Saturday, December 29, 2012

Grandmothers and domestic arts

I was visiting my family in Ottawa this week and I got my grandmother talking about knitting. I love how grandmothers can be counted on for sharing our enthusiasm for the domestic arts!
Mimi showcasing her work of art -- in her words, this is "the easiest thing to make." Right...
Mimi also showed my sister and I her vintage knitting books -- ladies seemed to wear a lot of makeup for cross-country skiing in those days!

So many sewists have wonderful stories of of growing up in a sewing environment, and of being taught to sew by their grandmothers -- myself included. I came across a really good one in Debbie Stoller’s Stitch 'N Bitch (2003):

The handwork of my grand-mother and great-aunts seemed to provide comfort and serenity. Seated at these family gatherings, their purposeful motions gave them a focused air of self-containment, an earthly solidity. They were, after all, women who had learned their craft as children, and who had practiced these skills throughout their lives – before and after the birth of children, the loss of husbands, and through two world wars. (p. 3)

"Those girls are handy with a needle and thread," my mother would often say, proudly about her daughters. The sight of my mother’s heavy gray sewing machine set up at the end of the dining table was so familiar to me that it almost seemed like another sibling, and when she wasn't sewing, she was knitting, or embroidering. (p. 5)

After talking to my grandmother about knitting, but also after seeing my aunt's mind-blowing embroidery work (I MUST do a feature on her at some point), I'm really itching to broaden the scope and go beyond sewing this year. In that sense, the book my mother gave me for Christmas was most appropriate -- thanks mom! It will be a good starting point, but I'm sure I will still need your expert guidance for those difficult parts.

How quickly did you learn to knit? Did your mother or grandmother teach you?


  1. My mom taught me to knit when I was 10 or so... both my sister and I retaught ourselves how to knit in our twenties!
    My Grandmother lives in Ottawa too - She's from the Westboro/Nepean area. Where abouts does your granny live?

    1. She lives at the opposite end of the area, in Gatineau! I can't wait to learn how to knit...!

  2. My mom taught me to crochet when I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9. She doesn't knit, though, so I taught myself how to do that when I was in my early 20s. My mom sews for a living, so I learned by watching, although I wasn't much interested in it until I graduated from college. Once I picked it up, I immediately remembered how comforting the hum of a sewing machine is. One of my grandmother's quilts, which she was working on when she died, was recently given to me, and I'm slowly putting it together. I never thought I'd quilt! I hope you have fun knitting. It can be really relaxing, and it makes waiting for things (like busses) go by quickly.

    1. Wow, that is such a precious gift. V. true about waiting for buses (is there a most boring activity, especially when you live in Toronto?) I've always been envious of people knitting on the subway. So relaxing and portable!

  3. I love that we all share a deep connection to our Grandmas though craft. My Gran is a fab knitter, she learnt from her mother who was an at home knitter but she doesn't use patterns she just makes it all up and uses her imagination and creativity. She is a complete inspiration to me!

  4. My mom taught me to crochet when I was in elementary school and I was pretty into it for a while. As an adult, I have to relearn how to do it every time as projects are so few and far between. Both of my grandmothers were great knitters but I didn't take advantage of their knowledge when they were alive. I've got learn-to-knit books and I have started a few knitting projects on my own, but I signed up for a learn-to-knit class that starts on Tuesday that I'm really excited about. I want to get faster at it, and I'm especially pumped about the social aspect of it—hoping to meet other people my age who like to make things that actually live in my city.

  5. Wow. Your granny's got talent!!! That is a GORGEOUS throw/blanket :)


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