Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nostalgic Knitting

My last two knitting projects sent me down memory lane and it got me wondering: Will our grandchildren love our knitting projects of today as much as I love my grandmother's patterns?

Every now and then usually around this time of the year I knit what I fondly call grandmother slippers for someone as a gift. That's because it was the first thing I was taught to knit, by my maternal grandmother. Oh there may have been the endless garter stitch something that was really nothing, but the slippers are burned in my memory as my first project. As are the directions for the slippers, well almost. I can cast on and knit up the first 6-7 inches, but when it comes to decreasing to fit over the toes, I never remember the formula. Oh I have it written down-in my grandmother's handwriting no less, tucked away with the other precious things I want to keep. I may have even transcribed the pattern but who knows where that copy ended up. No instead I do as many of us of the digital age do, and go and search online for a pattern to follow. It turns out that I am not the only one with fond memories of this slipper pattern, although it was someone's Aunt Maggie that taught them. So I knit my slippers like I have been doing so much lately, with the pattern on the laptop beside me as I knit. How different and yet maybe not so different, to compare that to a grandmother sitting in her chair near you, knitting, and telling you what to do next. See, my grandmother really didn't teach me how to knit from a pattern until much later, because so often, she didn't knit from patterns either. It wasn't until I was ready to make things that she would not have knit, that I had to learn to read that special language of knitting.

The second project, currently on my needles is a dishcloth. Now my grandmother was not knitting dishcloths in her early life when she was teaching me to knit. No, knitting dishcloths triggers a memory for me, of her knitting late in her life, now blind but unwilling to give up knitting. Those dishcloths were often crooked, and had unintentional lace openings, as she would miss a stitch. But they were treasured, and definitely put to use. As I sit and knit on this dishcloth today, I am amazed at her ability to continue to knit by feel alone. I find my eyes glued so permanently to the stitches that I only listen to the TV show, how will I ever learn to just knit by feel alone! And she was not doing the dishcloths that are cast on with 35 stitches or so and knit square. Nope, she was doing the corner to corner, increase and then decrease pattern. And yet, I can understand exactly the love to knit that put the yarn and needles in her hands.

I found out this Thanksgiving that the niece I taught to knit two years ago is now knitting Christmas presents _and_ teaching someone else to knit. My heart glowed when I heard that, passing on the art means so much to me.

As does archiving and passing on the patterns. As I sat and knit from the pattern on the laptop, it made me wonder, is this a good archival tool? In many ways, yes, because so much of the information is available to a wider knitting audience. And the patterns should stay available unless we have a true digital meltdown. It's like an instant access to a knitting only library and that is all kinds of good. What I personally will miss is the thrill, laughs and just plain fun of finding a pattern book from the 1940's and looking through that booklet. It has all the problems of archival paper, it's yellowed, it's brittle, it's been written on, torn, and has a missing cover. But there is just something to having those patterns in you hands, dreaming the same knitting project dreams that another knitter also had, that just can not be duplicated by a pattern on the internet. I think this is why, ultimately the book industry will stand firm in this digital age, and why we as knitters will continue to love the new books as they appear. And maybe instead of looking up grandmother's online bookmarks, our grandkids will have the same love of books too.

1 comment:

Tiggywinkle Knits said...

I love the old patterns, too! I learned to crochet and knit in my grandmothers', great-grandmothers' and great-aunts' laps;their hands on mine holding the yarn and needles. I was probably 3 or 4 when they started teaching me. They all passed years ago, but I often feel their hands on mine, still. And I have boxes of their old Workbasket magazines; remember those? And some patterns in their hand-writing. Wouldn't trade them for the world.