Monday, March 12, 2012

Knitting Squares, Knitting Tales

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. 

Post Script

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,
Karen Andreola


  1. The history of your mom's love of knitting and her kindness is lovely. One never knows how much a simple sharing of oneself can change a life. Kidney stones for the glory of God. (I will remember that when I'm in pain.) Thank you for sharing yourself through your blog!

  2. I have enjoyed reading the story of your mother's love for knitting. How precious to have special stories behind the beautiful blankets and clothing that she knit for her loved ones!


  3. Your Mother, oh what a blessing...Beautiful lady, stitching into people's lives,love, peace, hope, are most blessed to have such a giving Mother.Thank-you for sharing her beautiful work with us here.Your Dad is so handsome as well.Enjoy your grandchildren this weekend.We have our grandson arriving this weekend also.I would love to go beyond knitting scarves and shawls, but am a bit hesitant.Am thinking about purchasing the CD you mentioned a bit ago on knitting.Blessings to you Karen...Dawn E. Brown ps.........Having a Mother such as you have experienced ,gives you such strength for all of life...

  4. Oh Karen,

    What a lovely post filled with warmth, softness, and love. Your mother's kindness is a beautiful lesson for us all.

    Enjoy the weekend with your children and grandchildren! What a joy.

    I'm currently working on a pair of socks. It's my second pair, and I'm happy to report that so far they look like a pair! I hope the celebration is not premature.


  5. What a lovely story, and such beautiful knitting.

  6. Karen,
    I love this post. Warmth and kindness of your mother. I like the look of the book you have pictured the vintage photos of times past are always a favorite of mine. Have a good weekend with your grandchildren.

  7. I loved hearing about your mother and her sweet to know that she was a friend and comfort to the woman in the hospital...

    Joseph is looking great! Enjoy your visit!


  8. I am deeply touched by your mother's kindness. It's heartwrenching to hear that she was considered this lady's "best friend". How lonely some people must be! I am glad your mother made her last days friendlier.
    The blankets are gorgeous!

  9. What a wonderful story.
    You are indeed a fantastic story teller.
    I recently learned to knit by a friend.
    And now I'm teaching my daughter.
    the older women teaching the younger women...this my friend is what it's all about...

    Funny how these skills seem like lost arts in our culture today?...

    I thought it was very special of your daughter to knit the washcloths for you and even more how you appreciated them so much because of the sweet time she spent.

  10. Zo mooi, ik hou van je blog.
    So beautiful, I love your blog about this,

  11. I loved this story, Karen. Your mom sounds like a wonderful lady. I can't help but hope that the children of the woman in the hospital might have been moved by the gifts she left behind and had a change of attitude.

    We were just chatting with an older lady at church last week, who learned to knit in school making "blankets for Britain".

    Enjoy your weekend visit!

  12. The knitting is all beautiful, and the love and care and appreciation for (and from)your mother comes through loud and clear. My knitting "expertise" goes as far as the dishcloths we use, like the ones your daughter made. Our daughter took the basic lessons I gave her and went on to become a talented expert. Even in our imperfections, we can pass on what we know. You have a beautiful legacy in the love of those gorgeous knitted pieces.

  13. What a beautiful and bittersweet story. How wonderful your mother could bless that woman in her time of need. Clarice

  14. Thank you so much Karen for sharing this lovely story of your Mother. I enjoy reading your posts so much. I am now 60 and really just learning to go further than basic plain and purl. I enjoy knitting so much.

    Blessings Gail

  15. Karen,
    I just love, love reading your posts.
    Thanks so much for your sharing,

  16. This post is so lovely, it's hard to justify it with a comment.
    Like your mother, I show my love with making.
    Right now, there's a sweet little 'surprise' baby being knitted in my womb, and my overwhelming urge is to make things for him as prolifically as I can.

  17. Karen,
    Thanks for your comment on my blog post...about my cross stitch sampler....hope yours is coming along nicely. I saw your name and recognized it....went to your blogger profile and was tickled to realize you were who I thought you might be! I have read your books and poured over them time and time again. Thank you for all the support that they have been. What a thrill to find you through blogging. Enjoy the time with your family. I really enjoyed reading the story behind your mother's knitting...what a treasure.


  18. Such a beautiful post!

    I remember when we were going through the house before my husband and I moved in. We found a whole box of well-worn wool socks that my great-grandmother had knit for her sons. I think about them working in the woods (they owned a logging company) and being kept warm by the wool socks that their mother knit for them.

    I imagine you enjoyed watching your grandson crawling around. My youngest finally decided to crawl this week. (He is 11 months old.) We've all been having great fun watching him explore everything!

  19. What a lovely post, Karen! Being a beginning knitter, all of these beautiful items amaze me. I hope you enjoyed visiting with your family! Your grandson is ADORABLE.

  20. Thank you for your sweet notes. Last week I read them all aloud to my mother over the telephone. We giggled with joy. She does not have a computer and does not plan on ever having one - and she lives more than 3 hours from me. When she and dad come for Easter they will catch up with my blog. Anyway, my mother is touched, truly.

    Karen A.

  21. This was a DEAR SWEET story!
    Your Mom was so pretty in the picture with her holding cute you, and your Dad looks quite handsome and dapor too!
    Thanks for sharing your knitting stories and memories ;-D
    Many Blessings and Hugs, Linnie

  22. Oh my! Is that Sophia? She's so beautiful! I remember photos of her as a child.

  23. I loved this post! I'm not sure why, but I'm here again. I saw the photo of your daddy, lay may hand on it and prayed first for him then for your mama. God bless them, you and your entire family.