Knitting and Crocheting Brings Love and Memories

13 Feb

I am told that what I do is a dying talent.  When I sit in an airplane or in a waiting room, people walk over to me to see what I am doing.  What am I making?  How did I learn to do that?

I am crocheting with thread.  I use a tiny hook, with thin brightly colored yarns.  Sometimes I make up my own designs, sometimes I navigate the instructions in a book or magazine.  My favorite is to make doilies, bookmarks and small table clothes.

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I started when I was nine year old.  One summer my Grandma Esther decided it was time I learned to knit and crochet.  It became our summer project.  Whenever I was not running with the ‘pack’ of children,  I was sitting with my Grandma and learning a new skill.

My Grandma was always knitting…when she wasn’t playing canasta.  She made sweaters for all of us.  Afghans were important. She made one for each grandchild and great grandchild, when they arrived.  There was a yarn store in Kauneonga Lake where you could buy yarn in bulk.  I think my Grandma, aunt and mother supported that store.

But teaching me was much, much harder than she imagined, because I was left handed, and my Grandma did everything right handed.   Which is why, in the end, I crochet right handed.

I remember sitting on her lap on a wooden chair under a tree at the bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake.  We started with large needles and thick yarn.  I first learned to make a scarf and a hat.  Knitting and purling; straight needles for the scarf, then a needle in the round for the hat.  I learned increase and decrease, casting on and casting off.

She taught me by holding her hands over my hands.  And soon the knitting was no problem.  I just sat next to her and knitted while we talked.  If I had a problem like dropping a stitch, she was right there to help me. She showed me how to fix it and to keep on going.  The idea was not for her to fix it for me, but for me to learn how to do it for the next time.

Once I finished the hat and scarf, it was time to learn to crochet.  This was oh so much more difficult.  At least when you knit, you use two needles.  So even though I was not right handed, I could still learn to knit the way she did.

But crocheting was different. Grandma tried.  We spent hours and days as she tried to crochet left handed to teach me the techniques of single, double and triple crochets.  She eventually gave up.

“We are going to try something different,” she said, as she put the crochet hook in my right hand.  It was not a problem.  I think as a left-handed person, you learn early on to do things with your right hand.  I had to cut with scissors with my right hand, I threw a ball with my right hand…we only had left handed gloves, so it made sense that I could crochet with my right hand.

The knowledge of knitting and crocheting that I learned that summer has stayed with me my entire life.

When my children were little, I made lots of sweaters, blankets, scarves and hats.  I made gifts for my friends’ children.   A close friend of mine and I knitted all the time, sharing patterns for sweaters we made for our children.  I enjoyed knitting more than crocheting.  It went quicker.

But when my son was four, I broke my right elbow and wrist.  And all knitting had to stop.  I was in the middle of a sweater when it happened.  I tried to go back to knitting after my arm healed, but I could not hold the weight of the sweater with my arm as I knitted.

I stopped all knitting and crocheting for years.  And I missed it.

Then one day while watching my son in his gymnastic class, I noticed a woman using thread yarn to make a bookmark.   I thought. “I think I could do that. “ It did not look heavy at all.  She was nice enough to share her pattern. I went out and bought a fine needle and some yarn.

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Crocheting at our home in Kauneonga Lake.

I was addicted!!!  I made hundreds of bookmarks.  I used patterns from books. I made my own designs.  I made about five each day.  I crocheted at music lessons, gymnastics, basketball, bar/bat mitzvah lessons, watching television.  Whenever I had down time, I crocheted.

The bookmarks were everywhere.  My children’s school friends each got some. Relatives got them for every birthday and holiday.  I donated them to the school library. I gave them away.  Finally my daughter said in exasperation,  “MOM, CAN’T YOU CROCHET SOMETHING OTHER THAN BOOKMARKS?”

And I said, “Yes, I think I can.”

I started on doilies.  I have made hundreds of doilies of every color, except white….too boring.  For my son’s bar mitzvah I made 65 thread crocheted ‘doilies’ head coverings  for the married women to wear.  It was a great idea.  The men always get something, why don’t the women?  I was going to make them all green, my son’s favorite color. But my Mom insisted I made some quieter colors.   So I made blue and beige as well.  I still see women in my congregation wearing a head covering from the bar mitzvah.

I give them to people who frame them for their daughter’s room.  I give them to friends.  I give them to strangers.  If I have some in my bag and someone admires one, I will give them the finished ones.  It’s not like I do not have at least 30 at home at any time.

I became obsessed with the yarn.  When my daughter lived at home, I would sneak more yarn into my own home, because she could not understand my need for more.   “MOM, I can’t believe you bought more yarn. You haven’t finished the yarn you have,” she would say.  She wanted to do a yarn intervention.

But these were colors I did not have.  I had to buy them.  I have way more yarn then I have time to finish. And the crochet books! They fill a cabinet.  I admit it.

However, when I crochet, I enjoy the feeling of making something.  I love giving them as gifts. I remember the times with my Grandma knitting or crocheting, I have joy from giving them away.

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My son wearing a scarf that my daughter knit for him.

So, finally, I taught my daughter to knit scarves and hats.  She made some for her grandparents and brother and friends.  And now she loves yarn as well.

From generation to generation, my daughter learned in Kansas,  because my Grandma taught me in the quiet of the Catskills.  And a tiny bit of me is up in the Catskills, sitting on my Grandma’s lap, learning a new skill, while part of me is enjoying watching my daughter follow in a family tradition.

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7 Responses to “Knitting and Crocheting Brings Love and Memories”

  1. lucyannluna February 13, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    I must start on the doilies & baskets again. Yours look fantastic.

  2. stitchesinlife February 13, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    How lovely! I am a self taught knitter but my mum can knit and my nanna and great-grandmother were avid knitters as well. I think it’s so important skills like knitter are not lost in the technology age.

    • zicharon February 20, 2014 at 10:52 am #

      I agree it should be taught to the younger generation.

  3. Joan Haskell February 20, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    What a great article Ellen! I loved it!

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