Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Gift of Knitting

It's been some time since I have posted ... the business of life, trying to keep up with 4 kids, house hunting ... yah, excuses, I know.  The truth is that I have been struggling lately with this blogging thing.  When I started, my intention was to only write about good and happy things (sounds a bit fluffy, I know).  And while there are many things in my life that are both good and happy, the truth of life is, it's not always like that.  Sometimes life sucks -- there really is no other word for it.

I have been wanting to write about knitting for some time now, but keep putting it off.  My hesitation comes from the parts the story that don't fit into my "good and happy" guidelines, but without which, the story would be incomplete.  So, leave parts out, or find a way to make everything look rosy?  Neither seemed the right way to go.  Then it occurred to me that things aren't always easy to categorize into good and bad; and that appreciating the good things that come along doesn't mean that you've forgetting about the bad.  The trick, I guess, is to be open to the good while still remembering how you got there.  Yes, that seems appropriate.

So, here is my knitting story:

My childhood home was filled with knitting.  Not my knitting, but that of my paternal grandmother and mother who were both wonderful knitters.  They happily and (what seemed like) effortlessly knit sweaters, hats, slippers and mittens, mittens and more mittens. At the time, it didn't seem all that special -- I mean, didn't everybody have a grandmother who seemed to have a knitting needle attachment (kind of like Inspector Gadget -- "go go gadget knitting needles!")?  It was many years before I realized that this was not the case.

When Isaac was born, my grandmother had already passed on, but my mother excitedly stepped up to the plate (she'd been busy practicing for other babies in our family) and my home, like the one of my childhood, was filled with hand knitting for all my babes, knit with love from both sides of the family. Just the way is should be right?

Then things changed ... my mom got sick ... she forgot how to knit and lots of other things too.  She knit quite a bit while she still remembered, and the piles of hand knitted goods that showed up at every visit seemed strange at the time, but looking back, were great expressions of her love that she knew would last longer than she would.  Slowly, the knitting stopped, the conversations got harder ... and before we knew it, the fight was over.  And at that moment, life sucked.

A year went by, life went on (as it is prone to do), and finally it seemed time to do some cleaning out in my parents house.  The craft/laundry room seemed like an easy place to start, so I dug in.  Buried under a pile of stuff was this old trunk.

I had often admired this beautiful, old trunk of my grandmother's but didn't have any idea what was inside.  When I opened the lid, it was filled with yarn ... lots and lots of yarn, knitting needles, and books for every age and style.  I had long been thinking about taking up knitting, and this new discovery seemed to announce that now was the time to start.  This collection of my mother's and grandmother's included needles of every size, yarn every colour of the rainbow, projects started and never finished (some so heart-breakingly full of mistakes as I imagined my mother's frustration at not being able to finish what she once found so easy), and a stack of books filled with patterns spanning decades of styles and fashions.  Then I came across a booklet entitled "Learn To Knit in 6 Easy Lessons".  I picked it up and recognized some of the stitches that I had been taught as a young girl -- but I hadn't thought important enough to keep up -- and decided that now was definitely the time to learn to knit.

A "Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work" pamphlet dated 1940 was a real surprise to find.  Finding my grandmother's name on it made it even more exciting (the "J. Webb" on the top is her writing).  The instructions for everything thing from service socks, to gloves, to sleeveless sweaters are very specific -- for example:  although the instructions for Two-Way Mitts are the same for the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, it specifies:  khaki colour only for the army, navy for the Navy, and air force blue, for ... well you get the picture).  When I get a little better, I'm going to try knitting some of these socks for the boys -- I think that they will get a little thrill from wearing "army socks" -- and if I get really good, I may even mail a pair to a soldier ... soldiers today still need socks, right?

I hope to someday move the whole trunk to my house to look through, and choose from whenever the mood strikes (unless my father unexpectedly decides to take up knitting, but I think that I am pretty safe).  But for now, it is waiting at my parent's house -- minus a few items that I am using to practice with. 

So that is my knitting story -- the whole complete story.  So, what have I learned?  I learned that I love knitting!  I would probably not have discovered this new love if things had gone differently, and although I would rather have my Mom (and her knitting), I can still enjoy this new hobby of mine and the connection that it has forged between mother and daughter (and granddaughter).

This is the "cowl crew", as they dubbed themselves, and all cowls were lovingly knit by Mama (yes, me!).  The gift of knitting continues.  Thanks Mom!


  1. What a lovely knitting story. I feel the same about grandparents, and moms and the knitting thing. And looks like you will be passing this along to your kids as well. My mom always knit socks and mittens and although I do sweaters I have yet to tackle either. I have just come across a lovely cowl pattern however, so this will be my next project. Your cowls look wonderful...and such cute little faces they adorn. Good luck with the sock.
    Glen Pavelich (friend of David's)

    1. Thanks for your kind words. The kids love their cowls and they were so easy to knit. Good luck with yours.

  2. Peggy,
    Kelly sent this link last night and said this particular entry was pretty special. And she was right :-) thanks for sharing your memories and helping remind us of some of our as well.


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