All of the best times of my youth were spent with my Grandma Peg and Papa Ed. They were my hero’s, not because they did something outstanding in the history of the world, but because with them I was in a safe and educational place.
As a young child I remember getting new knit mittens and a hat every winter from my Grandma Peg. They were nothing fancy, just good old Red Heart Super Saver yarn. No fancy designs knit into them. No baubles hanging off. Plain mittens and hat that went up in size every year.
And to me they were the most special things ever.
Those suckers wore like iron. Nothing could destroy them. Not hours of playing in the snow, sledding, making snowmen, throwing snowballs. And putting them on the radiator in the house to dry off didn’t hurt them a bit either. It was kind of a timer for going inside when they got too wet to be warm anymore.
Sometimes she would make boot socks for us too. A knit tube of no discernable pattern to slip over socks and was one more layer to keep the little piggies warm. Don’t forget the bread bag layer either LOL! I think this was her way of using up all the little bits left over from hats and mittens. She very much came from the waste not want not way of life.
My Papa retired in 1976 and they had decided many years prior that they would build their dream log cabin in Vermont. They had the land and had made many improvements to it, but the house was not there yet. They lived in the camp house while building the main house. A precut put it together yourself kit from a local company. I loved that house. Sadly, it was sold off many years ago now.
I spent many summers up there with them. Helping weed the garden, cut split and stack the years 8 cords of firewood, wandering thru the woods barefoot, swimming in the local lake, riding the neighbors Morgan horse all over the countryside.
Every summer I would ask my grandma to teach me to knit.
And every summer, I would frustrate the heck out of her that it did not make any sense to me. Almost every piece I worked on ended up looking like a V with multiple dropped stitches. I now know what I had been doing wrong, however at the time, not so much. Even my grandma couldn’t understand what the heck I was doing.
After several summers of this unending frustration, she did finally throw up her hands and told me not to ask her anymore and to go weed the garden instead.
I tried on several other occasions to teach myself over the years. All I did was frustrate myself now instead of my grandma.
It was not until I was pregnant with my daughter that all of the sudden, knitting made perfect sense. I suspect it was the multitude of hormones that were flooding my system that flipped the correct brain switch and turned the knitting one on.
Either that or some long repressed memory from a previous life finally made itself known. Hmmm, me living in Colonial America, sitting at my hearth working on some piece of clothing necessary to my family. Somehow this sounds very familiar!
I would like to think my ancestors in some ways were fiber artists in their own right. Spinners, knitters, and weavers. Given time and circumstances, I suspect they were, but I have no concrete evidence or family oral history to indicate it. Maybe it’s in my genetic code to be as I am now. They claim that such things are passed this way.
Aside from my grandmother being a knitter, I know she also hooked rugs, the kind with the wool strips on burlap bags. Her sisters also hooked rugs. And Aunt did embroidery as I still have a dresser scarf that she did with little Bo Peep and her sheep on it. One of them was also a quilter, as I still have the quilted baby blanket from whichever one it was.
I also had a huge desire to spin my own yarn and weave, and none of it was intimidating to me. I did start spinning shortly after my son was born, but weaving took a few more years to become a reality due to space and money constraints.
I was thrilled to be able to now make my kids the same mittens and hats that have held a place in my soul for so long. And they got them!! Along with sweaters, scarves, vests, and pretty much anything else I could crank out. The mitten and hat patterns I use is from a beginner knitting kit from Walmart. If you want the patterns, contact me and I can photocopy it. I cannot find the same pattern online.
I have talked to both kids as adults and they both said they loved the sweaters they got each year the most. I would let them pick out the very same Red Heart Super Saver my mittens came from, in the colors they wanted for their new fall/winter sweaters. I used the basic pattern from the American Red Cross knit your bit patterns but would change up the neckline if the kids wanted something different. We went from crew neck to folded over turtleneck, to straight up neck, as they wanted.
American Red Cross Childs Sweater-Brooks Type
I think my daughter said she still has the last one I made for her in pink variegated yarn.
Now I get to knit for my granddaughter. I don’t get to see her very often, but I hope that maybe she will fondly look upon hats and mittens and sweaters the way I have.
I am making a sweater for her now. We had a Bust Your Stash day for our local fiber -group and I got three skeins of a lovely green, blue, purple, brown-ish, yellow-ish yarn. Just enough to make the sweater for her. She is going to look so cute in it!!
Caron Fun and Flouncy Knit Cardigan
It’s tough to make things for her, since I cannot get near her to get measurements. So, I have to guess based on what my daughter says about her growth. I hope this sweater will fit! I made it a bit on the, hopefully, larger size.
Maybe the memories of these items, made with love, will bring her comfort and a desire to knit for her own kids and grandkids as time marches forward. My daughter can knit also, and maybe seeing these things coming for her daughter will bring back good memories for her and inspire her to pick up the needles again.
I still have two afghan’s my grandma Peg made for me before it got too difficult for her to knit anymore. I cherish those so very much. They are packed away now for safekeeping, but I do take them out occasionally for a cuddle.
I do love having this common connection with my grandma and the rest of my ancestors. It makes me feel like I am not alone in this fibery adventure! Maybe they are standing here, looking over my shoulder and commenting to themselves about my technique, choice of pattern and fiber. I hope I make them proud.
The legacy of knitting stemming from one generation to the next, 4 in a row so far!
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I do think our hands know what to do (especially with spinning ) when we stop overthinking it! I struggled with knitting until I Read Elizabeth Zimmerman's Book: Knitting without Tears.
My grandmother crocheted and was also a seamstress. My mom sews, but never had the patience to learn crochet. I’m not sure who might have been into what as the family has been estranged for a long time, but I do know most were farm folk. I’m hedging my bets that a lot of my desire for handiwork (and livestock) is in the blood. Somewhere.