Its been said that you never forget the person who taught you how to knit. In this painting by Albert Samuel Anker (1831-1910) a brother is interested in learning from his sister. I remember my teacher: my mother. After the birth of my third child my mother got on an airplane to come and see the baby. In her suitcase were yarn, needles and a trusted pattern. She was answering a call to teach me how to make mittens.
Some women have strange cravings when they are expecting a baby. I would have cravings upon a baby’s joyous arrival. Perhaps the source of my mitten craving came from my repeated reading aloud of the story, Too Many Mittens. (Click photographs to enlarge.)
Anyway, I desired to make my children mittens like those my mother had made for her children. She must have made dozens and in all colors of the rainbow. My brother and sister and I were instructed to “be on the safe side” and wear one pair inside another (as a lining.) Doubly protected against the cold we rambunctiously dug into, and tunneled through, deep snow. How merciless we were toward our mittens! Soggy and somewhat shredded from the day’s use, we were directed to place our pairs on the baseboard heating. This is were they dried. They were lined up in a colorful row, cuff to fingertip, all along a wall of the family room.
The little blue mitten in the bunch was my first. It lost its match long ago. Saved from extinction it was tucked away at the bottom of the cloths drawer of a sentimental knitter.
Unbeknownst to myself then, my early days of knitting were fulfilling a craving for Mother Culture. Quiet and creative minutes sequestered for the sake of knitting a few rounds with my double pointed needles, while the children were themselves occupied, brought calm to busy days.
My children wore Mommy’s mittens throughout their growing years. They shared them with friends who paid us a visit unprepared. The large mitten-&-hat basket sat at the back door. “Oh you have cold hands? My mother always makes extra mittens. How about the red ones?” one daughter would tell a friend wishing to be hospitable. Right up to the time my girls were married they were loaning out Mommy’s mittens.
I don’t have a clear memory of all the pairs that were never returned. I do remember, however, that the young people enjoyed a friendly day in the brisk winter air and that is what matters.
The mittens I made with my homespun wool are completed. They are tailored to fit my hands snugly – just the way I like them. I will not loan these out. Well, okay, I would if I were asked nicely.
Knitters and non-knitters alike are invited to comment.