One Thousand Granny Squares

At any given time, any given knitter has at least one project in the back of a closet—a would-be scarf, or sweater, or blanket, just barely begun, left among all the necessary materials, and chronically unfinished. The problem often breaks down to abandoned motivation—the sweater was for a friend, but she owes you $40 and you’re holding out; the blanket looked great on paper, but now you think it’s ugly—and is especially crippling in the case of projects on which significant time and energy have already been spent—too much to excuse surrender and retreat, but not enough to press to the finish.

It’s a lot like how you feel about your best friend from high school.

Not mine, but the chaotic pile is familiar.

And so these heaps of yarn languish as new projects come and go, and we try to forget the old ones. Sorry, guys. My new friends are cooler. Perseverance is a passing breeze.

In my final semester of college, I landed a flashy job at a gallery in New York. I lined up a sublet for the summer, presumably while I got my life together and found an apartment of my own, the future venue of my fabulous young life in The City. (As it turned out, my boss had other ideas involving fabulous young me, and so I quit, penniless and planless in the most expensive city in the U.S., forcing me to move back home and continue the search for my fabulous young life.)

In the month preceding this madcap adventure, I somehow got it into my head to make myself a blanket for my first apartment. I selected a pattern, purchased the necessary yarn, and dug in, crocheting rather than knitting due to my impatience. I worked steadily for three or four days, until my focus wandered to…something else. Alas, summer began, as did my flashy new job, and as I submoved in to my sublet, my bags of yarn began their sublife in one corner of my subcloset.

When I quit my flashy new job, they were relocated to an inconspicuous area of my next living arrangement, a spare bedroom in a far nicer apartment uptown, where I squatted with friends for a month and a half. Upon my eventual return home, they wound up beside the ill-fated blanket I’d started knitting three years earlier.

So there we were, my yarn and I, unemployed and exhausted after a tumultuous summer of dashed hopes, crumbling dreams, and $15 martinis—criminal, really—and it occurred to me that perhaps the blanket was working against me. Perhaps, indeed, the untapped skeins behind my boxed kitchenwares held the key to my as-yet-unrealized fabulous young life. The blanket was undertaken expressly for use in my first apartment; now, with no blanket, how could I expect to have an apartment, or, by extension, a job, a life, or any semblance of a color scheme?

The story goes, in Japan, that a person who folds one thousand origami cranes will be granted a single wish by the gods. (In America one need only make a list and mail it northward—but perhaps Santa Claus is more easily won.) The most famous story is that of Sadako Sasaki, a young victim of Hiroshima who died of leukemia, and who at the time of her death had completed six hundred and forty-four cranes.

Sadako’s wish was simply to live. Would it have been granted if she had made it to one thousand? It’s rather a morbid question of faith, but philosophically is quite a relief. Sadako’s story fails to negate that a wish may be granted to the maker of one thousand cranes, because she never made it. Hope springs eternal, indeed.

My wish (like whining for a cupcake astride a pony at Disney World, in comparison) was to begin building a life for myself after college. It was all connected, and suddenly it all made sense. My paper cranes were my apartment blanket. I roused myself from my jobless, craigslisting stupor and got to hooking. (That’s a crochet term.) Cosmic real estate voodoo aside, I was left with an enormous amount of time on my hands, and all the materials in one almost-forgotten place, so why the hell not? Sixty granny squares and counting.

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