Monday, December 05, 2011

A Good Yarn

A very young picture, about 1958 or so...

I learned how to crochet from my father when I was about 7 or 8. He had learned crochet  in the sanatorium when he was recovering from TB. He made wonderful purses for my mother from dark brown rayon cording, and as I recall, they were lined in satin and had a zipper close.
He showed me how to make a chain, single, double and treble crochet, using white string, probably butcher's twine. I learned it all one afternoon, and then not having any idea what to make other than doilies or huge afghans, my fresh knowledge just got filed in my memory banks. At the time there wasn't any yarn in the house.

Mom at about 30 years old
When I was 15 I had the opportunity to visit a classmate for a week in far away Pennsylvania, and while I was there, I met a boy and fell in love for the first time, hard. I had to come home and spend the rest of the summer heartsick, crying and being miserable knowing I would never see him again. I drove my mother nuts, I imagine, and one day she announced I would now learn how to knit.
It was meant as a distraction but it worked like a miracle cure. My first sweater was knit on big needles with only 400 yards of yarn, and as I recall was an 'old lady' cardigan. It took only a couple of days to finish and I was immediately interested in trying a more challenging pattern.
There were so many interesting stitches one could make just by varying the two basics, knit and purl. I learn cables and popcorns and felt confident enough to make an Aran Isle (fisherman's) sweater for my second project.
It was made from peach colored wool and my mother taught me to wash my finished products to clean the grubbiness from my hands, I guess, so I scrubbed my new fisherman knit in hot sudsy water, resulting in a much smaller felted mess. Again with the heartbrokeness...but not for long. Next I learn top down raglan knitting and made a really great orlon sayelle pink and royal blue striped pullover. I could say honestly that I designed it myself, and wore it quite a bit. That summer I made 13 sweaters, and probably never went outside at all. Summers were much longer back then.
In those years my family would visit my cousins almost weekly, and my Aunt Lucille, and her mother and grandmother would knit and crochet, after dinner, while the boys played with trains. Lucille's Grannie was in her late 80's and made a zillion afghans which were all over their house. I got to be part of the women's conversation then, since now I was a knitter. The one inspirational magazine we had was the Ladies' Home Journal Needlework and Crafts, and the fashion was all about ski sweaters. I made a bunch of those too, and wore them to school, so proudly.
Some of my hand dyed thread and yarns I used to sell
My favorite Christmas/birthday present of all time was a length of plaid wool fabric, and coordinating yarn to knit a matching sweater. It signified I was capable of making both sewn and knit garments of quality.
I'm telling you, that kind of encouragement meant a lot to me.

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  1. I love these kind of stories! Thank you for sharing.

    Quilting and needlecraft is my way of connecting with history - sometimes I think I can feel the touch of folks long gone while I'm working -

  2. sweet story Mel.
    What a gift to have shared that with your father.

  3. I've beem dying fabric mostly using your tutorials and wanted to throw in some thread as well. Got everything to wind them on to keep it from tangling, but can't find suitable PFD type thread to dye. What is or rather was your source for the white thread that's good for dyeing? Thanks so much in advance for taking your time to answer!

  4. Lovely story. My mother used to knit and tried to teach me but she said I was 'impossible'.
    Like most things in my life, I took it up in my teens independently and started on sweaters very soon. Those were the days when I could knit form a pattern and it would always fit my skinny frame!
    I also taught myself to crochet as my mother didn't. she doesn't s any needlework now. she is too much on the go.

  5. Loved your story! I knitted 13 ski sweaters for Christmas the year I learned to knit! Lots of the patterns came out of McCall's Needlework & Craft Magazine!! Don't you wish you still had some of those "beauties" from the past!!!

  6. Deb, and as well as
    are all great places for dyeable yarns and threads.

  7. Great story! Thanks for sharing. Wonder what hobby the boy took up to get over you that summer : )

  8. My father had T.B. also and spent time at the sanitoriam when he was 13. He learned to play the guitar and became a professional musician. I thought your story was interesting also.

  9. I learned to knit in fourth grade for a Girl Scout project. I'm not nearly as talented as you are though. I just do knit and purl for the long winter scarves that I make, using many different kinds of yarn. I usually start out with a yarn ball about the size of a basketball. I've only ever made one sweater, a baby sweater for my son (the "baby" is almost 32...) Love the thread picture. I often use Artfabrik! for hand quilting, some bought in Paducah in 2002 (your booth with Laura was wonderful, like walking into a rainbow.)and by mail since then. (So nice that Laura does mail order.)
    You continue to be an inspiration to so many of us. Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas!

  10. Was life simpler and slower?? Seems to me it was. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane :) It brought back my own memories of learning to crochet from my mother. She did a lot of different crafts and I'm thankful (now) that she passed some of them on to me.

    I find it sad that girls now-a-days don't have any interest in sewing or crocheting or knitting (or cooking!!). :(

  11. Anonymous3:02 PM

    A charming story that's easy to relate to.
    Your parents are good looking!

  12. Melody,

    What a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Thanks for sharing Melody. I learned to crochet from my Grandmother. She never really taught me but her hands were always busy and I learned to crochet by sitting by her side and watching. I had the best dressed dolls because she always gave me enough thread for sweaters for them. Times were tough back then and I remember many times she would drive me to town and send me in to barter a set of potholders for butter or cream from the milkman. Who could resist an innocent 7-year-old blue-eyed blond with a pair of potholders!

  14. Those were simpler times. I miss that.


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