Repairing crocheted items can be a daunting task. You need to make sure you can match the material and the handiwork of the original artist. It's almost like restoring a Van Gogh 100 years later. Lastly, you will need a lot of confidence and a lot of patience!
First, I have to find the right yarn that matched the size, fiber content and color of the original. Although most of the granny squares can be salvaged and some just need repairs, there are a few that will need to be replaced completely. I want to be as true to the original as possible to uphold the integrity of the piece.
I start at home with some yarn in my stash to figure out the gauge that best fits the afghan. The original squares in the afghan have been pulled and stretched with love throughout the years and there are signs of previous repairs. This means the gauge changes slightly from square to square, so I decide to compromise with a guage somewhere in between. I make two swatches using a size 1 (tan sock weight) yarn and a size 3 (purple sport weight) yarn. I use a size F hook on both samples. As you can see, I am feeling like Goldilocks; the sock yarn is too small, the sport weight is too big. It will take a size two to be just right!
Now that I know what size yarn I need, the next step is to find the most comparable yarn in terms of fiber content. Since this was made in the 1930's, it is likely that the yarn used was 100% wool. The felted look and slightly scratchy feel of the afghan also lead me to believe that this is wool yarn. There are so many yarns available today but I need to keep in mind that the yarn in my hand is about 80 years old! Materials and manufacturing have changed a lot in that time, so finding an exact match may be almost impossible.
With my wish list and afghan in hand, I head over to my local craft store. After hours of weeding out all non-wool yarns and those of the wrong size, I finally decide on a few yarns to sample. I even took a few colors that I thought might work. When I get home, I try making another square with a sport weight wool (couldn't find a size 2 at all) and a size D hook. It's a little too stiff because of the size of the yarn and two rounds into it and I realize there is yet another factor to consider: it's too shiny!
Back to the craft store I go, this time wielding my hook, tape measure and afghan. I sit at the back table and crochet little pieces of yarn to see if anything will suffice. I find a brand that may work, but the colors are bright so only the black might work. Unfortunately, black is a difficult match. One would think that matching black would be easy, but I beg to differ. If you have ever tried pairing black bottoms and a black top, you know that no two shades are ever the same. This truth also applies to yarn. Defeated, I finally give in to the fact that it won't be as perfect as I would like. I take the black skein and the yarn hunt continues. After hitting all of the retail craft stores in Northern Colorado, I start with the specialty shops. Next stop: Lambspun.
Lambspun is the top specialty yarn shop in Fort Collins and is located in a converted house. For a fiber artist, it's like being a kid in a candy store. It's easy to get overwhelmed with the hand crafted wearables hanging from the walls and skeins of every color and style poking out of the nooks and crannies of the former home. Thankfully, the sales people are very nice and helpful and have a great passion for yarn. I pull out the afghan and she agrees that it is 100% wool. We go to work, succeeding with a black that matches better than anything else I have found thus far and move on to colors.
The color search, in fact, is the easiest part of the yarn hunt. As a scrap afghan, there is quite a bit more latitude when it comes to finding colors that will blend into the design. As long as I keep them in more neutral tones, you shouldn't be able to tell the difference. We pick out five different colors and I'm off to try them out.
Round 3 of sample making begins as soon as I get home. The colors look great and the size is just right! The only problem now is that it looks too good! One of the great things about wool yarn is that it can be felted to look like it has been handled for years. This will blend much better with the afghan than a fancy new square would. The first picture below is the completed sample and the second is the same sample after a few rounds of felting. It's hard to see it in these pictures, but felting makes quite the difference. Please excuse that I did not block the square for the photo :)
Now that I have the yarn and the plan, I'm ready to jump in!