable. But also I had barely seen it in the twenty years since my grandmother made it for me. It hadn’t kept me warm like she’d intended. It hadn’t chased away any ghosts. Grandma had passed away without having the chance to teach me any new stitches at all. In my quest to become worthy of her gifts and instruction, I had missed the most important lesson of all. Her love was not something that I needed to earn. It was freely bestowed upon me for who I was in that moment without any demands, just like how she’d intended for me to learn these skills to pass on to someone I adored.

In that moment, I stood at a crossroads. I was leaving behind everything I had ever known and was transitioning into a new phase of life. I had the choice of bringing all of my old misconceptions with me…or not. Did I need to have my life completely figured out before I deserved kindness, gifts, companionship, or love? Or was it time for me to do the terrifying work of looking in the mirror and deciding that I was worthy of these basic tenets of humanity instead of allowing my fear to swallow me whole? And as I held the afghan close to my heart and buried my face in its soft yarn, I swore that I could feel a beautiful, vivid light warming me straight through, comforting me for the long journeys ahead of me, both the physical and emotional.

The very second I unpacked my afghan in my new home, I spread it over the foot of my bed where I could see it every single day. It isn’t flawless anymore. My cats sleep on it and cover it in their fur. I’ve snagged a fingernail on it occasionally when rearranging it. But each time that I touch this beloved gift, I can feel my grandmother’s comfort. I recall those distant memories with just a touch more clarity. And though it’s going to take quite a long time for me to feel like I’m even half the crocheter that she was, I also know that I’m equal to the task, perfect or not.

This year will be the tenth anniversary of my grandmother’s passing, but I know she lives on in me, that she is beaming as I finally purchase a new hook to replace the one that has unfortunately been lost to time. And though I imagine she never would have pictured my life taking the path that it has, there is comfort in knowing that she follows me all the same, her arms around my shoulders and her hands guiding mine.

About The Author

Remy Skye is a freelance writer who is passionate about romance novels, independent artists, and small businesses. She can often be found exploring the quieter corners of Chicago, seeking unconventional sources of inspiration.

If you’d like to leave a comment for Remy, hop over to our Facebook or Instagram, we’d all love to hear from you!

Do you have a story about craft and connection that you’d like to share? Email Rose at rose@knitandsip.com with your pitch for a guest blog post.