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e_moon60

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Connecting the Stitches [Nov. 14th, 2014|03:55 pm]
e_moon60
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[Current Mood |nostalgic]

My mother was a knitter (and every other kind of needlework), and taught me, over a few Christmas vacations, to do simple knitting--garter stitch, stockinette, ribbing--and then knitting in the round with three needles.  But she made all the round things; I made scarves.  And then, away from her, one baby hat.  Then I moved back to a hot climate, and had the sweaters she'd made me if I needed sweaters, plus the hates and mittens she'd also made.  I quit knitting and went to other things.  When I started knitting again, I made scarves, until the breakthrough that started me on socks.  So much I've told before, here and elsewhere.  But last night and today...I came across her knitting-in-progress, in a workbag of hers I hadn't explored before.  The cuff of a mitten, and two sock cuffs for slipper-socks, one finished and one not.  None fit me now--my wrists and ankles are thicker, as hers also became at about the age I am.  But...there they are, her perfect, regular stitches in ribbing, white socks and blue mitten cuff.  (Picture below cut)

mother's-knitting-found

The white yarn is Coats & Clark:  40% wool and 60% "virgin Orlon, bicomponent acrylic (I don't know what that means, chemically).  The blue yarn is Bernat "Sesame", a 100% wool yarn not available anymore-she used it on a number of my sweaters. These yarns were available in McAllen, Texas, where she lived, in the 1960s and early '70s.  I believe the yarn was purchased in the mid-60s, from the pattern book date I found with the mitten cuff, when I was in college and she was knitting a lot.  Why these projects weren't finished, I don't know.  Something else was more interesting, maybe.  She made the two pairs of socks for me (made in about 1969/70)  just like these cuffs: 48 stitches, on size 4 needles.   (I now use 60 stitches, on size 5s.)

The sock cuff on the right is shorter than the one on the left, but about four rows longer than it was when I found it.

Because I could not resist working on the same needles with the same yarn to see (among other things) how different our gauge is.  I'd already put my foot through the work to see how the cuff felt--and I can get it on, but it's very tight.  I played around trying to match her exact tension, which seems (in this anyway) to be a bit looser than mine but not as loose as when I tried to be loose.   Also--with that much cuff done--why not finish it to match the other and then make socks?  These wouldn't be comfortable for me, with such snug cuffs, but they might fit someone else.  She was planning to mix yarns--what's left of the Coats & Clark isn't enough to finish a pair, but in with this was a skein of Red Heart, a slightly different white with the same ratio of wool to Orlon bicomponent acrylic.  I have no use for the yarn otherwise, really.  And...it's doing no one any good sitting there partly made up.  [EDITED...Duh!  I hadn't realized Coats & Clark made Red Heart and it really is the same yarn.  Named, of all things, "Fabulend."]

It still feels...weird.  Strange.  Inserting my needle in her stitch, moving her stitch off...adding an entire row, then another, so all the stitches on the needles were those I'd made.  Like extending the rows in a carefully designed but unfinished garden, or painting a border on the bottom of a picture.   And yet very satisfying.  These were her needles (all but one--I switched to five-needle system I use now), and what I touched, her hands had touched.  Every stitch bound her work and my work together like nothing else I ever did with her.  There was a lot she didn't teach me about knitting in the round (only that it took at least four needles, three to hold the work and one "traveling.")   I discovered that she arranged ribbing stitches on the needles the same way I discovered worked best to prevent laddering: start each needle with the knit stitches, end with the purl stitches.  Though she appeared to be knitting with just three standing needles and one traveler, she had left both cuffs with four needles in--with the split at the start of the row, mid-back.  There's a certain awe about trying to finish something my mother made--she made so many beautiful things--but also a lovely feeling of connection through generations.  Yes, Mother, your daughter finally got her act together and can make useful things with needles and string.

EDITED, FEB 2015.  And now the socks are finished, and off to their new owner, who likes them.  Here's a picture:

Karen's-socks-finished-side

It turned out there wasn't enough of the cream-colored yarn to finish the socks, so I had to finish them in white.  There's there's a 1/8 inch difference in some areas of the socks, so I marked one--that way the recipient could then tell me which she preferred when I made her another pair.  I should have taken a picture next to one of the socks I make for myself, to show the difference in size, but...too late now.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: catsittingstill
2014-11-15 12:09 am (UTC)
Beautiful.

I know my mother had some unfinished knitting projects at one time. I wonder if they are still around.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-11-15 02:40 am (UTC)
I knew about a big crochet project she had about half-finished, but I couldn't remember enough crochet to go on with it.

This, though--ribbing, socks--this I can do.
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[User Picture]From: blueeowyn
2014-11-15 12:36 am (UTC)
I'm glad you are feeling the connection and I hope the socks are something that someone you care for can get a lot of use from.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-11-15 02:52 am (UTC)
I hope so. I have someone in mind, if it suits her.
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[User Picture]From: cdozo
2014-11-15 12:44 am (UTC)
Moments like this are so precious.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-11-15 02:52 am (UTC)
Yes...the unexpectedness is part of the sweetness.
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[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2014-11-15 11:52 am (UTC)
What a wonderful discovery.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-11-15 02:48 pm (UTC)
It certainly was. There might be other projects to find, too, that I wouldn't be able to finish (sweaters...) but to find something I *could*...and I'd so much rather put feet on these socks for someone else than unravel the yarn and use it to make socks that fit me.

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[User Picture]From: karalianne
2014-11-16 04:11 pm (UTC)
I have a sort of similar story.

I have this knitted afghan that my paternal grandmother made me. It's "grown" over the years and is now more than six feet long (I should measure it sometime). It's been well-loved and has had holes gnawed in it by guinea pigs (which I am now capable of fixing properly) and is definitely a source of comfort when I'm feeling sad.

I was two years old when my granny died, and a number of years ago I learned that she hadn't actually been able to finish the blanket before she died. My maternal grandmother actually completed it, using crochet to join three large coloured blocks with a ruffle stitch, and adding a shell stitch around the edge of the entire thing. My grandparents were all friends; my parents knew each other as children.

I managed to reverse engineer my afghan, and so far I have completed two similar blankets. One has been given to my eldest niece, who is now seven, and the other will be given to her younger sister (four years old) at Christmas this year. I'm working on one for their little brother, who is two, and then I'll make one for my own child (due in February) and then my nieces' youngest sibling (due in March).

Working on these blankets makes me feel more connected to my grandmothers; my maternal grandmother died when I was 13, and she's the one who originally taught me to knit (and to sew).

My blanket and Adriana's blanket
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-11-17 04:50 am (UTC)
Those are lovely! And what a lovely story, as well. Thank you for sharing it here.
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[User Picture]From: redrose3125
2014-11-16 07:15 pm (UTC)
I found a peach cotton afghan 3/4 finished at an estate sale. My mother-in-law likes peach, and cotton, and I bought it and finished it, and edged it in yellow cotton for her, and she likes it very much. (I didn't tell her where I got it.)

While I was working on it, I wondered about the woman who had started it. I hope she would be happy that it is finished, and loved.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-11-17 04:47 am (UTC)
I'm sure the woman who started it would be happy...just as I'm sure my mother will be happy when the socks she started end up on my friend's feet.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-11-19 05:38 am (UTC)
As I was knitting away on one of the socks today, I came to a flaw in the yarn--a bad one. Cut that one out, reattached the yarn (and by the way, the older acrylic yarn? Not like wool for the reattaching.) Not too long after, found another bad spot. I suspect a mouse took a taste and decided Orlon wasn't what it wanted--it looks like something sharp made little snips partway through the strand for about an inch, inch and a half.
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