Light show

Posted Dec. 15, 2008, at 7:27 p.m.

An afghan Alberta Owens of Woodland designed and crocheted last winter will be featured in the December issue of the Mary Maxim catalog. The company, based in Port Huron, Mich., sells yarn, needlework kits, quilting fabrics and other needlework and craft supplies.

Owens chose West Quoddy Head Light for her design. She said she duplicated as faithfully as possible the colors and shapes of the lighthouse. The afghan is banded in navy blue and she used red and white pony beads to highlight certain areas. “I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to promote the most important landmark of eastern Maine and it’s right here in Washington County,” she said. “[The afghan’s] very detailed. It even has the crow’s nest on the top. The ideas just came to me as I worked on it.” The centerpiece and section that frames the centerpiece of the afghan were done in afghan stitch — loops drawn up on the hook across the row and each worked off one at a time. Owens worked the border in single crochet, inserting the hook in the back loop only to create ridges for texture.

She entered the design in the annual contest which Mary Maxim has run each year for the last five years. “I sent the afghan in June and was notified in July that it was one of the ones chosen,” she said.

Owens’ afghan garnered one of three honorable mentions in the crochet category. It was the second afghan she has designed.

“The first one I designed was called Hands Across the Border,” she said. She made that afghan in 1983 for the International Festival held in Calais. “When I started out I didn’t know what I would come out with,” she said of the process of designing and making the piece. The afghan was displayed at the festival each year for the next three years, until 1987. Eventually, Owens donated the afghan to the H.O.M.E. auction. “I thought it should be out there somewhere,” Owens said. “I don’t know where it went, but I hope it went somewhere.

“I read a book on afghan design, ‘Afghans: Traditional and Modern’ by Bonita Bray, back in the 1970s,” she said, “but I had four children then — two in diapers — and had no time to crochet.” But the ideas in the book stayed with her over the years until they found expression in the West Quoddy Head Light afghan design.

The West Quoddy Head Lighthouse afghan was the first of her work she ever entered in a contest.

Brian Harris, vice president at Mary Maxim, said contest judges liked Owens’ excellent choice of colors, and her design and workmanship. “The main stipulation [of the contest] is that it must be an original design,” he said.

Harris said the judges also liked the fact that the design was nautical in theme. “Nautical designs are very popular,” he said.

The contest gives first, second and third place awards and honorable mentions in knit, crochet, baby items and yarn craft categories. Sponsors of the contest besides Mary Maxim are yarn companies, including Coats and Clark and Caron Yarns. The next contest will be announced in the December issue of the catalog.

Owens’ design will be marketed as a kit, Harris said, complete with the amount of yarn needed to make the afghan, and the lighthouse pattern in chart form.

Owens said she was a sixth-grader when she began to knit headbands. Her mother taught her to knit when she was 10 or 11. When she was in high school, Owens would watch a neighbor crochet, absorbing the lesson of the motions the woman’s hands made. Owens also subscribed to The Workbasket magazine, now defunct, which printed a series of lessons on how to crochet. “Between the two, the neighbor and the magazine, I figured it out for myself,” Owens said of learning to crochet.

The rest, as they say, is history.

“I’ve made a life out of what I do,” Owens said.

ahamlin@bangordailynews.net

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