When my sisters and i were very small our father was in the services. We moved about wherever he was posted and got used to quick pack ups and being on move alert all of our lives for the first few years. This meant we could only keep a few very treasured toys at any one time. I suspect the rest were quietly disposed of when we weren’t looking. Some of the best stuff kept were the dolls. Dad used to be quite a mean knitter – years of knitting his own socks came in to play here. He also started knitting our baby doll clothes for us and the blankets. One year we had 5 dolls each fior Christmas – quite a feat, and obvious that the major aunties never spoke to each other about what they were buying we 3 little maids.Mum and Dad excelled themseles by making carry cots for the dolls out of shoe boxes!
I have a mother who is now very sadly over taken by dementia – it is the cruellest of diseases and I wouldn’t wish it upon even my worst enemy. The loss of skills was sadly brought more to our attention this Christmas than ever before – I was wearing a jumper she’d knitted years ago but she couldn’t recognise me or it. It did remind me though of a good tale. I’m one of several sisters and of one christmas – we’ll never know if by design or accident, but one Christmas there were 15 dolls arrived in our house together with several home made carry cots for them. Over the years, mum managed to secretly make hundreds of doll garments and dolly sized bedding sets for us with her trusty knitting skills. Remnants from other bigger projects were carefully stored for these jobs. Dad was able to knit too – socks mostly, a skill learnt in the navy.
Watching the sewing programme on tv has inspired me to at least look out my machine – last time I saw itm it was hiding in the back of the wardrobe in one of the back bedrooms. Not exactly forlorn but seriously under appreciated. I have to say that I have never been big in the world of sewing although I did have a very good example set to me by my maternal grandmother. She used to make all our clothes when my family were young ‘nippers’. We had frocks and undies made, in the summer particularly this was always the case. Three identical dresses or ensembles. Nan not only sewed beautifully, having been trained to do so when in service as a young house maid, as she made her way up the ranks of the household staff. Being nifty with a sewing machine, one that she actually owned, gave her some prestige and she valued that all her life.
To my certain knowledge my beloved mother in law has never been a knitter. She owned a bag of assorted needles and accessories but I don’t recall her ever using them. I on the other hand did do loads of knitting from a young girl. When I had her grandaughter, my knitting output included riotously colourful baby jackets and jaunty sweaters for me. Ma in law is now 95 and suffers with dementia, so when she suddenly asked me where her knitting bag was, I was a bit stunned!
It transpires on tv she saw a woman very like me wearing a beautiful knitted shawl and it brought her memory back to happy days when I used to show her my latest output. These days I am slower and my colour palette more refined, but I’m so glad that something I did brought happy memories flooding back, however brief that moment!
I come from a long line of knitters – unbeknown to me, each side of my family seemed to sit contentedly clicking away in a corner somewhere – churning out ganseys, cardigans, socks, gloves – grim prospect for me, I so hated the feeling of knitted gloves on my finger tips, it’s now a phobia. I can manage any other kind of knitting garment, no problem. Well I would probably baulk at the prospect of a knitted vest or swimming costume these days.
Other family members happily sit doing patchwork, quilting, scrapbooking etc. I have never been one for making my own greetings cards. I have never got into dress making either – that is a great regret – I could so easily have made a gorgeous Coco Chanel inspired wardrobe for myself! So the knitting is a craft I achieved very early and I love browsing online for patterns, accessories and yarns – so much stuff, not enough years !
One of my daughters has just had a minor significant birthday and much was made of the lovely selection of pressies bestowed upon her. Amongst the very gratefully received collection of Prosceco, sparkling rose, necklaces, jewelery, handbags etc. etc. was a small hand made carrier bag; it had very pretty ribbons and lace all over it and although of not very high in terms of monetary value, it stole the show and the heart of the said birthday girl. And that was just the bag – carefully crafted by big sis and containing three skeins of the most gorgeous yarn I’ve ever seen. This was also a work of art – hand dyed into a fantastically toning and co-ordinated rainbow of colours throughout – so eye catching the birthday girl was hard pressed to put it back in the bag and get back to hard partying – she was itching to get her knitting needles out and get started!
I was at a ladies’ lunch last week and amongst our busy throng were several avid crafters and hobby nuts. They have a go at absolutely anything. Strangely no one ever seems to need patterns or instruction packs. When I begin a project, I’m there poring over the script checking I’ve got every bit of equpment listed, I always knit the tension squares and measure my seam allowances. I always pin and baste the seams and darts too. The latest ‘must make’ item is an open ended sleeve that has many different types of yarn and textiles knitted into and sewn on to it. Then various buttons, little zipped show pockets, stips of lace and knitted bobbles are added. These sleeves are for folk with dementia who get great comfort from fondling and fiddling with all the different textures and layers of lace etc. What a brilliant idea for those scraps!
One of the great things about a particular countryside park near me is their enthusiasm for promoting local crafts and highlighting experts in different skills. I took part in a local radio show last year, where the regular presenter of our local radio station came to my usual walking group location and make an entire programme about the leisure facilities available, literally on our doorstep.
Although the lady was born locally and knew the venue well, she was absolutely amazed at how many different craft workshops are available on craft days, and how many schools send coach loads of students to take part in the natural history days and local historic craft exhibitions. I know of several ladies who have taken part in the knitting and crochet workshops, and they in turn enjoy using the crop of craft and hobby shops that have begun to appear in the local high streets. Fantastic fun!
I recently hosted a ladies’ lunch that included a very enthusasitic knitter – and examples of her latest successess were shown around and admired. I was especially taken with a very pretty fine lacy shawl which I correctly assumed had taken her ages to complete but was possibly the most cherished out of the collection.
This brought conversations to hobbies and how we relax in our ‘down time’. I was heartily refreshed to note that every one of us had some form of crafting as their major relaxation. There are many fantastic craft outlets now and it is easy to get a bit carried away when you see the unbelievable choice in fabrics, patterns and yarns to pick from. To implement some budget control, sourcing from one outlet in one hit can often be the answer, having a fixed idea of what you’re seeking and trying not to deviate . . . . . almost impossible, but always a good idea!
Time to get out the sewing machine was always a cry going up the minute the clothes chest came down from the attic when I was a nipper. There was a definite changeover at Easter and October. In spring the chest came down and out came the summer clothes – pretty little frocks, the much loved lighter vests and pants. We even had favourite socks, although I suspect we were bought new ones as well. The winter garb was wash, aired and back into the chest that went. Funny how this ritual was carried out in most homes across the country and probably amongst the very old community still today.
When clothes had been outgrown, then we were measured and miraculously a couple of days later, there would be a new version of the dress, skirt, whatever. Our grandmother was an absolute whizz at all things dressmaking, knitting, sewing in general. Her talents were sadly not inherited!
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