Once upon a time, a young medical officer in the Indian Air Force was posted to a remote airfield of the country. It was her first posting, her first experience of being the only woman in the entire station, and her first challenge of learning to be her own best friend. Living in the single officers mess, with 40 officers and more, restricting their sense of freedom ( its hard to lounge in your inner wear, when there is this constant threat of a woman bursting into your space!) had its pros and cons.
I learnt to announce my impending arrival by sending out the dog first. I enjoyed long quiet evenings of reading books, writing long letters to my siblings ( no Internet those days, and there was one TV in the officers bar), and doing cross-stitch pictures. Some of those pictures still grace my home, and I smile at them and remember that young girl who felt that lots of masculine company could never make up for the joy of a few girl friends.
That was life then…It was a great life, especially when I learnt to go within my talents to feel creative and complete.
And there is life now. I have knitters, friends, Net pals, family, dogs and so much more. During a casual conversation with an officer from the Army, she shared her past habit of crocheting woollen squares through quiet evenings in a field posting in Kashmir. Surrounded by infantry regiments, tanks and trucks, and men in uniform, she would retreat to her room after duty, and make squares of four different shades of red. How many squares? 14 light pink, 64 medium pink, 53 red and 64 maroon squares.
She had been carrying these 195 squares, and some left-over yarn, in four packets, from one posting to another for the past 18 years. The task of stitching up all the squares into a throw seemed just too big and bothersome. Let them remain in those four packets!
Of course, I couldn’t let such a challenge go past me. I offered to get the patches stitched by one of the women. At least something unique and useful would emerge.
The patches came home and the brain-storming sessions began. I used my trusty colour pencils and graph sheets to try out possible arrangements, but when the actual stitching was done, the colours just merged into a gloop of tomato sauce of some vague age. I realised, once again, the difference between “Hue” and “Value”.
Days and yarn went past, and the final product appeared. A lovely, warm, bright throw which would light up any room, make TV watching a cosy experience and bring back memories of youth for that officer in the Army.
Joining up these patches has given me some insights which I need to share with you, just in case there is this desire to make patches and keep them in packets for some distant future project!
- Choose colours which provide contrast and colour differences. A great way is to click the heap of yarns on your mobile, turn it into a black and white picture, and see which colours stand out and which merge into grey gloopy patches.
- Write down, on a thick piece of paper, the number of stitches you are casting on and the number of rows you are going to make for each patch. Believe me, a sieve-like memory is just not my personal affliction! Put that paper in a clear envelope and keep it with your crochet hook/knitting needles.
- Weave in all the loose yarn ends. Do not, ever, plan to use the little bits of yarn which hang around, after the last stitch has been closed. Its good sense to use a separate long yarn to do the stitching.
- Make a colour chart arrangement of your patches before you begin to join them. Its strange how a lovely imaginative pattern becomes a mad labyrinth of colour. Of course if you want just mad colour, please ignore me completely!
- Look around for inquisitive do-gooders like the author of this piece, at gatherings and parties. Tell them about your patches and hope like crazy that she offers to stitch them up for you!
Of course, when she sends you a big bill for that task, be glad that you have something unique and lovely, and open up the purse-strings!