Knitting Over-analyzed

I feel like I have just a bit more to say on food waste, but my mind has been off on other things lately, so it may be a while until that post comes together.

In the meantime…

I was sitting in the Honda garage last Monday morning, waiting on an oil change and a tire swap, and I was busily knitting away, pondering the weightiness of life and death as I thought about my father-in-law who was, at that very moment, on an operating table undergoing coronary bypass surgery —

(I was also, to be honest, thinking hard about whether or not sway bars were a real thing, and if so, if a weak sway bar link — which a repairman had just told me our vehicle had — was something warranting a $250 repair. I’m rather ashamed to admit I’m the stereotypical female who might one day be persuaded that the car needs a new mezmerglobber*… )

— when a female employee walking through the waiting room stopped, and said, “Oh! What are you knitting?”

“Socks,” I replied, although my mind automatically pedantically corrected, Sock, actually…

“Oh!” she said, surprised. “Do people still do that?”

“Yup!” I said, immediately thinking of the Yarn Harlot, and the mother-daughter team at my local yarn store, and Kate, and Glenna, and my favourite aunt, all of whom still determinedly do that. I kept my response to that one chipper word, though; I didn’t confess that I was a bit of a pretender, that I had last attempted to knit socks over a decade ago. I certainly didn’t tell her that the pairs I had knit for my older two kids when they were about 5 and 7 years old, while technically perfectly constructed, had been nearly un-put-on-able, a rather unfortunate quality for a pair of socks to possess.

My kids picked out the yarn and they thought it was pretty neat that their mother was knitting them socks. If only they could have gotten them on their feet without a struggle …

“Wow,” she said. “That must take a lot of time. You must love it though, to spend that much time making something you can just buy. I take my hat off to you!”

So I admit I sat there for a few moments after she left the waiting room, my hands still, pondering. Why indeed, I asked myself (not for the first time) would anyone spend loads of time making something, oftentimes at greater expense, when they could simply walk into a store and buy an equivalent pre-made thing?

Because I can?

Because it makes me happy to make things?

Because of what knitting represents to me?

I’ve been knitting, fairly steadily, ever since my first pregnancy, about 20 years ago. Although I had been taught to knit at a young age, stitchery was my *thing* and the Knitter wasn’t born until I learned I was bearing life, which I’m fairly certain isn’t a coincidence. But while I suspect knitting is, for me, mostly about an innate and instinctual desire to slather my kids in sweaters and mittens and hats in order to keep them cozy and warm and protected, I don’t think that’s the whole story. Why IS knitting so appealing to me?

On a purely philosophical level —

(I do believe I warned you, right in the title, about the over-analyzing part 😉 )

— it’s worth noting that knitting is a very positive endeavour. Unless you’ve had a gauge accident and things go horribly awry, there’s not a single destructive act in the process of knitting, except for the snip at the very end. There’s no leap-of-faith cutting-out at the beginning (as with sewing), and there’s also no noisy machine to sit in front of; knitting is all building, all quiet creating.

There’s also something staunchly basic and unapologetically practical about knitting which sits well with my minimalistic and down-to-earth soul. Not only does knitting create warm and useful things, but any beauty that may arise out of knitting feels incidental; it’s part-and-parcel to its creation, rather than being an added-on after-effect. A stitch is a stitch after all, and while cables or lace may take a bit more time, their beauty is integral to the item’s form and function.

Knitting has also always been held in my mind in a lofty, aspirational, one-day-I’ll-be-a-knitter kind of way. And that — the feeling that knitting is a worthy thing-to-do — is entirely due to this woman, sitting next to me: my favourite aunt.

I don’t know what it says about me, the fact that keeping this picture here and pressing publish is so nail-bitingly hard.

I won’t bore you with all the details as to why this woman is my favourite aunt. Suffice to say it involves books, and conversation, and a spirited adventurousness, and a gezellig home, all of which I’ve always aspired to, ever since I was a small child. My aunt has been knitting almost all her life, and her flying fingers, her constant knitting-whenever-sitting, have always fascinated me. She was likely taught to knit when she was four or five, because that’s how things were done back then. There were no made-in-China socks when she and my mother and their three siblings were growing up in The Netherlands, and because she was such a beautiful (and speedy) knitter, the job of producing the family’s knitwear (socks, sweaters, mittens, and hats) fell to her. (My mother, whose knitting was deemed uneven, was the seamstress in the family, and was called upon to do the family’s sewing).

I sometimes wonder: what was that like? Did the pressure-filled fact that people were counting on your creativity turn that creativity into drudgery? Was it even viewed as creativity, or was it simply work-that-needed-doing? And extending forward to today, does the fact that one can now buy ready-made sweaters mittens hats socks turn the individual making of sweaters mittens hats socks into something that isn’t work? Is knitting now a luxury? Or worse: is it a frivolous occupation?

I don’t have the answer to any of these philosophical questions, but I do know this: my aunt is still knitting, even now, when she doesn’t have to. And the fact is, part of the reason I love to knit is because this woman I love loves to knit, and whenever I knit, she drifts into my thoughts.

I thought of her when I bought yarn to knit that first sweater for our first unborn baby. I thought about her as I knit each subsequent sweater, sometimes using yarn she helped my mother select.

I thought about her when knitting mittens for my kids’ growing hands — the small hands that once so trustingly held onto mine — pair after pair after pair, year after year after year.

Pattern from “Projects for Community Knitting”, Cottage Creations, Carol A. Anderson

I thought of my aunt when knitting hats for my daughter, and when I made this one for myself.

Pattern: Greystone by Melissa Thomson

And now, finally mittened and hatted out —

(well, not really, but I can’t seem to convince my boys that I can produce a manly enough hat for them, and they’re both now waaaay too cool for hand-knit mittens)

— and needing to keep my hands occupied, I’m turning once again to socks. I suspect that for some knitters, sweaters are the holy grail of knitting. For me however, it’s socks. Socks (put-on-able ones, that is) are the thing I will one day achieve, and I know that this is entirely due to the fact that it was nearly always socks I saw on my aunt’s needles.

And somehow, now seems fitting. The last few months have been rather full of weighty issues, and I’ve been a bit of a sappy and sobby existentialistic mess. Who knows … perhaps knitting socks — that most basic of items — will help. And perhaps a good dose of thinking-of-my-aunt — and her emulatable life — will quiet some of those what-is-life-and-how-best-to-live-it questions I’m struggling with right now. Of course, the fact that my aunt was about to turn 85 when I last saw her, two years ago, is unfortunately another rather weighty thought to have to ponder.

Progress on the first sock. Before beginning, I asked the mother-daughter team at my local yarn shop for advice, because it hasn’t escaped my notice that, a decade ago, I somehow knit not just ONE un-put-on-able sock, not just a PAIR of un-put-on-able socks, but TWO pairs of un-put-on-able socks. That’s FOUR un-put-on-able socks. Doh!

 


 

*A mezmerglobber is an engine part on the Magic School Bus, which is the best children’s book series/TV series EVER. (IMHO). Ms. Frizzle (another (albeit fictional) emulatable woman) knows all about bus repairs and would never be at the mercy of a repairman.

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26 thoughts on “Knitting Over-analyzed

  1. 1) I love the Magic School Bus reference.

    2) I have so many things to say (because knitting!!!!) but I’m headed out to pick up my children from school so I’m just going to say

    YAY socks!

    And my favorite reference is Ann Budd’s “Getting Started Knitting Socks”

    I’ll be back with more insightful words because…knitting. It’s my favorite.

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  2. I love seeing photos of you! And hearing your thoughts about knitting. I’ve always thought that what I love about knitting is something close to what you’ve said about its beauty being integral. I like to sew, but sewing is about cutting apart and joining together–adding on, as you say. But with knitting, you take the simplest of materials–a strand of fiber–and by tying knots you create something whole. Oh, I’m yawning and I can’t quite find the words for it, but: yes, there is something holistic about knit items that appeals to me.

    I enjoyed reading this because it made me think of my Grandma, a creator of beautiful, skillful sweaters. She doesn’t knit any more. I think she reached a point where she couldn’t make the kinds of things she once did, and she stopped. I really would like to learn how to knit as she did, so that maybe I could make things as treasured by others as hers were by me.

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    1. I like sewing too, although I don’t do a great deal of it anymore. When my kids were very young, I sewed a LOT of their clothes, and I LOVED doing that. I think sewing clothes falls into the same category knitting does (the making of practical items), and the cutting apart and joining together is a completely necessary process in clothing construction (unless you’re making a toga, that is 😉 ). One year though, I decided to make a quilt to keep at the end of our bed. I thought I would love quilt-making, because I appreciate that quilts can be incredibly beautiful things, but while I absolutely LOVE the quilt that resulted, I did NOT enjoy the process of making that quilt. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was bordering on asinine to be buying new fabric, to be cutting that new fabric into small squares and rectangles, and then to be sewing those squares and rectangles BACK TOGETHER AGAIN, all solely so I would have something prettier than what I started with at the beginning! (Which just goes to show I have to fight against some pretty austere and nearly-ascetic leanings!)

      I’m glad my post made you think of your grandma 🙂 . I think it would be/will be hard, to one day have to say, “I can’t do this anymore” about whatever it is one “does” (be it knitting, or sewing, or stitching, or quilting). My MIL’s “thing” was sewing pyjamas for her grandchildren. My kids LOVED their “Grandma pyjamas” and I know she LOVED making them. But a few years ago, she stopped. I don’t know if it was her vision (she was developing cataracts, which have since been removed) or if she just got tired of doing it and figured she could buy them more cheaply, and I don’t know if SHE feels it as a loss, but I sure do! (Perhaps quite selfishly, though, and with a feeling of sadness for our youngest, who, because of his later birth, didn’t get a heckuva lot of “Grandma pyjamas”. Our older two, and my older niece and nephew, DID, and they all get to have that lovely version of Grandma in their heads, Grandma as the “maker of pyjamas”).

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      1. Now I want some Grandma Pyjamas! The last time I was in the fabric store I saw a display with flannel pajama bottoms. The flannel was so nice–thick and soft, so much better than the flannel pajama pants I bought last year–and I’ve been dreaming about making some for myself ever since. But all I can do these days is embroider flowers… 🙂

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      2. I hope things are going well in the flower-embroidery department! I’ve been determinedly checking things off on my mental to-do list, and managed to finally sew the bedroom curtains last week. Because the machine was out, yesterday I took a stab at sewing one of the tops I bought fabric for a few months ago…which leads me to two observations: firstly, I wish I had had your “I’ll just leave this beautiful flannel fabric in the store” fortitude all those months ago, when I bought the damn fabric, because I highly doubt this top is going to be worth all this trouble; and secondly, I could use Kate over here too, because I really don’t like the prep work either!

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  3. Okay, I’m back. And while I doubt that I can live up to my promise of “more insightful words”, I have a few other bits and bobs rolling around in my head.

    It was so nice actually putting a face with your “voice” and I think you look a bit like your aunt – especially around the eyes.

    I know I mentioned this before but I can’t remember if it was to you or to Rita, but the Yarn Harlot wrote a blog post once about how she was working on a blanket for a new baby and how the process was work but it was beautiful work and more importantly, while she was working she was thinking of that baby and how loved that baby was and how special and what hopes and dreams she had for that baby. I think that is part of why I knit.

    I’m truly terrible at loving people in a vocal way. In part because I’m terrible at verbalizing emotions, but also because what I feel is so large and indescribable that I’d rather not even try. So when I’m knitting, not only am I making them something practical, but I’m thinking about the intended recipient and feeling the great and powerful love I have for them and the wishes and dreams I have for them and I think (or at least hope) that a little of that love and magic gets knitted along in with the fiber. Maybe that’s silly (one of my biggest complaints with KonMarie was how she anthropomorphized EVERYTHING), but I truly think that people and objects have energy and a little of mine gets to be mixed in with whatever I’m making. And I hope when people wear or use whatever I’ve knitted know just how loved and cherished and important they are to me. (I’m a complete sap, I know.)

    As for me, I knit because it’s both ridiculously simple (loops through loops) and can be amazingly complicated (just looking at some lacework charts gives me a headache) and I love the feeling of learning something new and I find I am always learning something. And I wonder often how someone somewhere at sometime looked at two sticks and some fiber and said, if we pull the through like this…and experimented and made all these different types of stitches. And people today are still putting all those stitches together in different ways to make new patterns. It’s just unbelievably mind-blowing to me.

    And I can’t sew. I love the prep but I hate actually sitting at a machine. I’d be a quilters best friend.

    Oh my word! I’ve completely hijacked your blog. But like I said…knitting. Love it.

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    1. Yes, yes, yes, to everything you’ve said, and you’ve said it so well 🙂 . I too, feel like I’m putting my love and hopes and wishes and protective thoughts right into the fabric that I’m knitting, and hoping that all that will carry through to the person I’m knitting for. I *know* that that’s a bit of magical thinking, but I think it anyway!

      And my gosh, whoever it was who first figured it out, whoever took the sticks and the fibre and made the first stitch … that person was an absolute genius! I think about things like that too, all the time, the amazing ingenuity that some humans are capable of!

      And I LOVE long, thoughtful comments, which are SO NOT hijacking a post, but rather feel just like a discussion we could be having over coffee or tea, knitting needles or stitchery (or whatever else) in hand 🙂 .

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      1. Also…what yarn are you using for those socks? I SWEAR I made a pair for my son out of the exact same yarn. They’re one of my favorite pairs I’ve ever made (though they ended up being a bit big for him at the time).

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      2. That’s a Malabrigo sock yarn, but I can’t find the tag, so I don’t know the name of the colour. I’m very fond of blues and greys and browns and fell in love with that skein of yarn instantly. (On your son’s socks turning out a bit big … I’m totally a “better too big than too small” kind of knitter/sewer/clothing buyer when it comes to my kids, although they would probably say I take that principle too far sometimes 😉 ).

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  4. Some random thoughts:

    (1) Oh my goodness, you are *gorgeous*! And yes, it is so nice to put a face with your voice. I see the resemblance to your aunt, too.

    (2) I would like to know more about your aunt, and I am especially intrigued by the relationship between “a spirited adventurousness” and “a gezellig home.” Both of these ideas, and whether there is a conflict between the two, or whether there might be a slightly unconventional way to look at the problem so that they are in fact compatible, have been on my mind a lot lately.

    (3) If someone ever suggests installing a mezmerglobber on your car I hope to heck you take them up on it, whatever the price. Frizzle 4-eva! (I kinda covet her wardrobe, too.)

    (4) Slightly random, but the discussion of making and what it meant to our foremothers is reminding me of a story that my grandmother once told, about sewing with her sisters (there were about 6 girls and 2 boys in her family). They were repurposing feed sacks or flour sacks into underthings and there was great hilarity when one of them (I’d bet on my grandmother) managed to cut the instructions at the top of the sack — “to open, pull string here” — so that it formed the fly of a pair of boxer shorts for one of the brothers. So, I’d guess that even when making was mandatory, people found ways to make it more than just drudgery. >;-)>

    (5) I don’t knit, so I can’t speak specifically to that experience, but overall I think that even though we can tie ourselves in philosophical pretzels about whether making is important and why we continue to do it when we don’t have to, one of the great things about sewing/knitting/quilting/etc. in this day and age, when we take on these pursuits by choice rather than by necessity, is that it really points out how much intellectual, creative, and aesthetic heft has *always* been involved in “women’s work.” It’s nice to really appreciate that experientially so for me that is part of the appeal of handmade things.

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    1. Oh Sarah, you’re so kind 🙂 . It’s funny – you and Kate are now the second and third friends to say I look a bit like my aunt. An IRL friend saw this photo in its entirety, with my mother on my right hand side, and guessed wrongly that my aunt was my mother. (In case you’re wondering why I would edit my mother out of this photo, it’s because when we sent her a physical copy of the photo she actually cut herself out of it (!) because she was so unhappy with how she looked in it. Although my mother doesn’t know I have a blog, if she ever found out I had posted a photo of her, she would KILL me 😉 . I do hope my aunt wouldn’t be upset by her image being here if she ever found out…).

      My aunt … she was the oldest of 5 kids (my mother was the middle) and she was a teacher. She married her childhood sweetheart (who grew up across the street from them) and he was (in my eyes) an amazing man; kind and bookish and interesting and interested in everything, just the same as my aunt. (He was in the merchant marines for a time in their early marriage). He was (and she still is) very involved with the Rotary, and held service/volunteerism up as a good thing to do. Their home was a typical Dutch house – understated, a bit minimalistic, with natural decor (a jute or sisal rug in the kitchen, a very plush wool area rug in the living room), tile on the floor, wood on the stairs, a spinning wheel in the corner. When I saw my aunt, two years ago, I asked her if her house was as I remembered it (I kinda sorta grilled her: “do you still have those green chairs with rattan seats in the kitchen?”, for example) and she said she did, and that it was indeed just as I remembered it. It was a house filled with books (at least three tall shelving units in the living room) and with Asterix and TinTin comics (many of them in English) in the bedrooms I would sleep in when I’d come to visit, and with an attic (with a pulldown ladder) filled with toys and puzzles and games. My aunt and uncle seemed to have such a good marriage, and it was heartbreaking when he died about 23 or so years ago from cancer. They did a lot of traveling (partly, I imagine, because it’s so easy to travel in Europe), but they also came to Canada many times. They came at least twice when I was a child. They came for our wedding, 25 years ago, and even after my uncle died, my aunt would come on her own. She was there when my daughter was born, before we moved provinces; she came out to Saskatchewan with my mother just a few weeks later (they took a Greyhound bus!); she came with my parents when my daughter turned two; and after my parents divorced, she and my mother flew out to Minnesota to see us when we lived there. I’ve always been so touched by the fact that she would go out of her way to see ME and US. I know I have in many ways *totally* idealized my aunt…she’s not perfect, she can be a bit too “big-sisterish, I know everything” to my mother, and she still clings to *gasp* ironing the tea towels 😉 , but in the absence of a happy family home growing up, I did really look to hers for guidance. (And it probably entailed a fair amount of wishful thinking too).

      As to a possible conflict between possessing both a “spirited adventurousness” and a gezellig home … I’m taking this to mean you’ve been wondering whether the time/effort/thought involved in making a home gezellig detracts from the “more important” things in life, such as adventurousness, for instance. If this is the correct interpretation, I have to say I’ve had these thoughts EXACTLY. I have always warred with myself on this, and still do, to this very day. Why should I bother going to the trouble of finding artwork for over the couch in the living room/office, for example, when I could be doing a myriad of other “more important” things? The problem is, I’m very much a details person (which is why I can remember my aunt’s house so clearly) and although I don’t WANT them to, my surroundings have always had a profound influence on me. I think those details DO matter to some degree, because as much as I (we?) might rail against it, our surroundings DO affect how we feel. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, whether here, or in a post on your blog…

      I think that kind of leads (backwards) into your point #5 — the beauty in the things we make (or simply surround ourselves with) matters to an awful lot of us (mostly women, perhaps, but not ALL women, and not excluding ALL men), and I don’t necessarily think this is a bad or shallow thing (unless if taken to extremes). The way I see it is, if you’re going to go to the trouble of making (or buying) something, why would you not choose to make (or buy) the most aesthetically pleasing thing possible? (Even though this may mean, to outsiders looking in, that we seem superficial and overly-concerned with this sort of thing, when really, we’re not!). And as to the making of things by choice when we could more easily buy them (and I have to say I LOVE your phrase “philosophical pretzels”, because hello, does that phrase EVER fit me 😉 ), I do feel as though the making of those things, and somewhat stubbornly clinging to that “women’s work”, ties me back in with my ancestors and somehow grounds me, which is a really nice feeling. AND it’s a really good point that you (and Kate) made: that there’s an intellectual component to all of this “women’s work” as well; it’s not just making beautiful things, it’s figuring out how to make these beautiful things!

      I LOVED random thought #4 — that made me laugh out loud 🙂 .

      And it never occurred to me it would be a GOOD thing to have a mezmerglobber (or maybe a shrink-a-scope!) installed on our vehicle, but my gosh you’re RIGHT! If presented with that option I should absolutely say yes! And Ms. Frizzle’s wardrobe…I loved how her dress at the end of each book always foreshadowed the next book! Because details like that are just awesome! 🙂

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      1. Oh, what lovely stories about your aunt! Thank you for sharing. I can really understand why she has been such a compelling figure in your life (and why her home has been such a touchstone for you). But I also really appreciated that you are also able to see her as human and imperfect — I think that’s such an important attitude to have about the people we admire.

        Regarding the conflict between “spirited adventurousness” and “gezellig home,” yes, my thoughts are along similar lines. But what I was thinking about when I made that comment was less about the pursuit of gezelligheid taking me away from “more important things,” and more about whether the concern with a gezellig home is just hopelessly conventional in a way that negates any spirit of adventurousness. Someone once called my desires around family life “conventional” but I don’t see them that way at all. I think that a family structure that may look conventional from the outside or in its broad strokes can actually facilitate that adventurousness, which strikes me as…quite radical, actually. (Sorry, I know I’m being vague here, but hopefully that makes some sort of sense.) Anyway, this all happened over a year ago and it still rankles, so I obviously have some baggage about it! But it’s heartening to hear about a woman who seems to have managed not to get bogged down in whether there is a contradiction between gezelligheid and adventure, and mastered them both (especially someone from an older generation for whom unconventionality was maybe less of an option). That’s really interesting to me, the idea that it’s not necessarily either-or, that one can be both unconventional and domestic. It also makes me think about the sexism behind the whole premise of equating conventionality and domesticity. Why is it that when a dude has desires that are associated with dudes, they’re archetypal, but when a chick has desires that are associated with chicks, they’re conventional? (And yes, the person who called me “conventional” was totally a dude. Grr.)

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      2. I think I have to preface my response by saying I don’t like labels; we’re never just ONE thing, and any time we label ourselves, or have others label us, we/they are reducing us to cardboard cutouts and are missing most of the picture. I also have to say that I kind of rail against loose (ie. non-specific or unscientific) definitions that people can throw around as stereotypical “insults” or dismissive slurs. (In other words, the dude who stereotypically labelled you as “conventional” (probably did it with a dismissive shrug, too?!) was being a jerk). All that being said (having been raised in this society where everyone insists on labels and stereotyping), I do (sigh) form a list in my head, a scope of behaviours or lifestyles which would fit under either the “conventional” or “unconventional” heading. And quite honestly, I don’t think that anyone, not even my aunt herself, would place her and the life she’s lived and is living into the unconventional category.

        You say you’re wondering whether “the concern with a gezellig home is just hopelessly conventional in a way that negates any spirit of adventurousness”. And my answer is, I don’t think so. I think that unless the adventurousness is of the 24/7/365 variety in which a person is living out of a suitcase or a backpack, that this isn’t necessarily the case. Even if one has a fantastically adventurous life, one still (usually) has a place to call home. And it can still be gezellig. Because why not? I think conventionality and adventurousness are two separate components and they are NOT mutually exclusive. AND I also think that just because one or two aspects of our life (say, being married and living in a house) meet the “definition” of conventionality, that that doesn’t/shouldn’t extend to a blanket statement of conventionality. (Because people are more than just one or two things).

        You say, “a family structure that may look conventional from the outside or in its broad strokes can actually facilitate that adventurousness”, and I think I would agree with that. For example, I could put forth the argument that children who are raised in a somewhat “conventional” manner (and by that, I just mean a stable and loving family home, whatever the make-up of the family) might then feel “secure enough” to embark on an adventurous life. Perhaps it’s easier to take risks when you know you have something stable to fall back on? (Which is, really, just a guess on my part; I could be completely wrong).

        Ah, sexism and double standards and semantics…don’t get me going on that 😉 .

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  5. Oh yes, there’s nothing quite like knitting socks! I always have two pairs on the go – one where I’m at a straightforward bit which is great for train journeys etc, and one where I need to think (turning heels; toes) which are best for when I can sit for a while and really concentrate.

    I started knitting socks about 10 years ago when I was visiting my friend in Denmark. Her mother in law had knitted my friend lots of socks over the years but was no longer around to do it, and we both decided to have a go ourselves, inspired by Hanne. I now have lots of zingy coloured socks, and wear them pretty much every day. My daughter-out-law also has a drawerful of socks I’ve knitted for her, which she loves and wears a lot. I darn mine whenever they need it. I use the odds and ends of leftovers for baby beenie hats and zingy multi-coloured and patterned baby blankets.

    I too was taught to knit as a young child by a great aunt and then an aunt. I’m intrigued by your musings about how it felt for your aunt to be the family knitter – what a fascinating conversation for you to have with her (maybe by letter if she’s not able to cope with long phone calls?). Some of my few regrets in life are around not having had some important conversations with family members while they were still around to have them.

    btw, thanks for daring to hit the publish button on the lovely photo of you and your aunt Marian, so nice to put a face to the words, and such a lovely photo of you both!

    I hope you’re ok there in Canada – I guess that your Autumn is colder than ours has been so far. It’s been early mild here until the past couple of days, nice but also unsettling for us worriers about climate change!

    Carry on knitting!

    Deborah

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    1. Hi Deborah! I’m so glad you stopped by and left such a lovely comment 🙂 .

      I love the story of how you and your Danish friend took up the knitting needles together and figured out how to knit socks! There’s such a lovely camaraderie in something like that, which I often find myself wishing for. I remember being in Holland as a young girl, and whenever my relatives gathered together to visit, the women (young and old) would always have some sort of work in their hands. That sort of thing feels like such a rarity, nowadays. When we lived in Minnesota I had a couple of knitter friends with whom I’d occasionally see for “coffee” — it was so nice to sit and visit and to still feel productive. (I even taught one of my them how to work the thumb on mittens!). I haven’t found anyone here in Ontario who knits or crochets or stitches, so on my rare “coffee dates” I feel just a bit out of sorts. I don’t like to sit with my hands still (because productivity!) but I feel uncomfortable bringing out the knitting (I shouldn’t feel this way, and I should simply do it, but so far I haven’t). (This is slightly off topic, but fits in with women visiting: I wanted to tell you that I took your advice about exercise being a “prescription for health” very seriously, and have been walking every morning after dropping off my youngest at school, REGARDLESS of how busy the upcoming day will be. I also, this fall, mentioned my walks to a friend and invited her to come along with me, which she’s been doing on her days off. We may not be sitting and knitting and visiting, but it’s been wonderful to visit as we walk 🙂 ).

      Your story also speaks strongly to the fact that these hand-knit articles are very much appreciated and are sorely missed when the knitter can no longer provide them! This reminds me of my SIL, who, when her mother passed away, simply HAD to still have the same knitted dishcloths that her mother had *always* knit for her. My SIL is not a crafter (of any sort) but her neighbour is a knitter and was happy to oblige. (I have to confess I was rooting for her to pick up the knitting needles HERSELF, but my SIL is staunchly and unapologetically NOT interested in any of that! (Which is perfectly okay too!)).

      I too, have been trying to have at least a couple of projects on the go, and to make sure that at least one of them is at an easier stage for portable knitting sessions. I don’t always succeed though: this past Wednesday I elected not to take either the sock (at the gusset stage) or the hat (at the decreasing stage) to my youngest son’s hockey practice, because I *always* sit with another mom in the stands and I can’t concentrate well enough with both the talking and the watching-of-the-practice. As it turned out, the other mom wasn’t there, so I sat there rather bored for that hour, wishing I had brought my knitting. Lesson learned!

      I have spoken to my mother, at length, about her “history” and what it was like growing up in The Netherlands, and I did, as I was thinking about this post, specifically ask her about the creative work that she and my aunts were called upon to do for their household. She told me that even when my aunt had reading to do for school, that the knitting was deemed more important, and that she would have to knit WHILE reading. I asked my mother if she thought my aunt resented that, and she said she thinks she did, at times. But my mother acknowledged that she must have still loved something about the knitting, deep down, because otherwise she’d be unlikely to STILL be doing it today. I really should ask my aunt herself, though, as it would be nice to know for sure how she felt about it, and as we exchange newsy Christmas cards each year this is the perfect time to ask her. I know the necessary “women’s work” was a bone of contention in my mother’s life. She wasn’t allowed to further her education (to have a “career”), for financial reasons, but also because she was expected to do the work of the household. Even when she was an adult and had a job outside the home, she often had to quit that job when her parents deemed that the needs at home were greater. This was actually a deciding factor in her immigration to Canada, the thought that she would never be able to have a life of her own as a single woman living “at home” in Holland.

      We’ve actually had a very unseasonably warm autumn. Yesterday morning was 14C (57F) when my husband went out for a run (in shorts and t-shirt!) … very worrisome indeed 😦

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      1. Hi Marian,
        Well the weather has suddenly become more appropriate for the time of year here, and I’ve been shifting muck on my allotment in the cold and frost. And thinking a bit about your comments above.

        I love that you’ve been walking, and that you’ve found a friend now who sometimes joins you. I’ve been doing the same. And I’ve also been through times when there seemed to be no women friends around who shared my enthusiasms or outlook on life.

        I got to wondering what would happen if you just take out the knitting and do it on a coffee date? I guess the worst that could happen is that they might think you’re weird (though I’ve learnt over the years to enjoy being different). The best could be that they reveal themselves to be secret or shy knitters, and decide to join you. Or they may wish that they could knit, or ask you why you do it, and provide the chance to at least have a conversation about it. But I guess you’ve probably already have tried that and been put off by reactions.

        Can you have a ‘virtual’ coffee date, with one of your friends who lives a long way away, maybe using face-time audio or something while you both get on with the knitting and drink coffee? Not (at all) the same I know, but a step in the right direction maybe?

        Anyway, changing the subject completely, I now know where Ontario is – I looked at the map (duh!). My next-door neighbour here is from Toronto, but I imagine that you live somewhere smaller and more out-of-the-way.

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      2. Thank you so much for this comment, Deborah, and for brain-storming the knitting-while-visiting dilemma I posed. I actually haven’t tried to bring out my knitting during my rare “coffee” visits, partly because these occasions really are VERY rare, but mainly I think because I somewhat have the sense that it will seem as though I’m being inattentive to the visit. I’m not sure if this is a valid worry or not… Anyway, I have been bringing my knitting to the hockey rink at least (and I’ve easily gotten over the “fear” that it will mark me as weird 🙂 ), and that’s worked out well. I’ve talked crafts with the mom I usually sit with, and a stranger commented on my knitting and remarked that although she doesn’t knit, she loves the things her MIL makes for her kids. It is hard, sometimes, to feel you’re in a place where you have no like-minded friends; I know that feeling well, and found it especially difficult when my kids were very young. Thank goodness for the phone, and Skype, and blogs 🙂 .

        I admit I got a chuckle out of “I now know where Ontario is”; but of course, I would do a terrible job if I had to label a map of England!! We’re about two and a half hours outside of Toronto, but get into the vicinity fairly often as our daughter goes to university in the greater Toronto area.

        I hope your work in your allotment is going well. We’re into more seasonal weather now too, and even had snow on the weekend 🙂

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  6. What a treasure trove of comments 🙂

    I don’t knit, but my sister does, and she knits delightful hats and gloves and socks and scarves and just about anything one might want knitted, except for sweaters, which she tried for three years and then gave up. But we have many viking lady knitted hats with horns and braids attached.

    My mother is an accomplished seamstress. Most of my outfits as a kid were sewn by her, and all of our blankets. In fact, I was just wishing this week that she was not in China, because my daughter wants a certain kind of pajama that I know my mom could make if she were here. I, on the other hand, rebelled completely against doing anything remotely “crafty” as a way of pushing my mom away, and I’ve really regretted this in the past few years. My mom has taught me to use my sewing machine and a few projects on her infrequent trips back from China, but I really wish I had not been such a nudge in my teenage years and learned some of the things she had to offer. I still have a less-than-optimal relationship with my mom, but I can snuggle up under one of the many blankets she has made and feel the love that crafted it.

    I third the notion that you look like your aunt–especially in the eyes.

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    1. Oh my gosh, I LOVE the idea of viking lady knitted hats with horns and braids attached! And I can just imagine how fondly your kids will remember their aunt when they themselves are grown 🙂 . Sweaters seem like such a dicey proposition to me as well — I was ok with making them for my kids when they were little (small sweaters = less time, plus young kids generally wear *whatever*) but now that they’d have to be bigger and actually fit WELL for anyone to wear them? I think I’ll stick to the small stuff too!

      My mother, too, is an accomplished seamstress. When I was about 10 she began teaching pattern design and clothing construction at a technical college, but I too resisted learning *anything* sewing-wise from her. I did lots of crafty stuff growing up, including sewing, but I always always always sewed when she was out of the house, because I didn’t want her help/criticism. And I too, kind of regret that now. I think it’s really lovely that you’re able to feel the love in the blankets that your mom sewed. To me, that speaks strongly to the power hand-made things have, as well as to what might just be a softening in attitude? I have (historically) not had an easy relationship with either of my parents. And because they’re both “makers of things”, the objects that they’ve made and placed in my life have often been (while useful), rather painful reminders of difficult times. Although I’ve gone through periods where some of those things simply needed to be gone, and out of my life, or at least hidden in a cupboard, I do feel an easing-up in this department. It’s been a bit of a relief to feel my attitude softening, to be able to recognize the love that went into crafting these things, and to be able to focus on the positive and to let the negative emotions take a back seat.

      You could always try, yourself, to make a pair of pyjamas for your daughter… If I recall correctly, you said you had sewed pillow covers, and yes, pyjamas are a bit of a leap from pillow covers, but how great would it be if you could *actually* do it?! (If it were me, I’d work on it in secret; then no one gets their hopes up, and if it doesn’t work out, no harm done and at least you’ve given it a good try? Your mom could even help via Skype?)

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  7. Hi Marian, me again. Hoping that your faith in law made. Good recovery, thanking you for your always thoughtful blog posts, and generally wishing you and yours a happy and healthy new year. Deborah xxxx

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      1. Ah, predictive text — sometimes it’s blasted, and sometimes it just happens to turn into something really really funny and it’s great to have that laugh 🙂 .

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    1. Thank you, Deborah, for your very kind words — they mean a great deal to me! I’m always so happy to see you here and to read your comments, which are always so thoughtful and supportive. I have to say I often have your husband’s words running through my head — “don’t let perfection be the enemy of good” — especially when I find myself at the 42nd revision of a post and STILL can’t make myself hit publish! (Most definitely something to work on in 2016!)

      Thanks as well for asking about my Father-in-law — his recovery is taking quite a bit longer than we’d all hoped, unfortunately. He has other health issues which seem to be complicating things, and it’s been quite worrisome for the last little while.

      And all the best to you and yours too, Deborah — may 2016 be happy and healthy 🙂

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