My Granny was Granny Maggie; ‘Margaret’ to some, ‘Margot’ to Granddad ‘Mum’ to my Mum, ‘Old Sarge’ to most of us.
A Ward Sister, and a fairly stern one at times I should think, a knitter, quilter, cross-stitcher and cook, she has left rather an impression on me. There is so much I could write about her, and one day maybe I will, but this post is really about the particular practical things I do because of her.
Between Granny and Mum I was taught to knit when I was a mere slip of a girl, but I never finished (or really even started) a project. I knew it meant a lot to Granny for her Granddaughters (I don’t remember my brother picking up the needles – but I am happy to be corrected on this point) to have a go at it, but she didn’t push it; maybe just a gentle cajoling every now and again.
One vivid memory is of sitting in her living room, her arms wrapped around mine, as she helped me to make a knit stich (“in, over, under, off”). As my uneven rows built on one another and my movements became a little more dextrous I remember her whispering conspiratorially in my ear: “this is fun, isn’t it?”
I was in agreement. It was always great to spend a bit of time just-me-and-her and, quite frankly, I liked a bit of a cuddle and a curl up on the sofa. I’ll admit though, that I wasn’t really in on the secret. What spurred her whispered exclamation was that mysterious thing that I have only been unravelling for the past two years – how good it feels to make something, to see it emerge and develop from a cast-on row up (or down) into a real thing that you can keep or give to someone you love.
Granny, I get it now.
When she died three years ago she left five beautiful baby cardigans. There aren’t yet any babies in our family, but one day, one of us Grandchildren might have a child of our own. Because of this bequest, each of us will have something of Granny to share with that child, a real, tangible thing. When Mum showed the tiny white jackets to me, after a few private tears, I began to think about how important the act of making something is. It was this that made me start to consider picking up the needles and trying to remember what Granny Maggie taught me.
In sorting out Granny’s things Mum found hundreds of needles in a holdall. It seemed only right to use something that had been Granny’s to make my first ‘remember how to knit’ project. I picked some lovely chunky, wooden needles from the confusion of steel in the bag and popped to Twist in Woodbridge with Mum to find a soft, draping yarn. Tools at the ready, I planned a cowl.
Mum helped. I sat on her sofa this time, with her leaning over behind me, showing me how to pick up dropped stitches and working out why I had started with 68 and now had 71. I called her out of the kitchen while she was trying to listen to The Archers and make dinner for 8 people because I couldn’t work out why there was a big, gaping hole in my project four rows back and it just couldn’t wait. I left it for weeks until the next time I was going home to Ma and Pa’s, ostensibly because I was too busy, but really because I had picked up a dropped purl, twisted it into a knit and couldn’t see what was wrong.
I was a needy novice knitter. In the end though, on Granny’s needles and with Mum’s guidance, I had it – my first real knitted thing.
It really was the start of something. I’d like to say I haven’t stopped since, but I have stalled a few times, normally due to wanting to run before I could walk (read: do complex lace knitting before I could do simple increase and decrease stitches). I am insatiable when it comes to yarn and patterns and planning the next project now though.
I tried to pay Mum’s kindness back with a cowl of her own. It took me a while (it was initially given to her for her birthday still on the needles!) but I got there in the end. I love that she actually wears it and even more, that she sometimes sends me amusing on-the-train-surreptitiously-taken photos of herself wearing it. Not to worry, I won’t post those Mum.
Since then, Mum has given me Granny’s needle holdall, initially to sort out, and then to pick and choose from. I spent a glorious afternoon organising them with a friend and then immediately put my chosen selection in a drawer, along with the ones I have bought over the past year (I have a penchant for these), to get all jumbled up again.
I needed a solution.
I asked A, my Brother, for one of Sarah Kincheloe’s cute-and-functional hand-made knitting needle organisers for Christmas and it arrived from Texas this week. Of course it was an excuse for another afternoon of organising Granny’s needles. Brilliant.
Now I’m all organised I can’t wait to sink my teeth into my next project, but I suppose before I do, I ought to get to the point. This post isn’t just ‘wrapped up’ because of my oh-so-satisfying knitting needle roll (thanks A!). It is ‘all wrapped up’ because of Granny.
She was a woman who showed her love to you in everything she did, the things she made you, the food she provided, her jokes about leaving you some monstrosity in her will. She rarely told you about it though, not in the way my immediate family do, with a “love you” at the end of every conversation and a freeness with expressing emotion through words, poetry, conversation. So I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that she showed her pleasure that I was going off to University by doing something for me.
She made me the quilt you can see in the background of the first image above. It is hand sewn, made of pieces of fabric from curtains and dresses that had been around me all my life and based on a pattern called Grandmother’s Garden. The ‘path’ is made from a sheet which was given to my Great-Grandmother, Daisy, as a wedding present, while the border is made up of a maternity dress my Mum wore. Granny said that this was because “Mother draws it all together”. Spot-on Granny.
It is utterly beautiful. This picture does not do it justice. It has been with me for all of the eleven years since she made it. It has been carted to each university house, rented place with friends and now my very own flat.
I look at it every day, and when I do, I remember the day that Granny gave me this gift. We went upstairs to my room and laid it on the bed. We stood and gazed at it for a while. I gave her hug in thanks and, as I did, she whispered conspiratorially in my ear that now I had my quilt I would always be “wrapped up in love”.
So there it is. Now, I have a project to cast on and a cuppa to drink as I look out on snowy scenes. You should stay wrapped up too, it’s chilly.