Posted by: christinelaennec | July 7, 2012

My grandmother’s knitting

One of my Christmas presents this year (thank you Michael!) was a beautiful book, My Grandmother’s Knitting:  Family Stories and Inspired Knits by Top Designers, by Larissa Brown.   I really enjoyed reading other people’s memories of their grandmothers’ (and some grandfathers’) creations, and it is also very interesting to see the designs that were inspired by their memories.

My Grandmother’s Knitting – part of my Christmas haul.

My grandmother Amy, like so many women of her time, was a very accomplished knitter (and seamstress).  I’ve posted about how the embroidered message on her handmade dolls made me cry when I rediscovered it many years later.  And I’ve written about how very much she meant to me.   She and my mother taught me how to knit and sew, and creating clothes soon became a very important part of my life.  Reading My Grandmother’s Knitting made me wonder specifically about my Granny’s knitting.  Like so much else about her, I took it completely for granted at the time.  Here is a photo of her wearing a beautiful cardigan that I’m sure she knitted herself:

My Grampa, my Granny, and a young friend. Rhododendron Gardens, Portland, Oregon, summer 1981.

A closer view for knitting afficionados:

Grampa, Granny and young friends, Rhododendron Gardens, summer 1981.

No doubt the cardigan she has on in the below photo was made by her:

My sister and I with our grandparents, Christmas 1982.

I visited her the following May, but I didn’t have a camera and so the above photo is the last that I have of her.  Luckily I have a great treasure store of clear memories.  And I also have this cardigan, which my mother told me was the last thing that Granny knitted:

Me in the last sweater my Granny ever knit.

I have worn this cardigan very often over the past twenty-five years or so – it’s such a classic and it goes with everything.  But the cuffs are beginning to fray, and there are places around the shoulder seams that I can no longer easily mend.

I think it’s time to retire this cardigan and create one like it.  I’ll be sad to lose regular contact with something that her hands made – I do believe things have memories and there’s a certain kind of energy to something hand-made by someone we love.  But I know she would be pleased if I re-created her cardigan.  It would be “from” her.

If you’re interested to read about the influence of another knitting grandmother, Asplund, the virtuoso Swedish knitter, has posted about the knitting legacy of his own grandmother here.  Thank you, Granny, for creating so many beautiful things, and for expressing your love for us through your sewing and knitting.



  1. I can imagine how sad it is to think of retiring your lovely cardigan, but it’s a great idea to recreate it yourself, I think that would be an excellent way of carrying on the memory of it and keeping your Granny with you, I’m sure she’d be very pleased to know that you treasured it as much as you do. It reminds me of a mustard-coloured knitted waistcoat with brown leather buttons I used to have of my Grandad’s. My grandmother was also a great knitter, although sadly I didn’t inherit her skill, and I wore that waistcoat for a while after my Grandad died.

  2. How wonderful that you have worn this precious garment for so many years, and what a lovely idea to re-create it! I received the same book as you for my birthday this year, it’s lovely, isn’t it? 🙂 I’d love to make the jumper on the front cover, but the sleeves require dp needles. Yikes! I can’t wait to see your cardigan in the making. xx

  3. Thank you for sharing this lovely story of your granny, her dolls and her sweater.

  4. I may have shared this before but you are so immensely blessed (which you already know) to have known your grandparents! Daddy’s parents died before I was born and Mama’s parents when I was quite small. Maybe that’s why I love being a grandparent so very much – I never knew one. How wonderful that you have those amazing memories…

  5. your green cardy is so beautiful with all the cables and so on. I’ve never mastered cables and generally tend to knit quite simply. when I was growing up, so many people knitted including my mum and her mum. I remember learning how to knit in school and I’m happy to hear that others are still knitting. I was also interested in the cd you got and I googled the fella. Is he the royal wedding composer who did the music for Prince William and Kate?

    • ajb, I forgot to answer your question about Paul Mealor. He’s a professor of composition at Aberdeen University, and yes Will and Kate commissioned him to write Ubi Caritas for their wedding. I went to a talk by him about the composition of the piece, which was a re-setting of a piece he’d written to a Tennyson poem. He said that Prince William phoned him at work, saying, “This is William Wales.” Paul said, “I don’t know anyone named William Wales.” Answer: “I’m also known as the Prince of Wales.” Paul said he presumed that his head of department was winding him up, but played along just in case!

  6. I think it’s lovely to have the cardigan and memories from you grandma and to recycle it seems so appropriate. The book sounds great too. My sister is the knitter I sew. I have happy memories of little scraps of fabric my grandmother would give me as she worked at Courtaulds for many years. An old family business that faded into acquisitions and Asia.

    Lil Bit Brit

  7. What a lovely story of your granny. How nice having the cardigan and many happy memories. 🙂
    Have a happy Sunday.

  8. Thank you for sharing this lovely story..don’t you just love that book? I keep it by the side of my bed all the time to dip in and out of xx

  9. A precious piece of knitting handed down is the best gift of all, especially if you are a knitter yourself and know the love that went into every stitch. How special that you have the photos of your Grandparents to go with the knitting. But it is the memories that are the best gift of all. I do hope you show us if you recreate the sweater. It is very lovely.

  10. Oh this post was so touching. The photos of your Granny are beautiful.
    My grandmother and grandfather were both knitters! My Mother says my Granny never knitted a single thing till she new she was expecting my Mother. In nine months she had knitted a years worth of baby clothes!
    My grandfather knitted my crib blankets, one of which is still in good enough condition for Nola!
    I love knitting stories and stories about how people have been inspired to begin knitting. I know my grandparents were an inspiration for me!
    How wonderful that something so carefully and lovingly made has brought pleasure and use for so many years,

  11. This is such a wonderful story, especially the “I love you!” Raggedy Ann message. It really struck a chord, because I’m knitting some very simple things for my granddaughter, and I hope she’ll always know how much I love her.

  12. Dear All,

    Thanks so much for your kind comments. When I come to recreate Granny’s cardigan, I will show you some photos (assuming I don’t fail completely!).

    Lorna – I love the story about the mustard waistcoat that belonged to your grandfather. I do believe that things can carry a kind of energy imprint.

    Tina – you can almost certainly do the sleeves of that pattern flat if you want and not on dpns. Yes, it is a lovely book.

    Marjorie – thank you for appreciating them!

    Dianne – you’re right, I am very lucky to have known my grandparents, and to have had such wonderful grandparents as them.

    ajb – cables aren’t that tricky as long as you have a cable needle. What I’m worried about is the bobbly stitch on the side panels.

    Christy – I used to sew more than I knitted; now it’s the opposite, but perhaps I’ll have a little more time to sew in the future. Both are great things to do – and embroidery, of course… Not enough hours in a day! How interesting that your grandmother worked for Courtaulds. I bet the scraps she brought home were pretty special!

    Kia – thank you!

    Heike – it really is a dreamy book!

    Karen – yes, those memories are the best. I’m trying to “keep them alive” by writing them down and telling them to my children.

    Suzy – how fanstastic to have a knitting grandfather as well, and a blanket from him. My Michael used to knit but hasn’t for many years. I should see if he’d like to start again. Once I can cure him of workaholism ha ha!

    almostnothingbutmusic – I’m sure your granddaughter will know, and handmade things are a good way to keep sending that message. My Granny also ordered personalised woven labels that said things like “Made for you with love by Amy”. I’m pretty sure you could get the same today, if you wanted to incorporate a message in words.

  13. It’s lovely to have such a reminder of your Granny. My mother knitted me a number of items but they’re all gone. I do have one remnant though. I still have my childhood teddy-bear and he’s wearing an outfit (overalls and cape) that my mother knitted. I must take a photo and write a blog entry!
    It sounds like a very difficult task to “reverse engineer” the cardigan and create a new one just like it….but I’m saying that out of total ignorance and inexperience. i’m looking forward to reading about progress. Will you match the green or choose a different colour?

    • oldblack, you should definitely post about that teddy. I will try to match the green and recreate the cardigan as nearly as I can.

  14. What a lovely sweater filled with the memories of a special person. You’re so lucky to have that legacy in your family.

  15. I have an Aran jumper my granny knitted for me when I was 21 and its twin which my sister made for me 20 years later after deciphering the 1960s pattern it had been made from. My granny can’t see well enough to knit any more. What passed for ‘Aran’ yarn in 2006 was a lot thinner than the chunky stuff my first jumper was made of, but they both fit well! Next time (when I’m 60?!) I’ll have to ask for one in a more user-friendly colour than cream, which is too pale for something so loved and so often-worn!

    • How great that your sister recreated the jumper for you! It’s also interesting that ‘aran’ yarn had become slimmer. For the next incarnation, what about a soft grey if cream is too light?

      • I don’t know if soft grey will be too much like camouflage if I do get another one when I’m sixty-one!
        I do think it’s such a pity my granny hasn’t been able to knit for so long – it’s a gift!

  16. that cardigan is beautiful in its own right but even more with the story behind it. Have you found a suitable pattern to replace it or are you clever enough to figure one out for yourself?

    • Purlpower, I’m going to try to recreate the pattern – we’ll see if I’m clever enough to succeed or not!

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