Tuesday, 29 March 2016

knitting for love

For a long time I felt like the line from T.S Eliot:  "I have measured out my life in coffee spoons".  When I was a student and a young mother coffee played a big role in keeping me awake.  When I was working away from home my life seemed to be measured out in train journeys, whizzing away at the beginning of the week, whizzing  back at the end.  For the last three or four years the focus has been very much on elderly parents and for the last couple of years the measure has been weekly motorway journeys, six hundred mile round trips, the weeks chopped up into going to Devon, being in Devon, recovering from being in Devon and a squished up ordinary life.  I am still getting used to life without that tempo and without my father and mother, for somehow looking after my Dad seemed to obscure the fact that my mother had gone.  So the new shape of life is taking a while to settle itself around my shoulders.  But as I knitted and puzzled my way through a new baby surprise jacket last night I realised that there was a longer term mode of measurement which had been happening quietly while the big things in life, the deaths and the births, had exploded in the foreground.  This is the measure in garments knitted for the grandchildren, easy to forget as they grow and change before your eyes.  I was reminded of it yesterday when facetiming younger son and his family and seeing the baby smiling at me dressed in a stripy top I knitted for her sister.


I don't have photos of everything I have knitted (mistake!) but here we go.  This is the first ever version of the Baby Surprise Jacket pattern by Elizabeth Zimmermann that I knitted.  The surprise is that the pattern knits up into a rather wavy rectangle looking nothing like a garment of any kind and somehow at the end converts into a jacket.  This was knitted for grandchild number three, a little girl now two and a half.  I made it before she was born.  Her parents didn't want to know beforehand whether they would have a boy or a girl so this was my attempt at something reasonably unisex.  I loved doing this pattern.  It was complicated enough to need real attention and unusual enough to keep me guessing without needing the total focus of the fairisle gloves which I have recently got stuck on.




 This little jacket was knitted for number four grandchild, a little boy now nineteen months old.  He wore it a lot and always looked delightful in it.  This is a Debbie Bliss pattern from one of her baby knit books.   I have made a number of them and they always work really well.  I love the ones with a slightly retro feel to them.  It might be time to find another pattern for him!



Here he is demonstrating how long the jacket fitted and how good it was as swing wear.



 Not everyone gets clothes.  Grandchild number two, a boy now six, can't wear wool and is not a boy for jumpers.  He however made a special request for a flying pig.  Naturally as he lives in Wales it was necessary for the wings to be dragon's wings.  Oldest grandson doesn't tend to wear knitted things either as they rarely feature in the sportswear which he favours.  He is ten now and perhaps a bit old for knitted pigs!  I must ask him.


And I must admit that knitting for babies is particularly pleasurable.  It grows so quickly for one thing.  This pattern is called Gidday Baby and has become one of my staples for small babies.  It is knitted on circular needles and changes quite dramatically depending on what you do with colours and striping, or not.  Below it is modelled angelically and sleepily by grandchild number five, now six months old but about three weeks old here.


 Here is the same pattern in a slightly larger size for grandchild number six, another little girl.


  I think I might have just missed getting any photos of her wearing it.  Here she is at about three weeks old, pensive on Ian's knee.


And of course sometimes you just get carried away and find yourself making slippers.  These were for the granddaughter whose jacket started the blog, now a lively and delightful two and a half year old.  Here she is last year at not quite two.


They are a funny way of marking time, these projects.  Some of them, like the slippers, take only a few days from thinking to finishing.  Some take several weeks.  But they show in a very tangible and practical way how life goes on.  I am glad I returned to knitting after years away from it when it was just too slow and I had no domestic energy to spare.  It is nice to have something emerge from  under your fingers and when you make these things and give them away they take your love with them.

46 comments:

  1. Elizabeth, you've set me to thinking about all sorts of ways that we find to measure time. I expect that each of us has our own particular ways of counting, which change over and over as our lives evolve.

    I loved seeing all the knits you've made for your adorable grandchildren. One of my dear friends will have her first child late this summer, and I've begun thinking about what I'll be knitting for her. Thank you for lots of inspiration!

    xo

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    1. And you are such a beautiful knitter Frances that what you make will be an heirloom. Lucky child!

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  2. I am still at the stage of measuring time in trips to the care home, dinners made and served to generations on both sides of me, trips for work and trips to Edmonton. As I read your post I realised that I have a project with me at all times - knitting or stitching and there is quite a basket-full of bits and pieces that need framing or blocking or finishing - indeed, I spent Saturday evening weaving in the end of a striped Hudson Bay-style blanket. I like this was of measuring time - and I really like the last jacket.

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    1. Interesting that you have a project with you all the time. There is something almost meditative about working with one's hands and perhaps particularly now something meditative is what you need.

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  3. Yes I have thought of this too. My own mother died 5 years ago after years of care by me and she missed the arrival of her grandchildren by a year which was sad. Now there are 4, all girls, and I started some serious knitting which has gone from older to younger. I love that Surprise jacket and made several of them, although I used Drops b18-25, which is similar I did try another one last year but couldn't quite work out the pattern this time (old age) so I used another TNT pattern Seamless yoked baby sweater by Carole Barenys.

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    1. Must have a look at your recommendations. I admit that the baby surprise jacket can make my head spin. Overthinking seems to be the problem. Doing it and taking care but going with the flow is what works. In life as in knitting I suspect.

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  4. Oh my goodness. Such sweet treasures you have knitted and the littles that are wearing them are adorable! That piggy, too cute!

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    1. Glad you like the pig! He was a bit of a one off.

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  5. What a delight and a joy to read this post! :-) :-) :-)

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    1. Thank you. I wondered when I was writing it whether it was too practical and yet also somehow too personal to be of interest to anyone else. I am glad you liked it.

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  6. What a lovely selection of grandchildren, and what wonderful things your clever fingers have created for them. You've left me feeling very curious about the fact that I don't know how I go about measuring time at the moment. In websites, perhaps, or the garden, but mostly I am just regularly astounded at how long ago various things happened, at how much time has passed.

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    1. Yes to being astounded. But we need markers of the passage of time don't we otherwise everthing disappears into the stream. Yours must surely be the garden.

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  7. I love everything about this post, the beautiful sweaters, slippers, knitted pig and grandchildren. What touched me most was you last sentence, "It is nice to see these things emerge from your fingers and when you make these things and give them away, they take your love with them." Those words are so lovely.

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    1. Thank you. It is odd that this is simply a statement of fact. It sounds almost sentimental but it just is so.

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  8. I have four grandchildren and started knitting again when the first one was born. I really enjoyed knitting those little garments. The youngest is eight now and I don't knit for them now as they don't want knitted things anymore. It was a lovely time though doing all that knitting, I don't get the same enjoyment from knitting for myself.

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    1. It is a very particular pleasure, knitting for small children. I am not quite sure why. The closest resemblance for me is cooking for a group of family or friends. The same sense of sharing.

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  9. You've made me want to knit. No grandchildren but many orphan lambs that need a warm. I often pick up baby sweaters for them at the charity shop! Love your writing; your thoughts are kind.

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    1. I love the idea of charity shop jumpers for lambs! The coolest use of charity shops ever.

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  10. I love that T S Eliot line too. You have made some lovely things for your grandchildren over the years and they must feel very loved by you as a result. When my own three were little I knitted cardigans, jumpers and toys for them - perhaps in years to come I'll knit for grandchildren too. I'm glad you're finding time to yourself again.
    Cathy x

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    1. It's very satisfying, oddly really when you think what a short amount of time babies wear the clothes for!

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  11. If you are looking for more easy and quick baby designs, find some free patterns here
    https://knitsfromtheowlunderground.wordpress.com/
    and
    http://mariannaslazydaisydays.blogspot.com/

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  12. I love the colours you're blending for each new grandchild's jacket . More than just something lovely to keep them warm , it becomes an expression of who you think they might become .

    I , though , measured time with The Annual Scarf . Then I retired and , in theory , had l-o-a-d-s of time ...
    What I'm doing with it , Heaven knows .

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    1. Ah yes. I do identify with the astonishment about where time goes!

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  13. I love your writing, opens up ideas and memories of my own. Lovely baby knitting.

    XO
    WWW

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  14. A delightful post! I think we still have a chance of one more grandhilld, and I've always wanted to knit up a Baby Surprise -- certainly I have the leftover yarns for it! This year, knowing we have two big moves to get through, I've stuck to a socks-only knitting policy, but I have a few projects in mind for the grandkids. Meanwhile, it's fun to watch a dress I knit for one show up on her little cousin, and a pair of "rainbow pants" I knit for that same older one, far too long last year, are just her size now and have become the lounging gear of preference. I hadn't really thought of the knitted garments as measuring time, but you're absolutely right and it's inspiring me to think of a new project. . .

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    1. Oh yes. I do like to see the garments reappear. That's a particular pleasure!

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  15. Knitting is so therapeutic. I always particularly loved the hand knitted clothes I had for my own babies and still cherish some of them for the next generation, which hasn't actually materialised just yet.

    It takes quite a while to begin to absorb the loss of parents once the pressure is finally off. In many ways, it's easier to be running around looking after them than learning to live without them, I think.

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    1. I think the only thing to do is to let time pass Marianne. As it does!

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  16. Hi Elizabeth. I couldn't find your email address on your profile. If you'd like to leave it in comments on my blog I'll note it down but won't publish it. CT xx

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  17. When my olderst son was a baby, and a toddler, my mum knitted him many little cardigans, always the same pattern, quite a chunky style that really suited him. His young months and years were truly measured in hand knits X

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    1. It's funny how vivid the images can be. I can see that chunky hand knit in my mind's eye.

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  18. I made that exact same Zimmerman jacket for my first son. I am knitting for grand daughter now, something big enough for when she goes to New York for a year. Like you said, sending my love with her.How well you put things.

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    1. I like the idea of your hand knit on tour in new York!

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  19. for the no wool child (I couldn't wear scratchy wool, makes me itch just thinking about it!)
    I learnt to love knitting in all the other natural fibres.
    Cotton, linen, silk - and now bamboo since I last knitted.

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    1. Maybe my non wool grandson would be up for a cotton or bamboo jumper Diana! Must consult.

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  20. I've got a box in the attic of hand-knitted jumpers and cardigans that my mother knitted for her grandchildren. I'm hoping that moth hasn't eaten the wool as there is no way I will ever be as accomplished as my mother and maybe one day they will be reused. Is that allowed? Grandchildren seem to grow up so fast in Blogland.

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    1. Grandchildren just do grow fast, wherever they are! I think reusing the garments is a very good idea.

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  21. I was very keen on knitting for only a short window of time many years ago, but I remember with a certain amount of pride the two garments I did complete. The first was a huge, thick, oversized jumper made of Lopi wool for my husband, who was living in far upstate New York (near the Candian border) at the time in an ancient house with no insulation that was heated only by a wood stove. The second was jumper for my then-very-small niece (now almost 30) that took me forever to make - especially the !@#$%^ collar and sleeves. I should add that I was especially proud of them because I taught myself to knit on my own by following diagrams in books. It wasn't until much later that I learned I'd been doing the knit stitch backwards somehow (wrapping the wool the wrong way or something - my knitting friends were flummoxed) and had to learn all over again how to do it properly. I am amazed at your finished garments - nothing I've ever knit has looked so flawless! But yes - a lovely way to mark the time. x

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    1. Sounds as if you jumped right in with some challenging stuff! None of this starting gently with hats and scarves. I had a very long period between twenty and fifty five when I didn't knit at all. You never know you might come back to it!

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  22. A lovely blog and beautiful knitting. Although I come from a family of knitters, I've never picked up the needles myself, mainly because I was left handed and it seems it was too difficult to teach me, hmmmmmmmmm. I am creative in other ways though so I can live with it. I do admire some one that has the patience to produce beautiful items like these :)

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    1. Interesting. I would not know how to start to teach a left handed person to knit. I'm sure it must be possible though. Your gardening demonstrates your creativity in another form.

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  23. What a wonderful blog post! I am a knitter, too, and find that my projects, knit with love, are a way of keeping track of time, or perhaps a way of capturing a special moment in time!

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    1. That is exactly it. I have a crocheted blanket which reflects the time I first had the shepherds hut. Making things ties time down somehow.

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