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Sunday, June 7, 2015


Earlier this year I read on Una's blog, Great Balls of Wool, about a book that she had received for Christmas. The book,' Knitting Yarns', edited by Ann Hood, consists of a number of writers who wrote about their experiences with knitting. I decided to see if the BCC Library had the book, which it did, so I borrowed it. 
Some of the contributors wrote about how they came to be knitters; one writer told of her efforts to become a knitter but still was unable to knit. Some writers contributed a pattern ;another wrote a poem about knitting. Others wrote about the people that influenced their love of knitting. I particularly enjoyed Sue Grafton's chapter in the book. A longtime and very keen knitter, Sue listed all the benefits of teaching a child to knit. She mentioned such things as encouraging focus, to enjoy 'sustained concentration', linking generations, it's portable, it teaches children to 'take pride in a job well done', it stimulates a love of colour, texture and 'an appreciation' for design. 
It was a very entertaining book and I enjoyed it immensely. Then I started thinking of my own knitting story/journey.

As long as I can remember, my mother knitted. One memory is her sitting and knitting on the arm of the sofa so she could see out the window and up to the main road. When my dad was coming home from work, he would get off the tram and walk down a street which led off the main road...mum could see him from her sofa vantage point and then it was time to put away the knitting and start getting food on the table! 
Mum would knit while she listened to the big radio which stood in the corner of the lounge room...while the news was on or when her favourite radio serials were on. Television came to my state in 1959, but the family didn't get a television until the late 60s!
I can remember pestering her to teach me to knit and she finally relented when I was 7. I made a scarf which had lots of dropped stitches and a very irregular edge I remember...I was proud of it but my mother wasn't impressed I recall. She promised to give me a knitting kit for my next birthday...I was so excited! But all I got was a ball of wool and a pair of needles! Where was the knitting bag? I still remember the disappointment of no bag!! That might be why I have quite a collection of them now!

A few years later I was knitting dolls' clothes from patterns in my mother's English Women's Weekly. In my teens, the problem was affording yarn for a large a student I couldn't afford it, so tended to sew more during those years. Mum very reluctantly, after lots of pestering, showed me the basics of crochet, but ridiculed my efforts so that craft went on the back burner until a few years later when I met my future mother in law. Elsie showed me how to hold the hook properly, how to make granny squares, Irish crochet, how to read patterns etc and opened a whole new world to me!
When I started work I realised that I could afford to buy enough yarn to make garments...and I did! I found these 2 photos of jumpers/sweaters that I knitted...both with Sirdar yarns. 

I also crocheted several afghans. I started crocheting knee rugs for fundraising at my school and church. I remember I crocheted a knee rug and donated it to a street stall the school was having. The rug was bought, but others wanted to have one. The very enterprising woman running the stall took orders and then told me how many more I needed to make and donate. Hmmm...I did a few more then put a halt to her enterprise...the P&C of the school was getting $10 (this was mid 1970s) per rug...but I thought my largesse had to end! lol
 And when my sister in law was expecting her first baby in 1975, I crocheted a baby blanket using a pattern published in the New Idea. It was made with Patons Totem and very bright colours, just as the pattern photo showed. That baby blankie was used by all 4 of my nephews plus by a number of babies that my SiL's sisters had. Marlene looked after it so well, I wouldn't be surprised if it was still around! lol

And of course I crocheted larger ones for my former DH and I.The rug in the photo below is one of those early blankets years later being enjoyed by DD 1.

By the time DD2 was 1 year old, I had left teaching to be a SAHM. Money was tight but I still wanted to donate items to parish fundraisers. Crocheting was quicker but the yarn went further when knitting. So I trialled knitting rugs and it was about this time I discovered 'slipstitch' patterns. These are multi coloured designs but no stranding or weaving in of colours is needed as it's only one colour used in each row.  When I first started knitting rugs, I used the longest straight needles I could find to get the 200 or so stitches on the needles. Eventually I would switch to circular needles which made it a lot easier. 

Surprisingly, I have found some old photos of my knitting from the 1980s.
The next photo was taken in 1988 (label on the back says so!) and it shows DD2 and I with a slipstitch knitted rug...which I kept and still have!
The next one is 'Shadowbox' slipstitch...another favourite.
Another big favourite slipstitch is the 'honeycomb'...
Many of my throws have been given away as gifts to friends and family...

Many have been donated for fundraising or for charities such as K4BN...the first rug I ever knitted for charity was a chevron, like the one in the larger photo, but it was in autumn colours and sold at a street stall.

I knitted the next one in the late 1990s. It's a whole lot of slipstitch designs spaced with plain stocking stitch squares...I actually knitted it in strips. I donated it to my mother's nursing home as a raffle prize. My mum bought a huge amount of tickets and won it! When she died, I brought it home and it's a great reference if I'm looking for ideas for a new's like a sampler of different slipstitch patterns.
And this photo was a surprise find. I would knit in my lunch hours at a school where I was doing a term contract in 1997. A young teacher asked me if I would make her a 'squares' blanket if she provided the wool. I didn't like her colours at first but we had agreed on using different versions of basket weave for the squares (also knitted in strips) and that was interesting. I looked up heaps of books in the library and ended up with over 20 different variations. (don't think Google was around then?)
I had no idea of what to charge her for making it but thought $50 was reasonable. She gave me $125!!! Someone who appreciated the work that went into crafting something is rare...I was thrilled!
The next pic is the finished product on a project that I worked on over many years...when it was finally finished I gave it to a friend's daughter who had lost a finger in an accident as a 5 year old...Eloise is in Year 12 now!
And I'm still knitting or crocheting! Since retiring in 2011, I joined Knitting for Brisbane's Needy (K4BN) and have made many friends within the group. I make a throw to be sold each year for the Parish Art Show and that's what I'm working on at the moment. I have never really stopped knitting, even when it was considered pretty old fashioned etc. During the 1990s I had gone back to studying and when I was having trouble with an assignment I would sit with my knitting and eventually without fail, a solution to the issue would come to me...the perfect introduction or conclusion would just pop into my mind! My former husband didn't understand when he'd say, 'Why aren't you working on your assignment?' and I would say, 'I am!'

In recent years knitting has become very trendy and cool :-), but even if it weren't so, I would still knit and compulsively buy beautiful yarns for my 'stash'. 


creations.1 said...

Loved reading your 'knitting story' Maria. You have certainly created some beautiful items. Trendy and cool or not I too would still be buying beautiful yarns and be creating lovely heirlooms!!

Susan said...

What a great tale - its all so addictive and therapeutic isn't it?? I turn my head when I walk past the yarns at Lincraft & Spotlight.

margaret said...

certainly plenty of knitting here, I used to knit but now it hurts the hands too much, joints swell etc, also found that the acrylic wool stretches with every wash and jumpers ended up more like dresses!

angela said...

Wow what a journey. I learnt to knit in my early teenage years but like you my mother laughed at what I produced and she rally didn't have the patience to teach me. I gave it away while I studied then got work and married and had kids. I too fell back on sewing. Much quicker and if you were smart cheaper. Especially for making things for children. Once I got diagnosed with my autoimmune disease I went back to knitting and learnt to crochet. It was light and portable and I could do it in bed if I had to. It has saved my sanity and given me a sense of accomplishment, which I needed as some days I just could not to anything I could at least knit a row or two.
Thanks for sharing your story

Una said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the book and your blog post is as interesting as any of the stories in it. I think my next blanket might be a slipstitch one. I'm itching to start a big project and planning one is as enjoyable as actually making it

Lyn said...

What a wonderful knitting journey you have been on..such lovely projects completed over the years..

Peg - Happy In Quilting said...

Love your story and your show and tell xx

Anonymous said...

Well done Maria. You have crafted some wonderful blankets and throws over the years. Real works of art.

Cathy said...

Fabulous post Maria! I'm a knitter as well from way way back - from what I can gather I have had needles in my hands from the time I was about six. My knitting was about the only thing my mother ever complimented me on, and I seem to have inherited her liking for fair isle. Her liking for this tecnique I think was from necessity (war years and making things from a bit of this and that) mine is from seeing something develop from all those different colours. The patterns interest me enormously - prefer when they are charted rather than written, not a good look when Catherine is confused lol - the traditional x o x can look so different when knit up in differing shades using just two colours in the row. I have a liking for Aran as well. Method in my madness because all those cables and knobbly bits hide my very irregular stocking stitch. Those two styles also reflect my Irish with a little bit of Scot heritage.
I may have missed it but have you ever posted the instructions for your slip stitch blankets? Yours are a work of art - would love to attempt something like that.
Thanks again for such an interesting post

Lin said...

Lovely story Maria and to see some of the beautiful things you have made. My Mother taught me to knit but does not crochet so it was an elderly Aunt who taught me that skill. And I am very grateful to her because it is so useful to be able to crochet as well as knit. xx

Vireya said...

I used to knit or crochet during classes at high school. If a teacher objected to me doing that, I would just stop attending that class. I was not a model student!

Wish I had photos of my creations from those days. Lovely to see yours!