January 28, 2009

Mom's Needles

Today I needed some #4 double-pointed needles to finish the neck on a sweater, and then I needed a #13 circular needle for knitting a string bag. No problem—I had them at hand, along with about every size of regular needles and crochet hooks too. Pulling out this stash of needles floods me with memories of my mother. These are her needles, accumulated over a long life of knitting. My mother always had something on her needles, alongside other projects she did over the years: macramé, beading (flowers, necklaces, earrings), rug hooking, needlepoint (including the chair backs and seats above). Those projects came and went, but knitting was constant. I don't know what she made with the teensy crochet hooks—perhaps doilies that were around the house, made earlier in life than I knew her. Or maybe she inherited them from her mother, Annie Schine, as I have inherited them from her.

My mother made sweaters and afghans for the whole family; later on there were babies to make gifts for—not just her own grandchildren, but all through the family, and friends' too. The basic baby gift was a toddler sweater, with the child's name knitted in or embroidered onto the back, with a stripe on the sleeve and a number representing the child's order in the family. If my mother had been invited to the wedding—a convenient marker of closeness of relationship—then my mother would knit a Scottish lace baby blanket for the newborn, a thing of beauty that could also double as a shawl for the new mom.

When I was in my mid 30s, accepting infertility and the unlikelihood I would have children, I asked if my mom could knit one of the baby blankets for me, so I could use it for a shawl. She did, and as life turned out, I could use it for our adopted son a few years later.

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