Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Family treasures

More than 30 years ago the announcement that JTH and I were going to have our first baby sent both expectant grans into a knitting frenzy.  My mother (granny) to knitting practical, easily washable, matinee jackets (does anyone these days know what one of these things are??) and my mother-in-law (grandma) to make one of her specialty shetland ring shawls.  MIL had been making these for friends' daughters for years, at last one to knit for her own grandchild.

No 1 child duly arrived (a bit late setting the pattern for a lifetime) on 13th March 1981 and, like her sister and two brothers that followed, was wrapped cosily in grandma's shawl for the first four months of her life.  The shawl was not easy care but ,when you treasure something that has been so lovingly knitted and that has swaddled your darling babies from their first days, the care an attention of hand washing and drying flat on the spare bed with all its pointy bits pinned out straight, it is a labour of love.  Following MIL's instructions, when it was no longer needed I washed it and wrapped it in black acid free tissue, storing it carefully in a moth proof bag.

It is possible to see from this close up that the yarn (ultra cobweb from Jamiesons ) has felted a little but the shawl is in very good heart and can still show off a little.

About five years ago, MIL handed me two tissue paper wrapped parcels.  A pair of identical white shawls knitted in 'her' pattern for my two daughters.  She said she didn't think she would live to see the girls have babies but she wanted them to have shawls.  At the time babies seemed a pretty distant prospect for either girl so I kept the shawls secretly with my own treasure.  Sadly MIL was right she did not live very long after she made the shawls.  But in June 2009 a beautiful baby girl arrived in our family and her proud mummy (no1 daughter) and daddy carried her out of hospital (this time in a car safety seat - no more moses baskets on the back seat of the car) wrapped in the shawl knitted by great grandma.  The second shawl is waiting...

In an earlier post I mentioned being custodian of much of MIL's work basket, it was there that I found the pattern.

It is a bit too early to think of knitting for my great-grandchildren and for the time being the grandchildren are well provided for by the kindness of MIL.  So I thought I would see what a shawl would look like knitted in grown-up colours using a different kind of yarn all together, Rowan kidsilk.  It's quite fiddly to begin with knitting with such light, fine, fluffy yarn on relatively large needles (4mm) but once there is a little weight on the needles the centre panel knits up quite quickly.

Its amazing how quickly one learns a lace pattern like this, the first two or so rows I needed to keep my eyes glued to the needles AND the pattern!  But I surprised myself by learning the different stitches, even recognising what I should knit by looking at the row below (except I confess at night when the darkest section was a bit tricky!)

I admit that when worn over my shoulders on a winter's evening, knitting in a drafty corner of our sitting room, I really do look a bit of a granny!  But tied carefully around my neck its a different thing altogether.  And one chilly summer's evening in the garden last year when my granddaughter fell asleep on my lap it kept us both warm.


kristina said...

Oh they are all so beautiful--the traditional shawls and your own more modern take (and the story behind them). Sadly I still haven't mastered Kidsilk Haze--I just end up in a tangle!

K x

Anonymous said...

I must photograph my shawl. I finished it a couple of weeks ago, it's knitted in Jamieson & Smith 2ply laceweight in a natural grey.

I hosted a non-knitting friend this week as she was having a bit of trouble at home. Shawls are meant for comfort and she grabbed it as soon as she was inside - however then she stretched it out with her feet! I sat there wincing inside even as I knew the shawl would be ok... she wants me to knit one for a friend of hers who is having a baby (I don't think I'll remind her of that)

Jayne said...

The shawl is beautiful, and yours gives it a modern twist, I love your photograghy, good colours. I also inherited my mother-in-law's knitting needles and knitting bag, it's lovely to see things continue over the generations. My eldest son (mow 27) had two lovely shawls knitted for him, I really wish I had kept them, living abroad meant parting with things I now regret.

Brooke said...

That is beautiful, and the story of your MIL's shawls are wonderful. I'm so glad you have such treasures, and that they're serving your family well. :)

raining sheep said...

Oh my goodness, I so enjoyed reading your story and even got a little teary eyed. What a beautiful legacy to be gifted with. I certainly love your grown-up shawl as well, and obviously I would call it 'granny chic'.

Julie Caves said...

What beautiful colours in the new shawl!
You write beautifully, what a lovely story.
Thanks. :)

Denise said...

I love those shawls, just gorgeous. And yes, I well remember matinee jackets, along with little booties and hats to match, it's what I was taught to knit first all those many years ago (once I got past the holey scarves!!) ;-)

Catherine said...

Thank you every one who has lingered here and left a comment. It is so so encouraging to ready that you enjoy what I write. Sara I look forward to seeing a photograph of your shawl.

Kristina - I agree Kidsilk Haze is very tangly - I thik you have to be very firm with it but also accept there will be some mistakes as some gets hidden by the fluffiness.

x C

amanda said...

What a fantastic blog you have here! I love, love, love the shawls - especially your coloured version!