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LK Personals Mom yarn bowl - Mother's Day knitting on the LoveKnitting blog

Published on May 8th, 2016 | by Merion

7 comments

Moms who knit…

In many countries around the world, it’s Mother’s Day today.  We’re celebrating by sharing stories of mothers who knit, starting with Merion’s stepmother Paula, whose mother who left China over 70 years ago for a new life in America, and brought her needles with her…

mother's day knitting on the LoveKnitting blog

Mathematician Tsung-Ying “June” Teng Fan and her daughter Dr Paula Fan

A few years ago, my stepmother, Paula, gave me a bag of yarn.  It wasn’t just any yarn, it was vintage Scottish 3ply yarn, in white, ivory and honey shades.  The labels were deliciously crinkled and proclaimed “Beehive Scotch Fingering” in a typeface far more stylish than adorns our yarns today, and the yarn, for 100% wool of its time, was surprisingly soft!  The yarn had belonged to Paula’s mother, and I was thrilled to bits to be given it – one knitter’s treasure to another.  So here, for Mother’s Day, Paula tells us about her mom’s knitting…

“While clearing out my mother’s belongings a few years ago, I found a suitcase, a very old one, solid and utilitarian, that contained among other things, several skeins of wool, pastel, soft, fine, like baby’s breath, the stuff of memories.

Vintage 3ply on the LoveKnitting blog

I don’t remember seeing my mother knit very often, but I remember the products of her labors: nothing fancy with intricate patterns, just comforting little things like scarves, hats, and most importantly blankets. Etched in my mind is a camel colored baby blanket, loosely knit, beloved of my little brother, who took it everywhere till the edges began to unravel.

Where did my mother learn to knit? In China before she stepped on the ship that brought her to America almost 70 years ago? My aunt in Chengdu still knits. The heavy green cabled sweater which she crafted for me comes out when the Arizona desert freezes each year. I like to imagine two little girls learning to knit under my formidable Chinese grandmother’s stern gaze.

My mother taught my sister to knit—she loved wooly hats—and she in turn took our little cousin under her wing.  At our last family gathering, little cousin, now all grown up, was teaching her daughters to knit with my sister looking on.

It follows naturally to say that “to knit” is a wonderful metaphor. Generations are brought together in unbroken strands of thread—or should I say yarn?  The patterns mirror the intricacies of family relationships, the end product being a thing of beauty and a symbol of love.

So what became of the wool in my mother’s suitcase? It crossed the ocean to go to my stepdaughter.  And each time I think of it, I know it was absolutely the right thing to do.”

After this post was published, we had an email from Paula’s brother Michael, he said:  “My mother knitted a baby blanket for me. It had a wonderful aroma, and, like Linus from the cartoon Peanuts, I carried it around with me everywhere. Unlike Linus’s blankie which was never the worse for wear, mine wore out until it was just tangle of shreds. 40 years ago when our family moved from Chicago to Tucson, Arizona, I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away and packed it along with my other prized possession, a plastic saber-tooth tiger from the Flintstones cartoon. I still have it, though it lost its aroma decades ago.”

Merion: Yarn often tells us what it wants to be – and I knitted Paula’s mom’s wool into a tiny cardigan for a premature baby.  I felt, at the time, that she would have liked that very much – it was practical, yet delicate – and, I like to think, it carried the kindness of its original owner in every stitch.

We’d love to hear your Mother’s Day stories!

Please tell us all about them in the comments and we’ll make them into another post to share!

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The Mother’s Day yarn bowl used in the feature image comes from LennyMud.


About the Author

Merion admits that her stash is wildly out of control, but has many projects in dream-form! She loves knitting, crochet, Shire horses, cake and garden swing-seats.


Last updated: May 9th, 2016.

7 Responses to Moms who knit…

  1. ChrisWM says:

    Both, my grand mother and mother have always been knitting. Soft toys, clothes, accessories. I had it all, knit by either one of them. As a kid they taught me how to crochet and knit, but it wasn’t really that enjoyable for me. I guess I was too impatient and seeing both of them knitting so fast I felt like being the slowest and stupidest knitter ever. I regret that I never had this peaceful knitting moment with my grandmother who passed away several years ago.
    When I moved to a different country I bought a coat, but didn’t have a scarf to go with it. Usually, I would have asked Mum to make one for me. I even found the perfect yarn. But she wasn’t just around the corner anymore, so I sat down and started knitting. Suddenly knitting was this tranquil, meditation-like thing to do. I finished the scarf in what felt for me like record time and looked for something else to knit. I found knitting to become a hobby to relax and wind down after a stressful day at work. I started trying new things with every new project and whenever I’m stuck I call my mother or bring the project whenever I visit her. And then we sit together and knit and chat. Like she did with her mother.

    • Kimberley Parfitt says:

      Your story is beautiful. Mostly because it brought you back home. The yarn, the needles, the heart, and finally home with Mum. Just lovely.

      Happy Knitting,

      Kimberley

  2. Kimberley Parfitt says:

    My story has a bit of a rough beginning. Now that I am remembering, my paternal grandmother did crochet, but she never shared a stitch with me. I first taught myself to crochet, with the help of two friends, when I was 20 years old and had nothing to give my mother for Christmas. My friend gave me some string and I crocheted her a doily. I was so proud of what I made for her but when she opened it she said “What am I supposed to do with this?” I never saw it again. I made her a few more things which received the same response and so I eventually stopped giving my mother crocheted gifts. I had plenty of other people that enjoyed my gifts though. But after 20 years of arduous crocheting, my wrists couldn’t take anymore activity and I had to put my hooks to rest.
    About 3 years ago, a knitting store moved into my town, and my heart jumped for joy! I hoped with everything in me that my wrists could handle knitting, and they can! Knitting proves to be much gentler with its movements and so I can tarry on. I taught myself to knit and I’ve made many gifts and I’ve even made two for my mother, which she claims to love. For Mother’s Day, I knitted her the Waterfall Scarf with Artyarns light purple & studded with sequins. She loves it. It seems as though the tables have turned.
    I do hope that one day my daughters will be interested in learning to crochet or knit. Until then, I will knit.

    • Diana DeMeo says:

      I loved your story and can relate. I was self taught in most needle arts and every first project I made, I gave to Mom. She was a good Mom, but I don’t believe she thought much of most of my presents.
      She seemed to appreciate the quilted lap blanket and it’s matching pillow most of all!
      She had patience and helped me to knit booties and a cardigan for my little girl.
      Thanks Mom! XO

  3. Lydia Abel says:

    I was born in 1945 just after the end of 2nd World War –Ladies wore stockings, frocks, gloves and hats when going out and men wore suits, bowties and hats – such a different time.

    One of my earliest memories is of spending winter holidays with friends and family at one or other country hotel. There was Ceres, in 1948, where I fell in to the swimming pool dressed in my knitted Princess Anne look-alike coat while trying to find the bottom of the swimming pool with a stick. In Ladismith, a year or so later, I remember sitting outside the hotel kitchen in the weak winter sun being taught to knit by the women who worked the hotel kitchen. I loved their chatter and the singing – the horrors of apartheid had not yet penetrated my consciousness – I sat and clicked, knitting mostly holes. By the time I got to needlework classes in school I could knit reasonably well but my sewing was the bane of the teacher – no two stitches ever went in the same direction or were the same size.

    My mother’s hands were never idle – that would have been too horrible to contemplate – idleness! She sewed, knitted and crocheted – everything that both she and I needed to wear. But I longed to have a ready-made Foschini outfit! I climbed trees, skinned my knees, and generally did not behave as a genteel young lady. The beautiful hand-knitted lacy Fil D’Ecosse socks hung at my ankles and hats never stayed on my head for long.

    But I loved to knit – for my dolls – Priscilla and Penny – no Barbie’s on the scene yet – hats, frocks and boleros – I still have the Patons patterns. My mother would take heavy books from the library with patterns for knitting and crochet. (Crochet and Fine Knitting (Elise Visser) is one book that I remember.) She would make tablecloths, bedspreads, table mats, you name it. The books fascinated me – mostly I think out of print now – by the time I was 10 I nagged for a circular needle – which I still have, though rather bent, I started knitting round doilies in lacy stitches ( only 1 survives today) and eventually an entire table cloth. I loved how patterns repeat themselves. I did not have to look in the book all the time because I could work out what came next- mathematical thinking at work. Yes knitting really is a mathematical exercise and it is remarkable that so many women, who are illiterate in the accepted sense of the word, can knit and crochet wonderful garments and artefacts, counting rows and stitches with impunity.

    This is an extract from my book, Finding the Thread, published in South Africa in 2011 – if you want to read more please contact me.

  4. Michael Fan says:

    Paula’s little brother here. Here’s the rest of the story about the baby blanket that my Mother knit for me. It had a wonderful aroma. Like Linus from the cartoon Peanuts, I carried my “blankie” with me everywhere. Unlike Linus’s blanket which was never the worse for wear, mine became a tangle of shreds. 40 years ago when our family moved from Chicago to Tucson, Arizona, I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away and packed it along with my other prized possession, a plastic saber-tooth tiger from the Flintstones cartoon. I still have the blanket, though it lost its aroma decades ago.

  5. Georgy Evans says:

    My mum taught me to knit when I was very young – I’m not even sure how old I was but probably five or six. She bought me brightly coloured needles and fluorescent coloured acrylic yarn – yes, it was the 70s. I can’t remember how much I knitted with that but I did knit myself a mohair cardigan as a teenager.

    My mum and her sister, Madeline, knitted during WWII, as so many women did. My mum said she hated knitting and sewing from that time on but was kind enough to knit a couple of things that I requested: a hat and jumper for a teddy bear, and a red bobble hat because I wanted to be Nancy from Swallows and Amazons so I could sail and have adventures.

    My aunt Madeline knitted herself a couple of cable sweaters. I hinted heavily that I’d love her to make me one one. She said she was past knitting anything so complicated but generously gave me the purple one, keeping the russet one for herself.

    My mum’s best friend, Aunty Pat, knitted me a blanket when I was born – a beautiful creation with a zigzag edging and delicate lace stitches. I adored it and was inseparable from it. Unfortunately (for it), it also became my ‘nosey’ and, bar a couple of small pieces that my mum managed to preserve, it did not outlast my infancy. Pat took it in good spirit though she did say that she had intended it to be an heirloom.

    Another good friend of my mum’s, Jane, gave me a dark pink mohair jumper with a large floppy collar. She worked in continuity in films and used to knit in spare moments on set. I reworked the collar to something a little smaller – like ties and jean legs everything had to be narrow in the 80s.

    Sadly, of these four knitting forebears only Pat is alive today. She no longer knits but still tackles the groundelder in her garden at 87!

    Thank you for prompting reflection and happy memories. I have recently returned to knitting after a break of many years and I shall enjoy it even more now I remember what I have inherited from my mother, her sister and her friends.

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