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More than a Ball of Yarn

There’s a mall with a small Zellers Department Store not far from my house.  Because I’ve frequented it often over the years, I’m quite familiar with the layout of the store and roughly what’s contained in each aisle. Several months ago, I ran into Zellers to buy a few things for the house. I rounded the corner from the aisle containing pillows and blankets into the next aisle, where I expected to find candles, vases, and home decor. But what I saw stopped me dead in my tracks. The aisle had been transformed. From top to bottom, beginning to end, it was stocked full of colorful balls of yarn.  I stood there gawking in amazement.

Now you may not think that there’s anything particularly unusual about a yarn aisle in a department store. But I was stunned. The reason I was stunned was that the womanly art of knitting and crocheting fell by the wayside a long time ago – along with the idea that the best place for a young wife and mom was in the home.

When I was a little girl, my Oma (granny) had taken me to the yarn aisle to pick out beautiful skeins for my next crochetting project.  And although it was still possible to find yarn in craft stores, I hadn’t seen a shelf  – let alone a whole aisle full – in a department store for  what seemed like eons.

The feminist women-centered analysis (err… brainwashing) of the seventies and eighties had convinced women like me that womanly crafts like knitting and crochetting were trivial, if not borderline demeaning. We were taught that women should stop doing menial things for the home and devote our attention to things of serious importance – like developing a career and earning a lot of money.  I hadn’t picked up a crochet hook in decades.

I was so overwhelmed by my thoughts that that I stayed there in the yarn aisle for a while, pondering the cultural significance of it all. I ran my fingers over the skeins, feeling the thickness and texture of the strings.  I studied the sizes and types of hooks and needles. I thought back to sitting at Oma’s feet, having her guide my clumsy young hands in basic crochet stitches. I thought of the pretty doilies she taught me to crochet and the sense of pride and accomplishment when my mom displayed my work on the living room coffee table.

I thought about the relaxed womanly commraderie… a grandmother sitting for hours mentoring and training her young granddaughter in womanly arts. Things that she had learned from her grandmother. And she, from her grandmother before her. I thought about the whole concept of an older woman training a younger woman how to be a woman and how to pour herself into making a house a home. I thought about the admonition of Titus 2:3 for older women to teach younger women good and beautiful things.  The sense of nostalgia that swept over me at that moment was profound. We women have lost so much.

I think that many women are beginning to feel the vacuum. They’re yearning for womanly things. That’s why a whole aisle of yarn has, after a 25 year absence, suddenly re-appeared at my local department store.

Inspired, I bought a ball of crochet thread and some hooks. I pulled out some old patterns I had kept stored in a box in my basement, and sat on the couch refreshing my memory on how to crochet. The next time I stayed with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Houston, I bought some bright pink, blue, and green skeins and large plastic hooks to teach my young niece how to crochet. We sat on the floor for a couple of hours as I guided her inexperienced hands in how to hook chains and do single crochets. We laughed together and worked together. When she was finished, she decorated her bed frame with bright, pretty crochetted flowers. I don’t know who was more proud.

What took place that day was a whole lot more valuable than a day at the office. It makes me think that our foremothers were a lot wiser than we gave them credit for. It is us – and not them – that have been deceived by an elaborate yarn.

© Mary A. Kassian


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About The Author

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian, the founder of Girls Gone Wise, is an award winning author, internationally renowned speaker, and distinguished professor of Women's Studies at Southern Baptist Seminary.

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