While staying at the home of a friend in Cortez Colorado I decided to watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory on my laptop. I was not a real fan of the series and I think it was maybe the second or third episode I had watched. I was seated across from a couch on which rested a black-bordered granny squares afghan. The episode of TBBT moved to a scene in Amy’s apartment where she and Sheldon sat on a couch with the same style of afghan displayed on its back in the same way as the one directly across the room in front of me. Tiny afghan on tiny couch on laptop screen/big afghan on big couch right behind it. Whoooooah! Good thing I wasn’t high on anything or it could have a been a serious Twilight Zone moment.
I told my friend about the coincidence and mused on how I vaguely remembered having seen that style of afghan in various settings many times before. What I would come to discover is that many of those “memories” were subliminally planted by many different TV shows that I had watched over the past four decades.
When I moved to Greenville SC later that year I went to look at the furnished cottage I was about to rent and was stopped dead in my tracks by the sight of this:
It was just too weird! I told my friend in Colorado and I started equating it with the Monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey”. For those who never saw the film, the Monolith is a black, oblong, stone-like block that served as a marker placed on planets during a visit by an advanced extraterrestrial species and thought to be controlled remotely by its creators. Advancement in evolution or technology would then be prompted by its discovery. In short: evidence of a visit by aliens.
The Crocheted Monolith, however, was deposited by very human, well-meaning and dextrous grandmothers all over America beginning in the early 60s. There may be one hiding in your house right now! With more than a little help from Hollywood it has come to be a defining icon of American middle-class decor as this blog will soon explore. But back to my progression down the rabbit hole…
I picked up the January 2015 edition of Harper’s Bazaar to see what the spring lines had in store and just about lost my molars at the sight of this:
Harper’s Bazaar/Michael Avedon
I knew then that the Crocheted Monolith was not only proliferating at a rapid rate in my imagination alone, but experiencing a cross-cultural renaissance, if you will, of homespun kitsch.
Now this is where I must admit my lack of affection for the black-bordered granny square afghan. I am quite fond of the textile arts and have been known to knit, but I’m a yarn snob. Only natural fibers are allowed on my needles (‘no polyest-ah, evaaaah!’). While some older examples were crafted of wool, most crocheted afghans are made of acrylic or other synthetic (plastic) types of yarn. Sadly, the most vivid colors are often easiest to obtain in synthetic yarns. In my mind, crocheted afghans were cheap and cheesy like Velveeta. Yuck! Made with orphan skeins found in the discount bin at a Kmart. More likely to be associated with “trailer trash” than “middle class”.
Yet here I was, faced with what has clearly become an artifact synonymous with late 20th century American domestic culture. I had to investigate.
Then the sturdy blanket threw me a curve and jumped the Pond. It tuned up in a random film made in Scotland, “Not Another Happy Ending”. That’s Karen Gillan (from “Selfie”) as young author, Jane, underneath it, attempting to hide from her complicated life.
It made me wonder if someone of the Crocheted Monolith tribe (American) was imbedded in the Glaswegian Production Design department.
But it occurred to me, Grandma knew exactly what she was doing in her choice of cheap, but almost indestructible acrylic! Grandmothers know that barf happens; as do spaghetti sauce, beer, wine, blood, nacho cheese, bong water and pet mess. Grandma knew her blanket had to survive the trip to the frat house where it would be hosed down in the driveway and thrown into a coin operated washing machine, on HOT of course, then thrown into an equally HOT dryer and still come out the same size as when it went in. Genius, Grandma. They’ll be pulling these things out of landfills a thousand years from now, hosing ’em down, letting ’em dry in the sun and throwing them right back on the couch good as new!
Now for the speculation. So far I’ve found that the black-bordered granny square afghan has made appearances on five different TV shows beginning with “Dark Shadows” in 1966. Here’s a fun exploration on the ‘over-used prop’ popping up through several centuries in a Dark Shadows wiki: Collinsport Afghan
Then “Taxi” beginning in 1978
There’s a rumor going around that the afghan was stolen and replaced twice on the set of “Roseanne”, starting in 1988…
and also, that its subsequent appearance on TBBT (2007 – current) has something to do with Johnny Galecki as he plays a main character on both couches, I mean shows…
It was also spotted on Jenna’s bed in “30 Rock”, starting in 2006.
Image – Zupher Disorder
I’ve also read that it might have something to do with certain producers or set decorators. The question is: are they all in on the joke and messing with our heads or just making a whimsical homage and continuing an unspoken tradition? That’s where you come in! Please post your sightings of the Crocheted Monolith in the wild and any inside info/lore you may uncover in the comments section. Please keep it specific to the black-bordered, multi-colored granny square variety of afghan. Posts about any other type of afghan or posts unrelated to the black-bordered granny square afghan will be deleted. Happy hunting!