"Our Warm Up
America afghans are made up of many colors, patterns, knits and
crochets, and many more hands have contributed to getting them
completed. I like to think the recipient will have as much fun
looking at the afghan as I did as a child on a visit to great
aunts, waking up and studying the squares with birds and flowers
for each state on a hand-quilted coverlet in their tiny
guestroom." - Connie, Warm-Up America email
"Let's turn our grief into afghans," suggested Connie. Earlier
that hot August day, we both attended the funeral of my dear
friend and good neighbor, Genie McCliment.
"There are so many Warm Up America squares that need sorting,"
she continued. "I could use your help. Come over tonight."
Connie was the new leader of our synagogue's WUA group. I was a
very fringe member. Occasionally, I contributed a stack of
squares. Rarely did I stay for a meeting. But this wasn't a
scheduled meeting. This was a kind invitation to soften my sorrow
with simple chores.
Summer evenings are long out here in Iowa City. It was still
light when I passed Genie's house on the way to Connie's. I
glanced at her living room window, already missing my old buddy.
Connie and I got right to work. No doubt, Genie would have
approved of our efforts to provide afghan comfort for our
community. She understood comfort and dispensed it often. She
welcomed the invited and uninvited to relax in her home. She
understood community, too. She valued being a good neighbor and
found reasons to gather us together -- birthdays, starry evenings,
St. Patrick's Day.
Later that night, I decided in Genie's honor to leave the
sidelines. Taking a more active part in our WUA group would be my
way of remembering her caring ways.
Our group meets every other Sunday. Many are on the membership
list, only some are regulars. All do their best to attend when
they can. Our mascot, Fred George, a sassy-looking toy sheep, is
always there to cheer us on.
"It's great to see you again" is the usual group greeting. We
share scissors and trade stories about our children, our travels,
our childhoods. Over time we have become acquainted. I look
forward to my visits with the group, as I once did to my visits
with Genie. I'm eager to hear the next installment in their lives.
Is Connie's dad's health improving? What about the cow Jean shares
with her young neighbor?
Many hands make light work. And many tasks make a WUA afghan.
Laying out the squares, for example. We choose color themes,
solicit opinions, swap squares in and out. Then we tag the square
with a letter and number indicating its position. Each row is
slipped into a plastic bag and all are put in a larger carrying
bag along with selected yarns for stitching them together.
Before the sewing up, a square is sized against the WUA 7- by
9-inch template. Some need to be corrected, the easiest way is to
crochet an inch or so on a side. Whatever it takes. I like that
job and I know just enough crocheting to do it.
This winter, in my stint of correcting squares, I inherited an
afghan rich in golds and reds. By late spring, I had started
sewing it up. Square by square, row by row. As I work on it during
our meetings this steamy summer, it offers the promise of a cool
Soon it will be the one-year anniversary of Genie's death. Once
again, many squares need to be sorted. The afghan I have worked on
is almost done. It will bring warmth to someone at our local
homeless shelter or in a new Habitat home. And one Sunday soon,
among my group of WUA friends, I'll start another one.
You may have already met Genie and Ed McCliment in an earlier
Hat: Form, Function and Ultimate Winter Warmth and its
companion pattern, Ed's Hat.
A pattern for Genie's Hat, as well as her recipe--Genie's Killer Devilled Eggs--is
in my book, A Knitter's Home Companion.
If you'd like to honor the memory of someone who has enriched your
life and your community, consider joining a charitable knitting or
crochet group. Check out Lion Brand's great Charity
Connection to locate a group near you.
You can also be involved by donating yarn. In these hard times,
many knitters and crocheters are on a tight budget. Having a group
stash, saves embarrassment and gives all knitters yarncrafters
options to try out new colors or yarns. Do ask first about
specific color and fiber needs.