Speaking of Antiquing – October 2016

Textiles have always been a big draw for me at estate sales and auctions, where I will buy vintage textiles every time. If it’s not the antique handmade, hand-quilted quilts, it’s the vintage crochet blankets. I especially love the colorful “Granny Squares” blankets, the old ones from the 1920’s and 1930’s. You can see the expert handwork of the “Granny” that sat in her chair and added scraps and pieces of old or new yarn to create a work of art. On the practical side, she was actually just trying simply to keep her family warm.

The 1930’s was a time of wasting nothing. Every unraveling knit sweater or blanket was reworked and renewed. The beauty of the blankets of that time is unparalleled. The wool used was mostly home spun and home dyed. Women traded their skills and wares amongst themselves in their communities as yarn making was not something everyone could or wanted to do.

The vibrant colors of the time remain just as vibrant today. The small wool square, typically 4”, was chain stitched in a round direction. The designs were floral or geometric, with color combinations at the whim of the maker. Nearly every home had the lovely, heavy blankets added to their bed in the cool of the autumn. Many were used as warming blankets in automobiles before heaters were a standard feature.

The smallness of the square made it possible for women to carry their work with them and complete several in a day. They were then crocheted onto the body of the blanket to make it as large as desired.

The 1960’s and 1970’s found the Granny Squares blankets worn-out and overused. Crafty, frugal women took these same blankets and reworked them into beautiful vests, skirts, shawls, pillow covers, and a variety of other useful items. A whole new generation grew up appreciating the simple beauty that could be created with the crochet chain stitch.

The blankets that survived, usually having lived most of their lives in cedar chests or attics are finding their way into the world of vintage collectors. Their folk art nature make each unique, and each has their own stories to tell. Having picked one up at the recent town yard sale, I learned of a woman who lived in Northern Washington, off-grid, who made the blanket I purchased for the woman whom I purchased it from. It’s difficult to part with an item that holds dear and wonderful memories. We must, and we do keep the world around us moving through our trading back and forth of “the good stuff.”

The wool of the old blankets may even still have lanolin in them. To care for your blanket, they may be washed in the washing machine on a gentle cycle in COLD water. Air drying is best but if you must use the dryer, use a very cool, gentle setting as wool will shrink with heat.

Pickety Place has a few Granny Square blankets and several old quilts for you to cozy-up with this autumn. See you there.