Wednesday 20 May 2015

continental knitting

I've been an keen knitter since I was a little girl. I first learned to cast on with my Mum, who in turn had learned from her mother and so on, and so forth. Going into my teens, I started getting unwell with Chronic Fatigue/Fibromylagia. As time went on, I would spend more and more time off school, and was often looked after by Grandma Joan. I would spend many an afternoon sat knitting beside her or rummaging through her vast stock of knitting needles and patterns. Later, my Danish sister-in-law taught me how to knit socks, which in turn led on to knitting gloves and mittens and hats in the round. As my love and interest for knitting grew, along with my love and interes for the French language, I was then able to knit beside my Swiss grandma and I not only began to talk her native tongue, but learned to knit the continental way like she did.

Sadly my Swiss grandma is no longer with us and the other knitters in my family are far away across the other side of the Channel. But having such a deep family connection to the craft has always made it very special for me, a way to bond with these women.

Whenever I take out my five needles and cast on in the round, I feel I am somehow connected to these women by invisible threads of love, but also thrift and quiet craftsmanship. My beloved Grandma may have passed away, but she passed down to me not only her double pointed needles and darning mushroom, but also a wealth of precious family knowledge, of which I am now one of the guardians.

Perhaps one day when I am old and grey, one of my descendants will marvel with wide-eyed wonder when I tell them how I used to darn holes or unravel and re-knit socks that had grown to small like my own grandmothers did.  Or perhaps they will laugh at their excentric old grandma and wonder why she behaved like such an old woman whilst she was still young.

socks tell stories

I learned to knit from my mother, who in turn learned from her grandmother, and so on, and so forth. While I've always really admired those knitters who learned to knit not because of any family history but simply because they were interested in it, I must admit that having a family connection to the craft has always made it special for me. I learned as a kid, but I didn't really get into knitting, branching out and learning new techniques, until I left for college. I certainly enjoyed it (and obviously still do!), but I think on some level it was also really nice to have something to connect me to my mother and my roots when I was away from home. It was something we could bond over whenever I came back to visit, too. 
In the age of Ravelry my mom's started knitting again in earnest, especially as she's moved towards retirement and had more time for it. She's branching out and learning new techniques, or in some cases, re-learning old techniques, too. But mom knit a lot when she was younger. She knit a lot in an age where knitting patterns could be pretty... interesting. I mean, let's be real. Knitting and crocheting got kind of weird in the 1960's and 70's with the introduction of synthetic fibers on a grand scale. And while digging old stuff out of her closet, mom came across this particularly wonderful specimen of a sweater she made in the 70's and she sent it my way.