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…
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.
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!
The Mother’s Day yarn bowl used in the feature image comes from LennyMud.
Last updated: May 9th, 2016.