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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It’s funny how one can go years and years without knowing something important about someone close. Back in 2001 when I started writing this blog, lots of my friends didn’t really know about my knitting. Every once in awhile, a new sweater might push their WOW button, but the knitting, it was done behind closed doors, solitary and without witness.

That all changed for me when I started writing about it online. In the grandest of internet tradition, people almost immediately found each other and all of a sudden knitting was out there and we brought it to the coffee shops, the buses, the public way.

My one friend, L, was not online (or knitting) and was always ribbing me about doing both. I’d been taking design classes at Chicago’s SAIC and met all sorts of other scoundrels who were face first in a monitor, intrigued by the trip, enticed by the menu. But one day, she fell into the rabbit hole and little alice has never been the same. Now she was telling me to lose the dial-up and get with it. She had DSL and I was a slow monkey, a throwback.

A couple of days ago, there was a big package from L sitting on my front porch in the rain. And I found out something about someone that I never knew.

The box was filled with vintage knitting stuff, maybe 50’s? maybe earlier? It’d all belonged to L’s Mom (and maybe her gramma). She was helping her mom move and thought I might like it.

Now L’s Mom was what we called “my Chicago Mom”. My tribe is in Michigan & California, no connections, no blood here. But L-Mom took me in, fed me on the holidays, made me less lonely in the big City. She had two sons; now she said she had two daughters.

And I discovered she had something else: a love of knitting!

I could tell by the curve in some of the needles, someone had put the pedal to the metal…

Every size and type of needle went through her hands. From the brightly colored Chicago Boyes, to the plastic(?) or bone(?) ones marked “Crowley” or “Chester”, they told me a story.

Along with the pile of tiny bobbins wound with multi-colored yarn, those needles declared this was one serious knitter. This was someone who’d been at it awhile: the needle above was what I think they call “pins”, very thin very strong steel.

There were all sorts of circular needles too. Some had very thin coils made from what looked like springs and they were tipped with the same pin-ish steel tips like some of the straight needles in the box. And who would disagree? It really isn’t a party unless Susan Bates is invited and there she was! All wrapped up in a mod circular box, needles with CIRCLON cables: the evolution waits for no one when Plastic was King!

Contrast that label with this one. Here we have a quasi-traditional crest: instead of Lions holding it up, there are chubby sheepies doing their tribal duty. They look happy and proud to me although the lady in the crest itself appears to be looking for someone to help her wind that skein of yarn she’s holding. No help there.

Now comes my favorite: TWEED! Here we have the clans Armstrong & Pringle repping something called “hapweight”. I had no idea what that meant but found quickly that “A ‘Hap’ is a warm, deceptively simple, lace patterned shawl traditionally knitted in Shetland”.

Another label was marked with a lovely little thistle (and love that plaid!). Now this flower stands in my personal annals as one of the only shapes I actually knit into a sweater and liked while doing it! I love seeing them anywhere, field, paper or yarn. Scottish Thistles. Beautiful.

Seeing it stirred me and made me lonely all the same. While I could touch with wonder these things today, there would be no talking about the treasures with the knitter who they’d belonged to. L-Mom had moved along, into a new place, a place where there wasn’t going to be any knitting anymore. She can’t remember who I am these days; when we last had a birthday lunch, I was just a pleasant new friend of her daughter. She told me I was a pretty girl and patted my face and I held her hand and remembered.

24 responses to “Tuesday, August 26, 2008”

  1. Nancy says:

    A loving tribute …though I knew the lady not, she is blessed, as you are, to connect with other knowing spirits.

  2. beverly says:

    It’s a beautiful thing that you can hold those memories for L-mom. What a lovely tribute to her.

  3. Marlena says:

    Thanks for sharing this story. I was recently given the knitting bag and patterns of a resident where I work who I was close to. Knitting drew her close to me, and drew me close to her daughter. I love that whenever I make one of those patterns she left handwritten on a notebook page, I will think of her with every stitch.

  4. Jennifer says:

    What a lovely tribute. It’s hard to say goodbye early, so to speak. What wonderful friends you have, and what a wonderful friend you are.

  5. Michelle says:

    What a beautiful entry. I felt like I was looking through her knitting things right along side you. You will remember her every time you see and touch those knitting things. I hope we all will be remembered so fondly one day.

  6. Wanett says:

    Thanks for sharing this bittersweet story with us. You can think of L-mom when you knit with all of those fine needles she left behind.

  7. bellamoden says:

    What is remembered, lives. Sometimes that has to be enough.

  8. Patty says:

    I was lucky enough to receive a package like that myself. I’m saving the yarn for the eventual “great” grandchild. These are the things that make our days count!

  9. Tanya says:

    Sometimes customers bring these type of things into our store -their mother or grandmother has passed on, and they have all these knitting accoutrements and no place for them to go. So they leave them with us, to do with what we can.

    It’s sad but beautiful at the same time. To think that someone once loved these things so much. Thank you for a moving tribute.

  10. Vivian says:

    Thank you for sharing this touching tribute.

  11. Karen B. says:

    Such a terrific gift has been entrusted to you, now the bearer of memories that have escaped their original owner. Bitter and sweet.

  12. Amy Artisan says:

    What a lovely gift to remember you Chicago-Mom by – the stories that those items could tell! As you use & display this treasure I’m sure you will always remember the wonderful moments with her. My Grandma taught me to knit & within the last year she has forgotten how – I don’t think the dishcloth on her needles will ever be finished. The last time I was home my Mom insisted I bring some of her yarn back home with me.

  13. CindyCindy says:

    So poignant. So so sweet. And, what incredible gifts she gave you.

  14. Beth Wilson says:

    You were so blessed to have her as she was so blessed to have you……

    Such beautiful, unforgettable sharing of how hearts touched …..

  15. AnnDS says:

    Bonne Marie,
    What a touching tribute.

    For a grin, listen to the opening segment of episode 28 of Brenda Dayne’s “Cast On” podcast — for an interesting mention of a Scottish thistle.


  16. Patty says:

    Lovely post! My mother-in-law, now in her 80s, just bequeathed me her knitting bag. Going through it was so moving. Her main projects in recent years were Christmas stockings for each new member of the family, to match the stockings she had knitted for her five kids when they were young. It became sort of an initiation marking each marriage, each new baby. So there was a lot of red, green and white yarn, but also lots of steel dpns that I put to use right away. She told me that in her teens she’d knitted a pair of argyle socks, which were all the rage at the time (must have been the 1940s) , as a present for her fiance. Her friends would take knitting to the movie theater, but she said she never got the hang of doing the argyle pattern in the dark. The fiance never made it back from WWII, so it’s a bittersweet story for sure!

  17. marti says:

    Such a sweet tribute to a kindred spirit!

  18. Lacy says:

    Each needle and ball of yarn has a story and no these stories have been handed on to you. I display my Grandmothers needles in a pretty vase. Every now and then I will pick a pair and cast on a project. I’d knit and remember my Grandmother. I miss her so much.

  19. Bonne, so sorry for your loss of your L-mom to age and what not… so very nice that L thought you might really enjoy using the tools that her mothers hands had knit with for so many years… I have all of my mum’s needles and yarn and….. and I’m thankful each day that I can knit, that I know how, that I love it and that my mom taught me. I thank her every time I pickup my needles and begin something new… Your entry today brought tears to my eyes as another knitter is lost to one thing or another, L’s mom to a loss of remembering how, and my mom’s ability to the loss of the use of her right hand due to a stroke. My new motto: Teach someone to knit! You will long be remembered for it.

    Thanks for the really beautiful entry today and the photos of the tools and yarn of yesterday, they haven’t really changed much at all have they?

  20. Sue says:

    I don’t have very many good things to say about Alzheimer’s but it certainly drives home the idea of living in the ‘now’ because that’s all there is.

    I’m so sorry you need to do the remembering for your L-mom but you did so in a beautiful way.

  21. Wanda says:

    That’s sad about L-Mom and having Alzheimer’s. It’s wonderful that your friend has passed on her mom’s knitting tools and stash. It’s certain to be treasured by you.

  22. Jennife says:

    What a treasure to have received – both physically and emotionally. Hugs to L-Mom and the entire family. It’s such a difficult journey – but it sounds like she is surrounded by love and wonderful people. *HUGS*

  23. Eva says:

    So nice. Something similar happened to me. While living in UK I used to seeing my houselady friend Maggie, such a nice old lady. When I left UK and she died couple of year ago, I got full set of the old english made needles. My houselady sent it to me thinking Maggie would love me to have. Couldn´t be more right. Love them.Use them all the time :)
    BTW. that needles made in Czechoslovakia are from my country, well former, it doesn´t exist anymore. Cool to find it somewhere I wouldn´t expect :)

  24. Alice says:

    Thank you Bonne Maire, thank you for reminding us of this simple gift. I have been knitting for most of my life, it has been my fondest companion and I will always tresure it’s company. Knitters cherish the small things, the flecks in the heather, the miracle of the stitch, the color that catches our eye in the bin in the store, the luxurious decision with pattern in hand. So many simple things in life are really massive gifts that are missed the most when they are gone. You have a wonderful friend and we all share your happy/sadness. Bonne Marie, bringing us together once again.

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