Knitting Squares, Knitting Tales
My mother is a stickler for matching everything in a room with choice colors. She sews her own curtains, cushions, pillows and keeps to the color scheme with her coverlets, too. Every bed, chair and sofa in her bungalow has its own knitted throw or coverlet. There is no point in allowing oneself to be chilly, she believes.
If you’ve read last year’s post “Mommy’s Mittens” you know that I learned to knit from my mother. It is only recently that I thought to ask who taught her. “The Brownies,” she said. “ Working back and forth on our rows – we learned to knit and purl - to make squares for the war effort. The squares were sewn together to make blankets for the WW II soldiers.”
In my copy of For the Love of Knitting compiled by Kari Cornell, is an old photograph of some girls of Brownie age knitting on a front porch.
It helped me picture my mother doing the same during a similar time period.
The next knitting experience found my mother sitting on a New Jersey beach in the summer sunshine knitting argyle socks keeping the contrasting colors neatly on bobbins behind her work.
“That’s a big step,” I noted. “How old were you then?”
“I was fourteen. My cousin brought her knitting on the beach and she showed me how. I made argyle socks for my father,” she remembered with clarity.
“Some years later I made an argyle tie for my boyfriend. He was in his first year of college.” That boyfriend has been her husband for 56 years. Here is my father in 1953 wearing his knitted tie. Doesn’t he look smart?
One of my mother’s favorite coverlets is a sampler of individual squares in solid cream. “What made it so interesting, she said, “is that each square has a different design to it of hearts, flowers, a windmill, a quilter’s star, etc. and uses some different stitches.”
She has always liked the color yellow probably because she savors the sunshine of summer – a much sought-after season of the year for her.
As a matter of fact, the first blanket she ever knit was yellow. It was crafted in ardent anticipation of her firstborn baby.
Here is a faded photograph of my mother and that chubby baby, yours truly, born in 1959. I was doted upon with yarn and a mother’s love.
Repeated washing has made the blanket a bit fuzzy but it survives in my possession today.
A True Tale
When my mother was in the hospital with kidney stones (she is an avid English tea drinker) she lay in bed next to a weak and infirmed lady. Having a friendly nature she struck up a conversation. It was soon revealed that she and the lady had knitting in common. Although my mother was dealing with her own pain she managed to get out of bed to help her roommate who was having trouble eating. The lady was grateful and felt a kinship with my mother. She felt safe to share a secret. She told my mother what she had stored in the bottom drawers of her dresser. There she kept the knitted layette sets for the grandchildren that were sure to come one day. But all four of her children, in their 30s, were not keen on getting married and starting families. "I’m counting on them changing their minds,” the lady said with hopefulness.
This continued for a week. My mother fed, talked knitting and to distract them from their pain the ladies also shared secrets.
Fully recovered and home from the hospital my mother received a telephone call. It was from the daughter of her hospital roommate. “My mother didn’t make it but before she died she told me how kind you were to her. We very much would like you to come to her service.”
Even though she hardly knew the lady she and my father attended the memorial service an hour away. Few persons were in attendance. How startling it was for my mother to hear herself being named in the daughter’s speech and referred to as “Joan . . . the best friend of . . .”
Afterward the daughter pulled her aside and confided in her, “Joan, do you know what we found when we were sorting through my mother’s things? We found a dresser full of knitted baby clothes and blankets all in coordinated colors? They’re beautiful.”
“I think that is the sweetest thing,” my mother said acting surprised.
As a great-grandmother my mother is not as mobile as she’d like to be but she still enjoys knitting for babies and people of all ages. Above is the pastel blanket she knit for Baby Joseph.
In the bath rests some knitted washcloths (cotton squares). Sophia (below) presented them to me at Christmastime confessing that it took two years to make the set. You can guess the connection I made.
My grandchildren will be here this coming weekend. I’ll get to see Baby crawl for the first time in person not just by email attachment.
Thank you for notifying me that the October 2010 post “Serendipity Decorating” has strangely disappeared. How odd. I will look into it. I’m always glad to hear from you by comment or email.
Until Next Time,