I have just returned from Seattle where our grandaughter Ashley is approaching 7 years old, her sister Caitlin is almost age 5, and baby brother Ethan is 1 week old. In looking through my files I have found a bit of writing I did a few years ago and I want to share it with you now.
Ashley’s Grandma Likes to Knit
Ashley’s grandma likes to knit – Ashley’s great-grandma was a knitter, but that is not where Ashley’s grandma learned to knit. Well, not really. Somehow, where knitting was concerned Janet just didn’t find it very interesting. She just didn’t get pleasure or satisfaction from trying to knit. And she became tense when her mother tried to teach her or correct her mistakes – that’s sometimes the way it is between mothers and daughters.
But the knitting was there – and Janet liked to see her mother knitting – particularly when it was a sweater for Janet. Janet’s mother knit very warm heavy sweaters that Janet wore when she went skiing.
Janet’s mother was a wonderful knitter. She did some knitting for a Mrs. Parker, who in turn did knitting for other people. It was sort of like a chain of knitters.
Janet tried to knit when she was a little girl but it just didn’t seem to happen. Janet was more interested in rug making. She did what was called latchet-hooked rugs. This meant pulling short strands of wool through holes in a canvas – usually a canvas with a picture on it – like painting by numbers only using wool. (yes, Janet did painting by numbers also.)
When Janet went away to college at age 17, she was very bored in her psychology class. Everyone was knitting to fight the boredom. Janet decided that she would knit also. And so she went downtown and bought wool and needles in Lazarus Department Store – climbed back up the hill and sat down to KNIT. She probably got a bit of help from her friends. She proceeded to knit a long scarf, alternating broad bands of bright blue and white. I don’t know if she ever finished that scarf or what ever became of the wool. She certainly never wore it. By this time, her more advanced knitting friends had moved on to knitting argyle socks for their boy friends. Janet didn’t have a boy friend – but she decided to try knitting those pretty patterned socks anyhow. Another unfinished project.
Janet was browsing one day in the knitting department of a large department store in Boston. She found a wonderful kit for knitting a patterned waistcoat. Feeling inspired, she bought the kit. You guessed it – another half finished project.
The same thing happened with a blue sweater with a red train.
Janet’s knitting was sporadic.
Years went by. Janet met Ian and they got married. When they came to Dublin from Kenya, it was cold and Janet did not have many friends. She needed something to do and Ian said he would like a sleeveless sweater. So Janet took up knitting again. A very nice light blue sleeveless was the result – it even had cables. Alas, Ian thought it was too short and he scarcely wore it. Janet still has the pattern.
Then they had a baby whom they named James. Ah, knitting. Janet turned to the knitting needles again and tried doing a V-neck sweater for baby James. The first one was a navy blue with a bit of red pattern at the beginning – just so it wouldn’t be too boring. It was reasonably small – and it didn’t take forever to knit and lo and behold, it fitted wee James. It was cold and James wore it. Feeling this was a success, she went on to knit several others – at age 2 James was very good at wearing his mother’s hand-knits. As was Andrew when he came along. Janet loved knitting for James and Andrew.
And Janet also knit several patterned sweaters for herself, which of course she wore – with pride.
Janet wearing her patterned red white and blue sweater, James age 3 and Andrew age 2
In Dublin Janet and Ian had a neighbour named Jean who was from Scotland, the Shetland Islands. Jean was a wonderful knitter. She could knit wonderful Fair Isle patterned sweaters and she didn’t even need a pattern. Janet was so envious.
When James was 3 and Andrew was 2 and David was a wee baby 4 months old, they all went to St. Lucia – a very hot place – and that was the end of knitting for a while.
A few years went by, wanting a project, she knit another sweater for Ian – trying to make sure it was long enough. Alas, it was too long – he never wore it! Ian modeling the sweater knit in 1986 while we were in Bhutan.
The years go by – some years spent in hot countries – no knitting. But in colder places Janet would turn to the knitting again. Knitting with wonderful naturally dyed wools in Kenya. Dyed from plants in the Highlands of Kenya. A lovely range of soft colours. She just had to knit with them.
Then there was a cardigan which she knit for herself. But the wool for this cardigan somehow wasn’t so nice. And the colour varied. And when it was finished it didn’t fit. And the neck was funny. All in all, that wasn’t a very successful project. But Janet can’t bear to undo it or give it away. The buttons she chose for it are striking.
Janet’s mother came each year to visit. When she came to Dublin one year she and Janet went to a long-established shop, Cleo’s, where they were able to buy wonderful oiled wool – used for knitting warm sweaters. Janet’s mother spent the whole visit knitting away on this sweater for Janet – her mother didn’t quite get it finished before she went back to Hawaii – so Janet finished it and now wears it with pride and nice memories of her mother having knit it. .
Janet wearing the sweater knit mostly by her mother
Janet sometimes felt she should clean out her cupboards and give things away that she no longer wore. One year, she gave away one of those lovely ski sweaters that her mother had knit years ago – even though it just wasn’t suitable to wear in Dublin and she hadn’t gone skiing or had occasion to wear it for years, she felt sick after she gave it away. It was sort of as if she had given away part of herself and her mother. She felt the same way about a dark navy cardigan that her mother had knit – it had always been a bit short in the arms and Janet had never felt completely comfortable in it – yet, it was a very nice piece of work and her mother had made it especially for her. Janet made the person she gave it to promise that it would be passed on to someone who would appreciate the fine work that had gone into the making of that sweater.
Now Ashley’s grandma is enjoying knitting for Ashley. It makes grandma very happy to see Ashley wearing something grandma has knit. And Ashley’s mummy says that many people have admired Ashley wearing her grandma’s creations.
Ashley wearing her hat and holding her cardigan, knit by Grandma.
Now as Ashley is getting bigger, Grandma Janet has knit another sweater – Grandma has used the same pattern she used for knitting James and Andrew’s sweaters.
Ashley – I hope you enjoy wearing grandma’s knits. It makes her very happy to see your cheery little face peering out from one of her sweaters – even if it is miles too big for you. I think we have to thank your mummy for having you wear the sweater – maybe she too likes to humour grandma.
And maybe one day you and your mummy will try to knit together – or maybe sew a quilt. Or maybe you will sit and knit beside grandma, in her rocking chair, watching Sesame Street together.