Saturday, May 7, 2016

Grandma's mittens

On April 23rd my family gathered at the cemetery to reunite my grandparents after 17 years apart. We chose their anniversary to do so. Both had been cremated and the boxes containing their ashes stood side by side, reminiscent of my grandparents. Grandma's ashes were in a small cherry wood box, significantly smaller than Grandpa's oak wood box. Along with them six roses and an old peanut butter jar from 1964 filled with rose petals from each year of their marriage to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Grandpa gave her 6 roses (one for each child) every year of their marriage (60 years), a tradition my mother would carry on after he passed away. 

The boxes containing their ashes and the jar of rose petals were placed in the ground and their children began to fill the hole. When it was nearly filled their grandchildren got on hands and knees and filled on the rest patting down the dirt and replacing the grass.

We returned to my family's home and looked at old photographs, laughing as we retold old stories and shared some new ones. At the end of the evening I asked everyone there to trace their hands. Grandma's mittens were ever present in our lives. There was always a pair available during the long cold New York winters, or if little girls were playing dress up and inexplicably needed a pair of mittens to complete their outfits. 
Grandma's notebooks were filled with tracings of kids hands which she used to size the mittens, and there always seemed to be a pair in progress on her favorite hook.

This project is my version of a memorial to her. With what she taught me I hope to remind my family of a love which, though it may not have been conspicuous was perennial.

My grandmother had six children, 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. I have quite a few mittens to make before we get together again in about six months. It will just about be mitten season by then.

If you would like to share the love with your family you can download the pattern here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

You might say I had a wild hare

This bunny blanket beckoned to me from a bag a fuzzy discounted yarn purchased at a bin sale. It's cuddly cuteness factor is off the chart, if I do say so myself. I made it for fun, with no one in mind. I've been told by the recipients and fellow baby shower goers that I should sell these on Etsy. Maybe if I make enough... Or maybe more commissions...

Saturday, March 12, 2016


After finishing this hooded dragonfly baby blanket I couldn't help but imagine all of the improvements that could have been made. But the woman who commissioned it was delighted, so I guess I am content.

I did try to record the pattern, and did manage to get as far as the leaf before giving up in order to finish on time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Working on commissions

love a commission because it gives me an idea to work off of. Sometimes it is a specific request, like make my kid a rainbow Halloween costume.
Or maybe it is more vague, like - the Deputy Director of the museum is going to be a father can you make something for his new daughter? 
Incidentally the museum was about to open a Monet exhibition at the time.

Other times it is a specific request that inspires even more, like a request for a simple pillow of the Twin Peaks mountains that lead to a log to keep your secrets in.

I'm nearly finished with yet another commission, which I hope to share here soon. I was given a specific theme, which is both helpful and challenging. After that I will begin on another, this one is more vague of a request- in fact the request was "whatever you have lying around" but where is the fun in that? 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Thank you, Grandma

My grandmother passed away at the age of 99 in her own room on the day after Christmas surrounded by family and so much love. Her passing had been incremental. Over many years we lost little bits of her, aging is a cruel and merciless process. Even so, Grandma always maintained a bit of herself and would shine through for a moment which caused both joy and sorrow as we were all reminded of the formidable woman that she had always been.

Grandma was the matriarch. She had five sons and my mother. Each boy (save for one who is gay) married a woman not unlike my grandmother - strong-willed, intelligent, and powerful. I suspect that we saw less of our aunts because they were all of those things, and that made it difficult when they were with her. We did see our uncles quite a bit, because they adored their mother. She was called Shorty by one (which was fair enough, as she couldn't have been much more than 4 feet tall. We all towered over her, even as children.) Another called every Sunday, which she looked forward to. For so many years she kept a notebook of the weeks events by her chair to share with him. When he came out of the closet - when he was well into his later adulthood my grandmother sat next to him, rubbing his back and simply said, "We knew." It was ok, she was always ok with the people that we were. She kept a gift from my uncles long time partner in her bedroom, right up to her death. When my mother asked if she could get rid of it my grandmother was indignant, "No, Andrew gave me that." Andrew had passed away in 1989.

Grandma saved things. As we began to look through her possessions after her passing we found notes in just about every knick knack. They told of who gave it to her, or how much she paid for, and when it came into her possession. She had items from the early 19th century from family who had first settled in the same town we all lived in. Every piece of glassware and furniture told a story of eight generations of our family. Her home was a place filled with art painted by my great grandmother and my uncle, and furniture designed and built by my great grandfather (a man she always called Daddy). Creativity was valued and encouraged. She taught me to crochet. She and I made my prom dress together. I enjoyed spending time with her, even if we just sat silently together.

When I was a teenager or young adult I asked her if she had any silver to polish. I very much enjoy polishing silver, but I also wanted to spend time with her. Both were a little like unearthing treasure. I recalled this as I helped to clean out a cupboard for my family and held the silver tea set I had polished all those years ago. "She would want you to have that," my mother told me, "she always talked about how you would come over to polish her silver." I am glad I did. I will think of her every time I polish that silver, just as I think of her every time I pick up a crochet hook.

For years at the end of a visit home I would hug her and say, "I will see you later, Grandma." Near the end I would say it thinking that maybe, through some sort of magical thinking it would keep her alive until I could come back again. So on the day after Christmas as the undertaker waited in the other room and we said our final good-byes I leaned down and gave my grandmother one last hug, and said, "I'll tell you what I always tell you, I will see you later, Grandma." And I will, in my own idiosyncrasies born of her, in her hand writing as I follow her patterns, in the paintings and knick knacks I took home from her collection, in the craft books she let me have, and in the memories that sneak up and make me smile, and fill my eyes with tears. I will see her.