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One writer pays homage to an irreplaceable afghan (and an even more irreplaceable woman).

handmade blanketMy favorite handmade gift is this cozy afghan crocheted for me by my late great grandmother. It's perfect for curling up on the sofa with. Photo: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

My great-grandmother, who we called Na, lived to be 100. I was lucky enough to grow up with Na until I was 16. This wise, soft-spoken woman was the picture of warmth. I'd often find her sitting with one of her crochet projects on her lap as she watched The Young & the Restless. I'd curl up next to her on the sofa with my grilled cheese sandwich, and everything felt right in the world.

Crochet was one of Na's greatest talents. I've had a lifelong love of crafts. Coincidence? Probably not.

My great grandmother (who I called Na) holding baby me. Photo: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

Before she passed away, Na managed to crochet a special afghan for each of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (15 of us in total). We're all connected to each other in a special way though Na's handmade afghans, each different but definitely of a common thread (kind of like all of us).

In my early teens, it was my turn. I remember the thrill of going shopping with Na to find the perfect purple yarn (my favorite color, then and now). I watched Na work on my afghan; her aged hands were amazingly nimble. One by one, the stitches magically grew into a blanket. I opened up my finished crochet afghan on Christmas. It was a thrill to finally hold it in my hands!

Now I'm in my thirties, and Na's afghan traveled with me from the house where I grew up to college halfway across the country; then it came with me to my first apartment, and followed me through every apartment I've inhabited in New York, including my current place in Brooklyn, where I live with my husband. The afghan has kept me cozy through many brutal winters, and is a reminder that Na is always with me, wherever I go. Who needs a Snuggie when you've got a handmade treasure like this?

crochet blanketFour crochet afghans that Na made for different family members. Photo: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

This winter, I'm signing up for a knitting class; I'm craft-oriented, but somehow I've never taken the time to learn needle crafts. My mom and aunt both knit and crochet. Now it's my turn to pick up where Na left off.

As for my purple afghan, it's still kicking; no holes, no pulls, and it only gets cozier with age.

Tell me about the best handmade holiday gift
you ever received!

  • Sharon

    It's a lovely afghan. How lucky you are to have had such a wonderful lady in your life!

  • Becky

    My Grandmother did this as well..the afghan was crocheted in a solid color and multi color flowers were embroidered onto them..mine is yellow, my sister has a purple one....cousins and aunts and uncles all have different colors....after this she then made crazy quilts for everyone...they are all of satin material and have bugs and flowers painted in a few spots..gorgeous...she made one for me as a wedding gift and then two for my 2 boys, her great grandsons...she got to hold my 4 month old twin girls a few months before she died....what a legacy....

  • GLO

    It's great to have something handmade by a beloved grandma, and something you can remember her by whenever there is a chill in the air. I have several that were kind of passed down to me, but geez are they ugly. One is black, yellow, orange and kelly green, and the other is pink, orange and brown. Later in life, I had a queen sized afghan made for me by a neighbor, and it's gorgeous. I has sail boats sailing on a blue sea, and white clouds agains't a blue sky. I guess the best thing to do if you can, is to buy the yarn for grandma. Of course it's supposed to be a "surprise" but it's probably possible to delicately broach the subject in advance, about how much you would like a blue and white, or whatever color afghan, to match your living room, etc. Then it becomes the heirloom that it should be. I got my original afghans when my sister and I were deciding who "would take" the afghans when my mother died, like they were elderly pet rats.

  • Judy

    What a wonderful story. This reminds me of my own grandmother who passed away a few years ago at the age of 96. With 11 children and countless grandchildren and great grandchildren she she didn't have a lot of money to spend but two cherished gifts that I remember is an afghan that she gave me as well as one she made for my son at my baby shower. The afghan she gave to me is unique with mismatched yarn, due to her practical way of not letting anything go to waste. Not only do I have a beautiful afghan to remember my grandmother by but so does my son. 8 Years later all those lovely baby shower gifts have been outgrown and given away or packed away but my son will always have the beautiful afghan made by his great grandmother.

  • Ron

    This Year we sent gifts to the Grandkids ( All are under 6 ) But to our 4 Sons and they're wives we sent the Family Geneaology going back to the 1700s as well as a DVD with all of the family Photos we could find , Photos going back as far as my Great GrandParents that they have never seen before. Photos of the Kids as Babies and continuing thru Adulthood.Including the same of My Wife and Myself. ( Gosh I was a cute kid) wonder what happened oh yeah I got old. We felt that giving them the gift of they're roots would help both them and Future Decendants later on down the road.Maybe we can get little closer emotionally ...I hope. Merry Christmas to everyone.

  • Penny

    Mine was purple too, three different shades, and made into granny squares. I was the sixth oldest grandchild, but I think I was betwen 10 and 12 when my grandma made it. She taught me how to crochet and I, at nearly 50, have made an afghan for each of my nieces and nephews as well as my son. Now (picture me sighing loudly) it's time to start on the next generation, all NINE of them! But I can still remember the smiles when they opened their packages. Thanks for a great trip down memory lane! And FYI, mine's still in fantastic shape too.

  • irma

    My mother-in-law also knits. She has made baby blankets for who knows how many newborns. For my two sons graduation she made them a full size blanket for their beds with their school colors. Now they have their baby blanket and their school blankets to always remember her by. Can't beat those kind of gifts !

  • Geegee

    In 1976 my mother sewed me a beautiful centennial dress. She gave it to me at Christmas and I wore it for our bicentennial observance at the school where I taught. It had a slightly high waistline, puffed sleeves, a low neckline, with puffy sleeves. The waistline had a grosgrain white ribbon which tied in a bow in the back. The skirt was very full and came to the floor with a ruffle all the way around the bottom of the dress. It was made in a cotton material that was of very high quality, with a little bit of polyester in it to give it lots of shape and no wrinkles. The material was a tiny red and white print. It was absolutely beautiful and very feminine. I wore little white slippers with it. I wore a strawberry blonde wig with big fluffy curls in it. You might have seen it if you were at the Barbeque at Twelve Oaks Plantation. I still have the dress, and it is still just as beautiful !!! It was one of the last things my mom made me before she died. She put lots of love into that dress, and I will always treasure it !!

  • Geegee

    Oops, I said 'puffy sleeves' twice in my description of the bicentennial dress. Sorry.

  • irma

    SO CUTE Geegee !

  • Rose

    My late mom dug up an old painting I'd made in high school and had it framed for a Christmas present. Made me feel important.

  • na

    What a great story, and what a wonderful legacy that Na passed down....

  • speeker

    A lovely article and nice comments. I crocheted afghans for my kids and they hated them; I was hurt.

  • Connie

    I'm sorry. As a mom and a grandmother, I know that would really hurt.

  • Nora Atkins

    As I was growing up, my grandmother lived with us in our home. She also crocheted -- mostly scarves and afghans. I remember watching TV with her in her mother-in-law suite in our home while she did her needlework. She taught me how to crochet when I was in high school and have loved it ever since. It was a special joy that she was able to pass her interest on to me.

    Needlework is a dying art. Folks should keep it going -- crocheting is not only fun and relaxing, but it allows me to bless others with something unique and from the heart.

  • M

    My grandmother also did this. While living at home I can recall when she made a special one for my mother and knitted the initial of our last name in one square. The afgans are huge, made with several different knitting style squares. Then she made one for each of the four of us with our married initials. She also at one time knitted long sweater style coats for all the women in the family. She was so talented!! My grandmother also crocheted doilies. This, I was always wanting to learn and since she taught me how to sew I thought she would be able to teach me to crochet the doilies. Every once in a while I would bring the fine yarn and hook to her and ask her to teach me. She would take the items in her hands and tried and tried but it was almost as if she couldn't perform on command. We would laugh and laugh. Recently I was at a BBQ at my mother's where her two sisters were also in attendance and I brought the needed items to them and asked them to show me. My one Aunt took the hook in her hands and started right away, so fast that I couldn't figure it out but what made us laugh is she said, "Mother woould always tell us we didn't have our fingers in the right spot and move them for us!" My grandmother passed away in 1991 at the age of 75, young by today's standards, and took her secrets with her.

    I am forever grateful that she did teach me to sew, and when I was in high school I did crochet a scarf for my boyfriend but I have lost all recollection of how to do that and unfortunately my mother didn't inherit the knitting/crochet gene. I will be seeing both Aunts on New Years Day and I will be prepared to learn to crochet doilies if it kills me......or them!!

    Here's to you Grandmom!!!

  • KayCee71

    What a wonderful story to share with the world just in time for Christmas. My Great-Aunt Betty was something of a dynamo when it came to making clothes. She had been gifted with this talent from an early age & as a young lady, she was actually a seamstress working for Yves St. Laurent & other designers in New York City. She was also gifted with crocheting & knitting, so it's no surprise that my sister & I were often gifted with matching ponchos, sweaters, scarves, hats & mittens at Christmas. My sister is 8 years older than I & always was sort of a "look down the nose" sort & didn't appreciate these awesome, intricate, & at the time; highly fashionable items, yet even as a kid, I always treasured them. As she got older, she took to making dolls & they were great fund raisers for the hospital she donated them to sell. My mother had been taught by her how to sew & I was lucky enough to have beautiful dresses & blouses made by the both of them to stretch my girly wardrobe. I always looked forward to fittings & knowing I was going to wear a 1 of a kind article. I have always loved getting & making "home-made" gifts, as I find them much more personal & know how much time goes into them, so I have been lucky to make presents for loved ones & friends even when I am scraping for the last pennies in my purse. My husband's grandmother was known for making wonderful blankets like the subject of this article & although she died long before I had met him, I get to snuggle up with him under a few of those blankets & I know firsthand that it's not just the fabric that keeps us warm, but the memories & respect for the talents of the woman who made it.

  • Lillie

    What a wonderful memory! Like Jen, I, too had a great-grandmother that crocheted! However, my great-grandmother, "Granny" to all of us, taught me to crochet! And, I still crochet to this day! As a matter of fact, two of my crocheted sweaters took 1st & 2nd place at the County Fair the only time I ever entered anything! Thanks to Granny for teaching me to crochet! Thank you, Jen! For bringing that wonderful memory to light! I'm digging out my crochet needles and heading to the store for yarn!

  • Sandy

    I have enjoyed making "T-shirt quilts" for each of my children & grandchildren when they graduate from high school. They always have so many T-shirts from sports & activities that I sew the fronts with pictures together & border the sides & backs with warm fuzzy material in their school colors and tie or machine quilt them. Each one is different and each is a treasure of memories.

  • Mack

    My wife does the T-shirt quilts and many other's.
    Even quilted pot holder's.
    I see her working at it and can tell there is alot of time and love involved.

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