My grandmother, RoJean Erwin Holem, passed away in 2004, but if she were around today, there would be a few things she'd want you to know: Among other things, she was a registered nurse at Susan B. Allan Memorial Hospital who proudly wore her uniform until the day she retired--none of these "scrubs," thankyouverymuch. She was a member of the Susannah French Putney chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (whether that's much to be proud of we can cover another time). She drew all her own greeting cards. She enjoyed writing and won several Jessie Perry Stratford awards from the Butler County Historical Society for her stories about El Dorado's history. And her granddaughter called her "Grammy," not "graaaanmaaa" (pronounced in a derisive, gravely whine that really can't be reproduced in print).
She was also a talented knitter. I'd love to tell you that my own knitting habit was inspired by her, but it wasn't. I remember watching Grammy knit when I was a kid and thinking, "How boring." Sometime around age 8 or 9, I demanded that I be taught to knit, and Grammy and my mom managed together to teach me the knit stitch, but after producing a 3-inch blob of blue yarn and confirming that knitting was, indeed, boring, I went back to my books and didn't pick up needles again until I was 28 or so. And the knitting I do now bears little resemblance to her knitting, at least as I remember it. The only garment she ever knitted for me was a purple sweater vest done in what I now know is garter stitch. I wore it one time, for my fourth-grade class picture, and it was retired, never to be seen again. She certainly didn't churn out brightly colored socks the way I do, much less carry them around in her purse to be worked whenever she had to wait more than three minutes. (She should have. Patience wasn't her strong suit. Knitting would've helped.)
So when I'm knitting, I'm not really thinking about Grammy. But that's about to change, because I am about to dive into "Grammy Knitting" in a big, big way. The occasional wretched sweater vest aside, most of Grammy's projects were Christmas stockings. Every baby born in our family and in the families of close friends, dating from my mother's cousin Dwight in 1944 and Mom herself in 1948, received a handknit Christmas stocking personalized with the baby's name and birth date. She also made them for new spouses and for Lord's Acre fundraising sales at the Methodist Church. The last stocking went to Dwight's grandson, Braden, in 1993; after that her arthritis was too painful to knit anymore. I tried to get Mom to estimate the number of stockings Grammy made during all those years; Mom refuses to make the attempt. Personally, I think it's a safe bet that she easily made more than 100.
|Notice that Mom's stocking is longer than mine. After making Dwight's and Mom's stockings, she started making them shorter so that it wouldn't take so much to fill.|
These stockings were such a fact of life in our family that I remember being appalled when I realized that not everyone had a handknit Christmas stocking. Lots of people's stockings didn't even have their names on them. Some of them were--gasp--store bought! To this day I feel an instinctive twinge of pity when I go to a friend's home and see bland, anonymous Christmas stockings, and I feel terrible that none of our new family members since 1993 have received their own stockings.
Well, family, we're gonna fix that. I've been wanting to learn colorwork for a while, and Twist Yarn Shop has a colorwork class starting this weekend that uses Christmas stockings as the sample project. The pattern even uses some of the same designs Grammy used, like the girl and boy characters on my stocking and Mom's. Christmas stockings will shortly be pouring off my needles.
I just ask one favor: I've got a lot of catching up to do, and I don't knit nearly as fast as Grammy did. Please procreate slowly.