“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.”
― Elizabeth Zimmermann
On March 20th, at the age of 90 we lost my Granma. She had been ill for some time & due to her dementia she had not been the woman I known for a few years. Although her death wasn’t a shock, it was still sad & she was the woman who had taught me how to knit.
I don’t precisely know when she taught me, but I was under 10 & she more than likely did it to get me to sit down & stop asking so many questions! I was/still am curious to the point of utter aggravation for some people. My parents will often comment on my exhausting them with a constant stream of “Why?” as a child.
My Granma was born in Southern Ontario during the inter-war years. As was typical, girls were taught to knit to both clothe their families & it was simply what you did to keep busy in the evening. She once told me how a teacher had encouraged her to enter her knitting for judging at the annual town fair. She refused as the majority of the knitted items had actually been done by the “entrants” mothers. I believe this teacher had been selected to be a judge that year & he recommended a change to the knitting competition, instead of finished items being entered, the girls would all have to show their knitting skills. Am not sure exactly what was required, but it was a live competition so they may have been judged for their evenness of stitches, ability to execute different stitch designs (cables, moss etc) as well as speed. Either way, my Granma agreed to enter and won First prize!
I honestly don’t know how many jumpers, socks, toques, mittens, slippers, baby sets & blankets she knit in her lifetime, but considering she could bang out a man size sweater in a bit over a week, I would say A LOT! Possibly because both my Dad and sister were preemies and she understood the importance of keeping baby’s head warm, she would knit hats for the preemie ward of her local hospital. To say Granma was prolific would be an understatement! She even knit sweaters for my boyfriends but not until we had been dating for at least a year! Chris still has the one she made for him over 15 years ago, she knit it in blue to bring out his eyes. Possibly THE MOST awesome sweater she knit was the infamous Patons Dragon sweater! I believe she knit it for my cousin…and I have the patten book!
In July of every year she would have the grandchildren look through her Patons pattern booklets and choose 1 or 2 sweaters which she would knit for us to wear back to school in the fall. My favorite sweater she ever knit for me was my Sherbert Sweater, I was possibly in grade 2 or 3 when she made it for me and I wore almost all the time! I have a vague recollection that she added some length as I grew & replaced the cuffs at least twice! Granma’s Sherbert Sweaters are testament to the practicality of knitting top down raglans sweaters for growing kids. Almost 15 years ago, with the rise of the internet and the knitting blog, my on again/off again interest in knitting was re-ignited & I would visit my Granma for her help in figuring out a pattern or technique. For very practical reasons, she always knit with arcylic & I, having grown up on a sheep farm, on principal would only knit with wool! We often ended up agreeing to disagree over yarn choices!
When I was expecting Abi & Liam she knit each of them a receiving set of a bonnet, booties & sweater and as they got a bit older, each received one of her signature Icelandic style yoke sweaters. These would become some of the last knitting she did as her mind started to go.
When it came time to plan Granma’s funeral, my Dad & sister thought it would be very fitting if people were able to wear their Grandma sweaters. Instead of the typical photo memory board people usually have, we gathered a display of her knitting. As pieces were laid out, I saw just how much of my Granma’s knitting style has influenced mine and is more than likely responsible for my love of Icelandic Yoke sweaters and preference for top-down seamless raglan sweaters.