Tuesday, July 20, 2010


On a chilly evening at the farm last month, Mike and I were sitting side-by-side on the sofa watching tv when he reached for his "Dallas Cowboys" afghan and unfolded a despicable sight. The mice had made themselves "to home" in it. I'll spare you the description except to say they had gnawed through the yarn and it was badly stained. I was heartsick at the sight.

When Hallie was 14 or so and just learning to crochet, Mike wordlessly handed her a copy of Herrschnerr's Needlework catalog turned to the page listing sports afghans. "I think Dad wants me to make this Cowboys afghan for him," Hallie said to me. "Will you order the kit for me?"

Frankly, I had my doubts that she could do it. The pattern required the making of afghan stitch panels to be embroidered with a football helmet in the team colors, blue and gray. Hallie had made only a couple of afghans and this one seemed pretty ambitious to me. If she didn't like doing it, what then? I knew the answer. I would be finishing the afghan and it might take me years. But it seemed endearing to me that she wanted to comply with Mike's wishes. So I ordered the kit, which came as a pattern booklet and sufficient yarn to complete the afghan. I had also ordered the long afghan hook. I remember showing her how to pull up the loops, being sure to catch the very last stitch on the row, and then draw them off again. After that I didn't see much of her for about a month as she spent long quiet hours crocheting in her room. Sometimes teens need that. I knew what she was doing and didn't worry. I had anticipated that she would have questions and I would help her. She never asked and I didn't pry. Before long the afghan was completed beautifully and wrapped for Christmas. My only part was to put a backing on the pillow.

Returning to the now damaged afghan, I was particularly distressed that I had been so stupid as to have left this particular afghan on the sofa. Honestly I never thought about an acrylic fiber afghan being susceptible to damage, a mistake I won't make again! We couldn't exactly pinpoint when it had happened either because otherwise we hadn't seen much mouse sign in the house since installing the little sonar gadgets. At least we thought that was the reason. I never imagined they were hiding out in the afghan. And – I still had to tell Hallie about it.

"I have to tell you something bad," I said into the phone during one of our regular conversations. "Remember the Cowboys afghan . . . ."

"Oh," Hallie laughed, "I thought you were going to say the dog is sick." She was more philosophical than I about the afghan, reminiscing about how she had enjoyed the process of making it, more or less saying nothing could take from her the satisfaction of having completed the afghan successfully.

So, I stuffed the afghan into a large "Penney's" shopping bag I found and took it to town to wash in my gentle-action front-loading washing machine. It took some weeks for me to get to it. Once Nellie caught a whiff of the bag as it sat by the washing machine. "Do you know about this?" her eyes seemed to ask. Then one day when Mike was off to Oregon, I donned surgical gloves, removed the afghan from the sack and carefully stabilized the holes with yarn. I was so pleased when the horrible stains washed out. I'm sure I can repair the holes somehow, but if the stains had remained, I would have had to think again about saving the afghan.

I was trained to treasure things for their special significance in my life and also to keep anything that might be useful, and I kept the leftover yarn from this afghan. Not only had I kept it, I found it! "It's just white yarn," observed Mike, but those who work with yarn know that it's not all created equal. Having the original yarn means one less problem to solve in the process. I also found the instruction booklet, though I probably won't need it.

So the lesson I have learned in this is that when fighting the great rodent war, you can never relax your vigilance. If you live in the country, the problem is never solved. The enemy is out there and it's name in the broad category is "rodent." KW


Hallie said...

That was a fun afghan to make. For the center section with the football helmet, I had spools for the different colors, so I'd go from white, then pick up the gray and do the correct number of stitches, then drop the spool and pick up the next color. I liked how I had to squish the whole width of the afgahn onto the 16 or 18" hook and then work all the stitches off, which is easy and very fast.

Chris said...

I'm so glad you are able to rescue this beautifully done afghan! Hallie, I enlarged the picture and you did a fabulous job making it. I'm so impressed! What a big project it was and a wonderful gift for your dad.

Since our adoption by Buddy the Cat, the mice population of our entire neighborhood has dropped dramatically. All the neighbors have remarked on it. Before he came we, living on the edge of town, had mice often and I hated it. Too bad you can't rent a cat!

Kathy said...

My mother made several of those embroidered afghans and I have a kit for one that I ordered 15 years ago -- a pansy design.

Yes, I think I can rescue the afghan. For one thing, the gnawing process seemed to tie off the ends. I can probably work the afghan stitch right over the hole.

A cat would doubtless help, but we are concerned about that on several levels. 1) We're trying to encourage the game bird population; 2) we keep a bird dog; 3) inability to take care of the cats properly in this place.

DrJulie-Ann said...

My heart sank when I saw the photo but I was relieved to read that it is salvageable.

(Nice job, Hallie! I'm not sure I could have done that when I was 14...shoot, I'm not sure I can do that at 49!).

Despite all of the feral cats in our yard, The Mister found rodent evidence in the house yesterday and put out traps. I hope the rodent just goes away. I'm not very good with seeing a dead mouse in a trap. *shudder*

Kathy said...

Now, Julie, don't you be talking that way. What would your retro ideal do? She would take care of that little pest and go on about her day. Inner strength and fortitude. I had to call on that just the other day. . .

DrJulie-Ann said...

My retro ideal would stand on a stool until the mouse went away! *laugh*

Kathy said...

Mending the hole: I think we can work the afghan stitch over the hole. If it shows as a mend, we can embroider another blue star over it. Yes, we can make it work.

Mice: I'm an "e-e-e-ek" person myself and always let Mike handle the traps, but while he and Jack were camping, I actually set out a few traps and "handled things" myself. I felt so grown up!