Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February's not over yet!

Aunt Jemima Toaster Cover from Crochet World, October 1979

Not only is it still Black History Month, this particular day in February is Mardi Gras A.K.A. Shrove Tuesday A.K.A Fat Tuesday A.K.A. Pancake Day! So, what could be more appropriate than to dedicate this day to Aunt Jemima, the politically incorrect corporate pancake shill?

I’m going to hell for this, aren’t I? A hell constructed of enriched bleached white flour, where high fructose corn syrup demons will attack me with cast iron skillets.

But before I’m condemned to that well-deserved sticky end, I’m going to inflict one more cringe-worthy crochet pattern on all of you. But I warn you in advance, this pattern’s not going to be complete. My historical curiosity only goes so far.

For NOT the complete pattern (and did you know Aunt Jemima was – sort of – a real person?)

Yes, Aunt Jemima had a make-over. No longer portrayed as the jolly ex-slave whose only ambition was to feed instant pancakes to white folk, she’s been transformed into a slim, modern woman who wants to feed instant pancakes to her own children.

And presto! Aunt Jemima is no longer a racist stereotype, all is forgiven, and we can all get along in our blissfully post-racial future! Right?

What do you mean a hundred years of history can’t be erased so easily?
Aunt Jemima Toaster Cover

Oh, right.

Never mind.

Yarn, Red Heart 4-ply sports yarn, two skeins of main color, one skein of contrasting color; rickrack, one package that will coordinate, small or regular; crochet hooks sizes, D, I and J; 1/4 yard dark brown broadcloth...
This broadcloth will determine the skin colour of your toaster cover, so medium brown, light brown, yellow or pink are options too. Personally, I’d choose green as this pattern makes me nauseous.

Although green would also work particularly well if you’re planning on making a Little Green Man cover for a Space Age Toaster.

...3/4 yard printed polyester; about 1/2 lb. of batting type, not bonded...
You’ve got to watch out for that unbonded batting. It’s just not trustworthy.
...seven coordinating pearl headed hat pins, an Aunt Jemima face front and five straight pins (all available at most hobby shops).
Yeah, just try walking into a hobby shop today and asking for an “Aunt Jemima face front”. At best, you’ll get a blank stare. At worst, you’ll get a punch in the nose.

Which I hope is exactly what’s about to happen to the obnoxious brat in this vintage ad.

Punch her hard, little girl! Then run North as fast as you can!

Make 1 using hook size D, with main color yarn. Starting at bottom of waist, working up, ch 24, sl st to form a circle, mark.
WAISTBAND: ROWS 1-4: Work evenly by sc in each sc around. Ch 1, turn on last rnd.
And when you’re done turning on the last rnd, you can turn on institutionalized corporate racism!
FRONT: ROW 5: Sc in front 11 sc, ch 1 and turn.
ROWS 6-11: Work evenly (ch 1, and turn at end of each row). End off, and attach at waistband again.
Hey, I’ll work unevenly if I want to!
RIGHT BACK: ROW 1: Sc in next 6 sc, ch 1 and turn.
ROWS 2-7: Work evenly (ch 1 and turn at end of each row). End off, attach at waistband again.
LEFT BACK: ROW 1: Sc in last 6 sc, ch 1 and turn.
ROWS 2-7: Work evenly (ch 1, and turn at end of each row). End off.

Now turn inside out and sc top of shoulders, 3 dc on each side. Tie and hide all tails.

It’s a good thing I have no intention of making Aunt Jemima, because I’d have no clue what this is supposed to illustrate.

Since when are shoulders below someone’s armholes? And what are all those numbers? Dance steps for armless zombie girls?

“One, two, three! One, two, three! Keep those shoulders straight, Helen! Mary, stop decomposing, this instant!”
NECK: Using contrasting color of yarn and hook size D, attach at neck opening. * Sc in each sc around, ch 1 and turn. Make 4 rows all tog. End off. Repeat from * all the way around.

This illustration is even more mystifying than the last one.

Maybe it’s a mind control collar that forced Aunt Jemima to smile while serving her smug white oppressors.

What these two men don’t realize is that in addition to four flours, Aunt Jemima’s also loaded up those pancakes with sugar and saturated fat. Any day now, these guys are going to keel over from massive coronaries.

Jemima’s a patient woman. She believes that revenge is a dish best served hot off the griddle.

Using hook D, with main color yarn, continue at waist, working down.
ROW 1: Work evenly by, sc in each sc around.
ROW 2: Inc 1 sc in every other sc around (36 sc).
ROW 3: Work evenly.
I thought I already made it clear that you lack the moral authority to force me to work evenly.

In other words, just try to make me!
ROW 4: Inc 1 sc in every other sc around (54 sc).
Change to hook I.
ROW 5: Ch 2, * 2 dc in first sc, ch 1, 1 dc in next sc, ch 1. Repeat from * all the way around.
ROW 6: Ch 2, 2 dc in each hole around. (Ch 1, between each dc around.)
Change to hook J.
ROWS 7-19: Ch 2, 2 sc in each hole around. (Ch 1, between each dc around.) End off.
I mentioned earlier that Aunt Jemima was sort of a real person. She started life as a mammy caricature in the travelling minstrel shows of the late 1800s. The Pearl Milling Company then created an “Aunt Jemima” ready mix, cashing in on the notion that there’s nothing tastier than a breakfast prepared by an oppressed black slave.

Then in 1890 R.T. Davis bought the company and hired Nancy Green to play the first “real” Aunt Jemima. Many more Aunt Jemimas followed, including one who “ran” her own restaurant in Disneyland.

Because nothing says family fun like racist stereotypes!
SKIRT RUFFLE: Attach contrasting color, continue with hook D.
ROW 1: * Sc in first sc, ch 2 yo, dc in same sc. Repeat from * all the way around. End off.
SLEEVE: Make 2, using hook size D, with main color yarn. Starting at base of sleeve, ch 13, sl st to form circle.
ROW 1: Work evenly by sc in each sc around (18 sc).
ROW 2: * Inc 1 in first sc, sc 1 in the next 2 sc. Repeat from * all the way around (24 sc).
ROWS 3 & 4: Repeat rows 1 and 2.
ROWS 5-9: Work even.
ROWS 10-13: Work evenly. End off.
That’s “even-LY”, not even. Don’t get them mixed up!
SLEEVE RUFFLE: Continue with hook D. Attach contrasting color.
ROW 1: * Sc in first sc, ch 2 yo, dc in the same sc, skip next sc. Repeat from * all the way around. End off.

Dear God, hasn’t Aunt Jemima suffered enough? Do we really need to stick pins in her skull too?

You know what? I’m stopping here. It’s all sewing after this, and this isn’t a sewing blog. Nor do I wish to encourage anyone to actually make this nasty blast from the past.

So, all you’ve got so far is a basic doll pattern with pins in its head. With a few creative additions, it’ll be the perfect toaster cover for your next Hellraiser party.

You want pancakes? I’ll give you pancakes! PANCAKES OF PAIN!


  1. let's not forget about Mrs. Butterworth. I know she's not exactly black, but she's still degrading to women. What a mess! Thanks for including the link to the petition...my Blackness required me to sign it, lol.

    p.s. I love your blog! funny (and terrible) patterns with just the right amount of snarky attitude.

  2. I honestly think Mrs. Butterworth is kind of terrifying. Like she's going to suddenly come to life and try to kill me. I think it's that half-formed face with no real eyes and an evil smile that creeps me out.

    I'm so glad you love my blog! That makes me feel a little better about wading through these awful old patterns this month. Next month - penguins!