I am a knitter and come from a long line of knitters. My Paternal grandmother was the first to put knitting needles in my hand and teach me the basics – in the English style. Then Mum took over and taught me The Continental Style.. (Which to English knitters looks backwards, but to me is faster)
And a lifelong relationship with wool and needles began….
My early knitting was generally either booties for friends of Mum’s new bubbas, or scarves… I remember knitting one that was over 8 foot long, sadly in stocking stitch which is unsuitable for a scarf – it ended up coiled within itself, but I wore it any way…My own style, back in the 70s..
I progressed to knitting my own clothes and my 80s were full of luridly coloured massive jerseys, some with batwings and even more that were beautiful mohair… I can remember 1 huge project that had 8 bands of colour across it – it would take the whole couch, 15 minutes to knit a row; and then the complicated turning it around and moving 8 balls of wool from 1 side of the couch to the other – mohair being a very unforgiving wool to tangle. But I was young, time rich and ready for the challenge! None of these masterpieces have survived, long since given to charity. Am sad I didn’t keep at least 1 for posterity..
I knitted for my partner, a stunning cream coloured jersey with blocks of red, cobalt, and black…and a work of art for my brother, that does survive to this day..
And as friends started having babies I moved on from booties to cardies, jerseys, and hats – this was pre beanie days and all hats came with pompoms… (to this day I loathe booties, and prefer to knit socks for bubbas, they just stay on better than booties)
And then when I was pregnant with the first of my babies, that I expected to come early, I knitted teeny tiny outfits. I spent the middle part of my pregnancy in Seattle while my husband studied at UW; and I spent my days knitting and patting my belly….
As I had more kids, the time to sit and knit disappeared and as Mum was knitting up a storm, my knitting needles stilled……
When beanies became a thing, the needles came out and I knitted a few for them. One winter they all asked for Rastafarian hats – a LOT of knitting in those lol.
But as a rule, I found sweatshirts more user friendly than knitted stuff – the ability to throw something into the washing machine and drier is not to be sneezed at by the time poor…
Fast forward a decade or so and as the kids grew to adults and time on my hands returned I knew I had always wanted to give back. When my eldest was a newborn prem over Christmas the Neonatal support group gifted all the newbies a tiny beanie and bootie sets… I wanted to become involved with something similar… And so, I became involved in a FB group called Beanies for Babies. 100s of people all over NZ who knit everything from Beanies to blankets to jerseys… And it has been such a joy and outlet for my creativity. Each item is individual, and I find the process of planning and designing as much fun as the actual knitting and finishing off. As a bonus to my travels, I pop into wool shops and scour their bargain bins – the joys of knitting for wee ones are often 2-3 balls will make a garment or outfit. So, by mixing and matching it doesn’t need to be expensive. And I knit with aroha (love). All of us in the group, know our wee efforts will make someone’s life a little better – and that is priceless….
Over the years, of course I have gathered dozens of patterns. As is the way, some are well worn, and some were spontaneous buys that I’ve got home and decided they might be too hard or not quite what I was looking for. But into the box they go, you just never know the right wool might come calling one day….
My mum is here now, and my sister quite recently. We all knit together, which is a fabulous thing. Very restful. Each of us with a distinctive style. My mum always has several projects on the go (and has started knitting blankets for my charity which is awesome), and my sister has moved into the most intricate lace… knitting almost spiders webs… so SO beautiful – see below….
And we spent time looking through the pattern box – some of mine were ones I may have pinched from Mum, and there are memories of garments made for babies, now adults and parents themselves. There is a thread that runs through all of us tying all those millions of stitches together..
The saying that it takes a village to raise a child is so true. And while I was too bogged down with baby care, my mum and friends knitted for mine. When I was freer I knitted for them..
I love that knitting has had a renaissance in recent times – and wool care has become more forgiving on the whole cleaning front 😉…. I love that somethings I have knitted in the past have become heirlooms – handed down from one generation to the next
It reminds me of women’s wisdom. Things we learned from our foremothers that we hand to our daughters. The lore of pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare… and yes that does include wisdom passed down to sons and would be fathers too… There is a thread of knowledge that joins generations. It does change with the times. Childcare now a wee bit different to when my bairns were young; and different again from when I was raised… but that love and care that goes into a garment – that love weaves its way through those generations… We might knit more modern patterns now, but those patterns build on the knowledge that came before…
So, as I finish off my latest cardy I hope that the new life who wears it feels the aroha that is in every stitch…(18,400+ stitches, I may have worked it out 😉) because the process of knitting it has fed my soul, reminded me of where I have come from and where my whanau will go in the future….
E iti noa ana.
Na te aroha
Although it is small
It is given with love