Purls of wisdom
Amy Lavelle’s latest tale of vintage knitting evokes loving memories of her favourite knitting teachers
Amy Lavelle and her knitting teachers
Does every knitter have another knitter (a better one) in their life they aspire to be like? I’m sure I can’t be the only one. The very accomplished probably don’t, of course, but I’ll never be one of them. For me, that knitter was my grandma. (There’s also my aunt, the neighbour that gave me a refresher course in my teens and my friend Emily, who’s good at everything, but particularly whizzy with a pair of needles. All right, so there are loads. but let’s go back to my grandma…)
CONNECTIONS TO MY PAST
There’s a particular knitted item I think of when I think of her and that’s a lacy blue shawl. It was light and soft and wrapped both me and my toys. I’ve mentioned before the connection I have found to my family and my past by through trawling through vintage knitting patterns and my latest creation is no exception, because it’s this shawl that I have in mind when I begin looking for my new project. The one that I’m planning on making is slightly more dignified, more grown-up and much chunkier than the one I used to wrap my toys in, but it’s still a shawl.
I find the perfect pattern in an issue of Star
Stole Book, Number 133, dating back to the 1950s or 60s. There it is, draped across the model’s shoulders, evoking all the glamour of that era. It’s the perfect evening wear wrap. I instantly ruin it by forgoing that look entirely. Instead, I’ve chosen to make it in a yarn thick enough to keep Bigfoot warm, so it will work well wrapped around a coat. I probably can’t expect quite the same level of warmth, comfort and love I felt when wrapped in grandma’s lacy blue shawl, but that probably has a lot more to do with childhood and a grandmother’s kindness than decent yarn. But since I have found a particularly chunky yarn, hopefully it will come just a little bit close.
Once I get started, the entire project feels meant to be. I make it while visiting my in-laws, sitting in their Cornish farmhouse, eyeing up their sheep through the window. I am lost in my cable knit, my favourite knitting style. For once, it all goes entirely seamlessly and doesn’t require me ripping apart all my stitches when I inexplicably find I’ve gone wrong somewhere, which is how my projects usually begin. Or so I think, until I realise (roughly 24 rows in) that I haven’t accounted for the fact that the yarn I’m knitting in is much thicker than the one called for in the pattern, and what I’m making is actually a blanket that could cover a family of four!
Reluctantly, I start again. Then I realise I’ve forgotten my cable needle and have to use a section of old pipe in its place, followed by a chopstick. But somehow, I manage to pull it o and finally, my shawl is made. In the spirit of grandma, I consider giving it to a friend. Then I realise I really like it too much for gift giving and keep it for myself. I mean, what can I say? I aspire to be like grandma but I’m not there yet (in more ways than one). Look out for more vintage knitting adventures from Amy in future issues of
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