And so, it was Mother's Day again. It's not usually a big day in our house...because I'm not really a "celebrate me" kind of gal. But it's a nice day. My husband and kids tell me they love me and wish me a happy day. This year I got texts all day long from a string of teenagers who don't belong to me biologically but allow me to be Mama Wenig to them. It was a nice day.
In church, the pastor asked us to reflect on important women in our lives and to share what they had given us. While I didn't share out loud at that moment, I did reflect. And as I was knitting a sock at the time, my thoughts tended toward how the women in my life had shared craft with me.
It starts with my Grandma Alvy, the grandmother for whom my daughter Josie is named. I spent a lot of time in the summers with my Grandma Alvy. She would get up early and cram all her farm chores and household chores into a few hours so that the afternoons were ours. While she was working and it was still cool outside, I would be running free and playing on the farm. But when afternoon hit, Grandma and I were inside. And a lot of that inside time was crafting time. Grandma taught me first how to make potholders. She had an old metal loom, much different from the plastic looms we find now at Hobby Lobby....this was old, green, sturdy metal. My dad eventually secured it to a piece of wood and covered the bottom of the wood with carpet to make it a little more comfortable to use. I spent hours making those not-so-useful potholders. When I ran out of the colorful loops of nylon Grandma had for me, she'd cut up Grandpa's dress socks and I made potholders out of those. (I guess that's Grandpa's contribution to craft....). After potholders came embroidery. I remember vividly making the trip "in to town" to visit the Ben Franklin store and choose my preprinted embroidery fabric and choose the colored floss I would use. I think the first piece I finished was a squirrel under a tree. I remember struggling with French Knots and loving the stitch that looked like a flower petal. When I was done, Grandma made it into a pillow for me. The next summer I moved from embroidery to latch hook. I was in love with horses that year, and Grandma found a latch hook kit of a horse's head. I finished it quickly and again she made a pillow for me. Grandma was a wonderful seamstress (she's going to be 98 years old this summer, and was able to embroider me a set ot tea towels a few years ago, and up until two years ago, was still repairing her great grandchildren's jeans).
I was eleven when I stopped spending time at Grandma's farm. I took a break from craft when I was no longer able to sit at Grandma's side and learn it from her. When I was 12, I discovered Little Women and read it and reread it and reread it. Does this count in my "women in my craft live" inventory? It should. They were very real to me. The idea of Beth knitting mittens and dropping them out the window to passing children touched me. The picture of the March girls sitting together, with their workboxes at hand, stitching a set of sheets charmed me. I wanted craft in my life. I needed a guide.
When I was 19, I married into a wonderful family. My mother in law is a kind and talented woman and from her I learned cross stitch. She was generous with her materials, letting me raid her stash of patterns, fabric and floss. She showed me how to get started....I was so confused when there was no picture printed on the fabric for me to follow. The materials she gave me were a gift. The skill she shared with me was a gift. Mae moved on from cross stitch to crochet. I didn't take advantage of her crochet skills at the time she was making afghans and dishcloths and baby sweaters. (That's not true....I did take advantage of her skills in that I was the recipient of a beautiful baby sweater/bonnet set when Josie was born.) A few months later, we moved to Indiana, 800 miles from home. That's when I decided I wanted to learn crochet. I bought a book and yarn and needles and proceeded to frustrate myself. That crazy chain would not stay still to be worked into! I called my mother in law, frustrated and frantic. Her response? "I'm not sure what I can do for you from 800 miles away." :)
I eventually got it and crocheted afghans and dishcloths for anyone I could think to give them to. And then....I discovered knitting.
I didn't know any knitters when I decided that was the next craft for me. I learned again from a book (with some help from my husband, who is better at looking at pictures to learn how to do things than I am). But after I learned to knit....I met the Knitters. I have a whole new group of women from whom I can gain inspiration and knowledge as I continue my life in craft. And I am grateful. So thank you to all of you who have come into my life through knitting. And thank you to Grandma Alvy and Louisa May Alcott.