My Nana knit blankets, my Grammie knit sweaters, my mother does those and more. I’ve thoroughly inherited my love of making with my hands. My earliest memory of fascination with colour and design is in a book my mother created with me when I was four years old. I would dictate sentences, she would write them in the book, and I would illustrate the page with colourful Flair markers. Ah, the magic of colour on a page to bring a story to life!
A few years later in my childhood, I sat and patiently learned to pull a loop through another loop, using a crochet hook and a skein of yarn. I remember the fascination of watching a chain grow from the end of the hook. And the further fascination as I learned to create a piece of fabric just by putting all those loops together in various patterns. The first “real” item I made was a simple sleeveless vest. It was the 1970s when granny squares were popular, but I think this off-white vest was made from simple chains formed into small squares, row upon row. I remember feeling so proud as I put it on; I MADE THIS piece of clothing! I next learned to crochet-in-the-round which led to granny squares. With five of those, I stitched together a hat and added a frilly trim around it, somewhat similar to this. I still love to crochet.
Who remembers toy sewing machines? We had a red metal one clamped to a board. It may have had one of those hand cranks, but I can’t remember. I have a memory of using it plus either striped or checked fabric to learn to machine-sew straight lines. Once I mastered that, my mother taught me to use her “big” machine, a turquoise 1960s Singer. That started me on the road to learning about sewing patterns, fabric layouts, choosing notions, and other technical details (a fact which I don’t think my high school sewing teacher appreciated, because I already knew all she had to teach in the first semester…besides, my best friend and I were more interested in watching for our crushes in their English class across the hallway…). And as you can see, I still LOVE sewing.
I also started to learn to knit as a child, but for some reason it didn’t stick. I tried again at some point during my first twenty years; same story. Adult life arrived, and I got busy. At age 32, I had just birthed my second of my two beloved children. My recovery was complicated, and my mother stayed with us for six weeks to help. Seeing me having difficulties (cesarean recovery plus wound infection, post-partum depression, etc.), she bought me a set of size 7 metal knitting needles and a skein of yarn. She cast on a row of stitches and taught me for the third time how to hold the needles and how to stitch a knit stitch. After I practiced that (between feedings, wound care, eating, sleeping, showers), she taught me how to do the purl stitch. I practiced, she left, and I dropped the Colleen-learns-to-knit project again. But soon I remembered my nearby mother-in-law also knits. So one day I asked her to watch me as I tried again. She guided me, too, and voila, I FINALLY STUCK WITH KNITTING! I’ve not knit big items, but I love knitting small items like mosaic dishcloths (and now socks!).
Stay tuned for the second part!