Diamonds are forever
Thursday September 25th 2008, 12:39 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Gram\'s old upright Kimball

Barbara-Kay’s comment sparked this one.  Growing up, I took piano lessons from Louise Kupelian, who required I come in twice a week, once with a piano partner and once to meet with a group, teaching under the Robert Pace method. (That last little bit in case any old students of hers come googling so I can wave hi to old friends.)  My mom used to do some grocery shopping at the nearby Safeway in Chevy Chase while she waited, or she would sit there and knit till I got out.  (Usually, anyway–one year, it was a needlepoint bench cover for my grandmother’s Steinway Grand.)  The lessons were far enough away that for her to go home in between meant she’d have to turn around the second she got there.  No point.  So.

Her father was a US Senator.  She wanted to knit him a sweater.  My grandfather did not dress casually, and his reaction was that a bit of warmth would be nice, but it couldn’t be anything outdoorsy; it needed to be very formal-looking, something he could wear in the hallways of Congress and that he could throw his suitcoat over as needed.

A few years ago, I was mentioning that project to her: with her busy household and six children, it had taken her a year to finish.  I remember those size 2 needles and the needlepoint yarn she’d had to buy 30+ skeins’ worth to get a fine enough yarn to work with.

What surprised me was Mom exclaiming, all those years later, with me remembering and her not, “Size two needles?! I must have been out of my mind!”  And maybe that’s why I remember the details; she wasn’t so sure she wasn’t out of her mind back then, either, and carefully explained to me at the time why she was using the needles and yarn she was and why it would mean so much to her dad.  And it did.

She knitted Grampa an all-over single-stitch-wide Aran diamond pattern, a monochrome argyle effect in a subdued sage green.

And all that time and all those piano lessons and all those evenings I saw her working on that gorgeous pattern, allowing love to become visible and tangible, I very much wanted a sweater like that too.  The great act of maternal love beyond my understanding at the time was that, with a heavy sigh, she actually did.  She knitted me one too when she got done with his. After having plugged steadily away at that same pattern for a YEAR.  She let me pick out the color and then made it in worsted-weight acrylic so it would go much faster and, I was in heaven, she put a zipper in the front so I could be in style just to top it all off.  With a big brassy triangle zipper pull, not just some plain old thing. I loved it.

Grampa took care of and wore his wool diamond sweater for the rest of his life.  He retired from his seat in his 70’s and died at 95. And that’s one of the reasons I love working with animal fibers: no cotton sweater is going to look great 30 years out, but wool can.

Mine, I wore until the sleeves barely covered my elbows and Mom was embarrassed to let me be seen in public with it.  That was MINE.  *I’d* picked out the pattern, *I’d* picked the color, my MOM made it just for ME, that was MINE.

She finally hid it, to my distress.   So.  We were doing this reminiscing a few years ago, and I asked her whatever had happened to it; it would have been nice to somehow be able to show it to my own kids.  She didn’t remember.  She assured me, “I would only have given it to someone who appreciated what went into it.”  True, but… I don’t think anyone could quite love it as dearly as I did back in the day.  My mom made me that and nobody else had one but me.  And Grampa.

Of my parents’ six children and their four daughters, I’m the only one who knits.  I wonder now if how thrilled I was at Mom’s unselfishness, eagerly watching Grampa’s sweater and then mine coming slowly to be, helped nudge me in that direction.  I quite think so.

14 Comments so far
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I love reading about the wonderful sweaters your mom knit.

Comment by sonya 09.25.08 @ 1:28 pm

What a sweet story. I’m sure your mother’s love is instilled in you in many ways. Knitting is just one of the ways you share your care for others.

Comment by Ruth 09.25.08 @ 3:12 pm

If they were making a movie of your Grandfather in the senate, they would cast Mr. Rogers.

What a wonderful legacy!

Comment by Barbara-Kay 09.25.08 @ 3:29 pm

I definitely think so. What a wonderful story! As a mom, I can understand why she knitted you that sweater — it’s the same look on my girls’ faces that keeps me knitting them socks, even though they grow out of them.

Comment by Jocelyn 09.25.08 @ 7:39 pm

I’ve nominated your blog for an award. See my Friday blog post!

Comment by Barbara-Kay 09.26.08 @ 2:37 am

What a great story!

Comment by Toni 09.26.08 @ 5:00 am

my husband didn’t want to wear hand-knit socks today because “i dont want them to wear out so fast and you have to knit me more.” i told him i would love nothing more than to knit him socks for the rest of my life. and it’s true.

Comment by Tola 09.26.08 @ 5:34 am

No words, just a happy sigh.
Thanks for a good Friday start :-}

Comment by Diana Troldahl 09.26.08 @ 5:51 am

Great story! And lovely that the knitting has been passed down. I often think of my mom and grandmother (both knitters) when I knit.

Comment by RobinH 09.26.08 @ 6:15 am

I come from a long, long line of knitters. I know that my love of knitting started some time before I was 3 years old. I loved to sit quietly at the elbow of my mother or grandmother just watching them form the stitches over and over. Knitting seemed peaceful and magical then, and it still does.

I’ve passed the knowledge on to my own daughter. Last night at our local knit night I taught a lace blocking demonstration and for the demo I proudly used a lace stole that my daughter had just finished knitting.

Comment by Marlene 09.26.08 @ 7:59 am

What a great story. I was hoping the sweater was going to be pulled from an attic and presented to you, but sharing the love with someone else is perhaps better.

Comment by Channon 09.26.08 @ 8:18 am

I am sure your story is probably the reason why you knit! Are there pictures? Size 2 needles…goodness, I’ve been working on a baby girl sweater with size 2 needles for two years (long breaks inbetween)and I feel like I’ll never get done.

Comment by Joansie 09.26.08 @ 4:34 pm

I totally agree, seeing that sort of unselfishness in my mum made me continue knitting and even teach myself to sew. They both seemed like such special things to do. I now do the same for my daughter, like when she volunteered me to sew the clothes for her classes Teddy Bear. How could I say now, my mother never did.

Comment by Vicki 09.26.08 @ 4:57 pm

What a blessing, a mother who cared and showed it.
A diamond indeed!
So sad for so many families today.

Comment by Toni Smoky-Mountains 09.29.08 @ 8:22 am

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