When my son Griffin decided on a Scooby Doo themed party for his 6th birthday, I had fantasies of painting my minivan to look like the Mystery Machine. A friend suggested I “Yarn Bomb” the van with a crocheted coat to look like the Scooby gang’s vehicle. For a couple of weeks I seriously considered this and began picking up inexpensive yarn wherever I could find large quantities of the right shades of neon green, electric blue, and bright orange. But with only one month until the party, I realized that I had neither the time nor money to crochet a cover for my entire van.
I decided to scale down the design to an afghan so my son could actually use it, and began experimenting with creating a flower for the center of the tire on July 1st,, 2011. My first tire turned out so large that I realized the tires would take up over half the length of the entire afghan. Griffin asked what I was making and I told him a flower. He kept complaining that I needed to put green around the orange to make it look more like a flower. Even when I added the black tire around the flowers, he did not know what I was making, although another younger boy took one look at the finished tire and knew exactly what it was.
I photocopied an image of the Mystery Machine onto graph paper, adjusted the size to cover approximately 48 squares by 78 squares, give or take the wheels and bumpers. If each square equaled 1 inch, the finished afghan would be just the size to fit Griffin’s twin sized bed. I adjusted my gauge so that each 1 inch square would be equal to 3 stitches by 2 rows, and developed the pattern from there.
On the 4th of July I hid inside from the fireworks and began work on the rear portion of the Mystery Machine while Griffin was outside distracted. I was thrilled as the shapes of the waves and flowers formed under my hook just as I imagined them. I used tapestry crochet on the wheels, carrying whichever color I was not using under the stitches. But I did not want to see the unused colors in between the words of The Mystery Machine as carrying the color often does, so I needed another technique.
Inspired by the intarsia knitting my Dad (the knitter in the family) has designed, I decided I would have an individual ball of yarn for each color as I worked across the back of the van. This meant more than two dozen little balls of bright orange, green, and blue yarns, dropped and picked up as I worked the lettering for The Mystery Machine.
Keeping all of those colors untangled was half the battle. But carefully rolling the finished portion inside a large tote bag, I was able to flip each ball to the other side ready to be picked up on the next row. This system also worked well in keeping the birthday present a surprise. I had decided from the beginning that if Griffin asked what I was making I would tell him. But after the initial interest in the flowers, he never asked. Granted, much of the work was done while nursing his baby sister (even in the dark), and I would pop the work back into the tote bag whenever he decided to come sit by me.
As his birthday party loomed, I stopped trying to hide it, because I just needed to get it done. On July 12th his Mystery Afghan was revealed. He loved it! But when I laid the afghan out and got my first full look at the whole thing, I realized that the words were backwards!! I had been copying the pattern from the back of the graph paper, reversing the image. Fortunately, unlike my Dad’s knitted intarsia afghans or colorwork where you cut and tie the yarn with every color change, the back looked nearly as good as the front making it completely reversible.