Playing The Numbers
Jane Sites spins a yarn about love discovered late,a passion for artistry and vanished integers.
Thursday, June 28, 2001
It was a loss she determined to overcome, but not because she wanted to balance her checkbook or order noncaffeinated soft drinks in restaurants. "If you like to crochet," she says, "you have to be able to count."
Sites doesn''t just like to crochet; she adores it. So she developed an intricate mathematical system to get her back to her art.
"I could read instructions," she remembers. "Following them was a bear. If I was making an afghan and had 300 stitches to crochet, I would count to six and multiply."
To complicate matters, the multiples of seven were also missing: 14, 21, 28. Every so many increments, a number would be gone.
So, in counting, Sites would force herself to slow down. "I taught myself to prepare for six. Slow down and think what comes after six." She knew on a very deep level, but she couldn''t get the number to surface. With much mental labor, the coveted seven would appear in all its glory. Sites recovered the missing multiples in the same way.
"It was the love of crochet and the making of the lace," she smiles, that provided the impetus to get well.
Crochet has been a part of Sites'' life for a very long time. When she was about 8 years old, her widowed grandmother, an Ohio farm woman, came to live with the family. During the same period, the young Sites was stricken with scarlet fever.
"My grandmother thought about what she could do for me at the time," Sites recalls. "She bought a little white handkerchief and some yellow thread and a little hook, and she said, ''I''m going to show you three things you''ll be able to do the rest of your life.'' And she taught me to crochet one, then to double crochet and triple crochet. That''s all she taught me. Then she said, ''Here, put this string onto that handkerchief.''"
Sites recalls the family circumstances of those years. "My grandfather''s death left my grandmother alone on the farm in the country at age 52. At the same time, during the Depression, my mother had to go to work."
When her grandmother moved in, everyone benefited. "My grandmother had a place to stay, and I was taken care of."
Decades later, her grandmother''s witticisms and lessons come stealing back. "Grandma would say, ''Do it carefully. If you make a mistake, you can pull it out. Remember, you will always reap what you sow. But if you don''t sew carefully, you will rip what you sew.''"
Her grandmother would be proud of Sites now. What began as a border around a little white handkerchief has ended in a grand collection of usable art--"things you can''t find in most places," Sites says, "baby clothes, blankets, rugs, afghans, lacy window decor."
"And the baptismal dresses," her husband Dan reminds her. "Don''t forget the baptismal dresses."
Dan knew early on that their marriage would include a lot of yarn, even though he entered her life before the yarn did. "We met as kids in kindergarten," he says. "Then I didn''t see her again for 47 years. Her folks and my folks went to school together in a little town in Ohio, but I left that state when I was 8 years old."
Fate brought them together again nearly five decades later. "After 47 years, she saw my sister in Santa Barbara, and I went down to visit. Two weeks later, I asked her to marry me."
Jane speaks up. "I told him if he still felt that way in a year, we''d do it."
"So we waited a year," Dan adds. "And I saw that yarn had to be a part of the bargain."
Sixteen years later, yarn is stored in every available niche of their tiny home. Not forever, though. Jane has plans for a new home, a home with lots of space--and crocheted pillows and lacy curtains. "I don''t know what the colors will be, but I have plans to make a bath rug," she says.
In the meantime, friends and neighbors keep her busy. Most of her work she sells herself, and she can now say she counts celebrities among her satisfied customers. Finding herself in Moab, Utah during the filming of Thelma and Louise, she was thrilled when Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis discovered her work.
"Dan was working a placer gold claim outside of Moab, and I had my crocheted pieces in a craft store downtown. My little crocheted angels were on display, and Geena and Susan each bought a dozen."
It was a gratifying moment, but "my real benefit comes from making things I enjoy," Sites observes. "As long as the crochet pays for itself, I''m happy. You can''t be greedy. I never want to be greedy. I don''t know what greed tastes like." She pauses. "It gives me a lot of joy, and I like giving things to people that they enjoy. It''s a double enjoyment."
Jane Sites'' work can be seen in Pacific Grove at The Country Attic, 160 Fountain.