We all share a love of crating, whether we’re newbies or have been making for fifty years, it’s a common thread that binds us, regardless of class, gender or skin colour and it crosses the generations. Whether it’s something you do with friends in real life, or virtually, we’re lucky enough to belong to a tribe, full of people with similar interests, who understand why we do what we do.
The majority of us makers, will understand the frustrations of learning something new and the sense of achievement we feel when we’ve cracked it. We’re makers first and foremost because we enjoy it, but chances are, we’re also likely to make for other people. Our friends and loved ones usually, but there are lots of us that make for people we’ll probably never get the chance to meet. Perhaps it’s a work colleagues daughter, or a homeless person, or a child in Syria, whoever it is, the item we’ve made for them always includes a little of us, which we give willingly.
Since beginning Olann and, we’ve been lucky enough to meet some wonderful people and hear their tales of making and feel privileged to be able to share a few of them with you here.
Warning: You might need a tissue x
My Favorite Piece of Knitting by Rachel Russ
A cheap acrylic shawl simply knit in Stockinette Stitch with long-ish tassels hanging on its short edges. A rectangle of hairy fabric.
The color is a muted purple. This prayer shawl was given to my mother who was bravely fighting cancer for the billionth time. It was casually thrown on her dressing chair in her bedroom when I first noticed it. I picked it up.
“Where did you get this?” I asked mom, as she hobbled in from the bathroom.
We were late for another doctor’s appointment.
“A friend from church,” was her short answer, not revealing the creator’s name.
After she had passed away just a few short months later, I stood next to her dressing chair and had to decide what I should do with it. I considered myself a yarn snob, for I only knit with real wool, alpaca, fine cottons and silky sock yarns… so I threw the cheap purple shawl into my bag of memories to take home. The maker of the shawl had the best intentions, I am sure of it, as she made this shawl for a woman wasting away day by day. Mom had needed warmth, comfort and a prayer. Now, the new recipient (myself) needed the very same. Grief. I couldn’t bear to throw it into the give-away pile. I too, knew the hours and the effort put into a handmade piece of knitting. Hand knits are personal. It was an afterthought, throwing it into that bag. I really cast it off into that bag without a second thought.
The shawl at first stayed in that bag for a long while…as did many of the mementos from a woman I couldn’t believe was gone. Grief, it worked itself out slowly. The pain of loss stayed with a sting, but I busied myself with my kids, my home, my work.
Out of the blue, I received a diagnosis of cancer just nine months after my mother’s death from it. Other than grieving the loss of a parent, I felt at my tip-top shape in health and wellness. No aches, pains or otherwise complaints physically. A routine exam revealed a problem.
Such a word weighed down, attached with images of bald heads, sickness and death.
Not long before the first anniversary of her death, and at the beginning of my own treatments, I unpacked the shawl and noticed “her” smell on it. I thought I had forgotten that smell. I wrapped it around my shoulders and wept. I brought the edge of the shawl to my face, felt its manufactured acrylic softness, and I wiped my tears onto it. I cried not only for her, but for myself. For my own wasting away from chemo. For the fear that stared me in the face. The same fears she must have faced. The shawl didn’t disappear back into a bag in the closet.
The shawl from then on accompanied me down the creaky wooden stairs on dark mornings to start the tea kettle. To wrap myself in it; made me feel as if I received a hug from my mother, and I could hear her giving me a pep talk. To live on. To continue. I valued that silly muted purple shawl. It became my morning friend before the rest of the family woke up. It warded off the chemo chills, it could easily be thrown off during a sweating fever.
Almost 5 years later, I am not wrapping myself in my purple shawl EVERY morning as before. It has of late, pilled horribly with balls of fibers attaching to my clothes. It has taken on a stale smell, as I have refused to even give it a water rinse for fear I might ruin it further into a state of unrecognizable disrepair. A few tassels have fallen apart and can’t be tied back onto its edge. Thoughtfully and carefully it is folded neatly on my closet shelf most mornings.
I knit. I am a knitter. I can design. I can copy other designs. This shawl is so simple, a beginner’s shawl, really. Made on big needles with thick yarn. It wouldn’t take very long to make another.
I know I can replicate a new shawl to look the same look as this ratty old one. Knit up in long lasting wool fibers that would hold up to every day wear.
It’s not its look I am after though. No, matching the color, or picking a different one I really enjoy would be a cheap imitation. A fake. A replacement.
The yarn balls I pick off my clothing don’t irritate me quite as much as they should…because I know if I stop wearing this shawl now and again and replace it with my own creation, in my colors and taste for fibers, I have somehow moved on past the essence of its comfort.
And I still need its comfort.
5 years later.
A muted purple shawl.
Casually thrown over a chair.
The difference is, it’s my dressing chair now.
Blind fold me and dump them in my lap.
I can pick it out, singling it out from the rest; The one that fits his noggin like a fine head suit, the one I knit from the pattern I dreamt.
I know every stitch, and row that binds it together; the fuzzy edges where his beard roughed up the wool when he pulls it way down on his head.
The blue, orange and brown; colors of the sea and the earth he loves, and the smell of him, with just a hint of work, and Castile soap and the blackberries he emptied from it to the bowl.
It’s silly I know, but I when he was gone away from me, I wore it for three days straight, the scent of him comforted me.
Oh yes, I know the hat.
The Adventures of a Boy Knitter – The Stares of Strangers
As I live in a rural part of Ireland (I don’t know if you would call co. Louth rural). I often get the bus into my local town Drogheda. And as any normal knitter would not miss the opportunity of not knitting, I knit on the bus as I would knit in the car. The difference between knitting on public transport than the car, is the average non knitting public tends to stare and mutter words between one another behind the hidden veil of their hands. I wonder what their problem is. That I’m knitting? Or is it the fact that I’m a boy who is knitting? Think that it is most likely the latter- a boy who knits. Wow there must be something wrong with him! And they are right in away. There is something wonderfully wrong with me! I have caught the dangerous addiction of knitting where you spend half your time looking at gorgeous patterns, adding them to the ever growing list of must knits and the other half buying yarn that might never see the light of day again. Also another common symptom of the dangerous addiction of knitting is having about six or seven WIPS going at the same time (for the non-knitters out there, WIPS is an abbreviation for “work in progress)
For a short time I got fed up feeling humiliated with people staring at me while I knitted on the bus, so I decided to pursue my hobby privately. Then I thought to myself “what was the point of that?” because I don’t know these people at all and so I don’t really care about their judgement or remarks. I’m creating something beautiful from wool and needles and so what if I am a boy? Yes I can knit and I am damn proud of it! So now when people stare at me I revel in it. I say to them “this is knitting, do you like what I’m working on?”
So these days I am always knitting on buses. I have also been spotted knitting on boats as well as one or two planes. I have never knitted on a train – maybe that could be my next adventure