Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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A Different Way Of Thinking About Gift Giving

November 12th, 2009

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If you are reading this blog, you probably knit or crochet.  Do you remember when you learned? Do you remember who taught you?  It’s often a memory so indelible that you can picture details about that day from the way the room looked to what you were wearing.  Many of us learned as children, in awe of this person who could teach us to create something from a simple ball of yarn.  We may have put down our craft as we became busy with children or work and picked it up again as we awaited the birth of a child, found a new way to relieve stress or discovered a yarn that could not be resisted.

This lovely story tells of a woman whose most cherished gift was given to her by an aunt when she was seven years old.  She remembers the day, the snack of tea and cookies that came with the gift and the color of the yarn.

This holiday season, consider giving this precious, lifelong gift to a child.  It’s a gift of your knowledge and your presence together with a few inexpensive supplies. It’s a gift that connects you to the person you teach in a way that very few gifts can. It’s a gift for the holidays that reminds us of what is really important.

We invite you to share your stories of the person who taught you to knit by commenting on this blog post.

  • Grace

    Aww. That was so sweet and so true. I cherish the memories of my grandmother teaching me to sew (age 8) and my mother teaching my to crochet (age 23). I would love to create wonderful memories with a young family member someday.

  • http://ilfilochecrea.blogspot.com Rosa

    I was so young (I was 8 or 9) when my aunt Antonietta teached me to knit and crochet. It was a way to play for me. Now my aunt is dead and this is one of the sweetest memories I have of her.

  • phillygirl64

    My mom tried to teach me when I was little how to knit, but it didn’t go so well

    I learned how to crochet back in 2000 from the lady who founded our company’s Project Linus group…the cost to learn was one blanket for PL…I made a little pink one that was probably only big enough for a preemie…well, 9 yrs and many projects since, I am still ‘hooking’ ;)

  • Razor

    A friend of my mother’s taught me to crochet, and from there I taught myself to knit a few years later. I’m grateful for her instruction–unfortunately we’ve lost touch, but I’m sure she never imagined how attached I’ve become to the craft!

    When I was growing up, my dad’s aunt was an avid knitter and crocheter, and she often sent me handcrafted gifts (some of which I still have). She passed away several years ago, but I know she’d be tickled to know that I love to knit. She’d probably have some good tips for me, too!

    When we were engaged, I tried to teach my husband how to knit (he said he wanted to make something for his mom for Christmas). After a few rows, he pushed it back into my hands and said “Well, hon, it’s okay. I think I’ll leave the knitting to you.” Ah, well, I tried! :)

  • lizzie

    I learned how to knit 6 years ago when I took a class. I am slowly making a cardigan, made a messenger bag. I love knitting!!!

  • Cathy

    This hits home as I am giving my grand daughter a gift of Yarn bag, various yarns, hooks and beginner patterns for Christmas.

    I was in the 5th grand when my mom taught me. She would only show me how to hold the yarn and to make a chain. She made me use an entire skein of yarn making a chain a trillion miles :) long. By the end of that I sure knew how to hold and drape that yarn through my fingers and how to make a great chain. Then it was on to a sc row after row. It was a long time before I actually got around to being able to make something.

    Great times and great memories. I hope to give some of those same memories while teaching my grand daughter.

  • Jessica-Jean

    While on the school bus every day, I saw some of my busmates knitting. I knew my grandmother had knitting needles and yarn in a bag hanging on the inside of our bedroom door, but I had never seen her knit a stitch. After much nagging on my part, she finally consented to teach me the bare basics of knitting. She and my mother were not on the best of terms, so my mother, not to be outdone by her mother, taught me to crochet during my occasional weekends with her. I was eight. I continued playing with needles and hooks but never actually made anything until my mother began her planned family. At age 11, I acquired two half-sisters … with a two-week interval between. In the fifties, no one mentioned upcoming babies, so my father and stepmother hadn’t bothered to tell me in advance that they were expecting, too! That’s when I began knitting baby hats. I designed them myself, all 2×2 ribbing, and sent them off to whichever family I wasn’t living with. I never saw any of them in use nor did any of them come back to me when I inherited leftover baby clothes for my own babies. I have no idea if they were ever used. :(
    I never was without knitting or crochet of some kind after that. When I had no access to yarn, I just ripped out the latest bit of doll apparel I’d made and reuse the yarn over and over again.
    Today, at age 63, I often think of my grandmother and mother while I’m knitting. I had to be a pest to get my basic lessons, but they did stick in my mind. It was only when I was in my early twenties that I learned my grandmother’s method of knitting was not exactly what was illustrated in the stitch dictionaries. Her method of wrapping when purling was ‘backwards’, fast, and results in a nice sturdy stockinette stitch – great for a mother of three young children (born in ’27 and 29) during the Great Depression, but not so great if one wants to execute all the fancy lace stitch patterns. At age 24, I retaught myself, from a book, to purl ‘correctly’. Now, my purling isn’t as fast, but the fancy lace stitches lie as photographed.
    It’s taken me many years to understand that, for all she was a good mother to me while my mother went back to school as a permanent student for my first 10 years, she was not exactly the best mother on the planet. She raised three girls (my mother, my aunt, and I) and none of us had a clue how to cook the most basic things when we left her care. I guess being raised a ‘lady’ doesn’t do much to prepare one for life without servants. Until my birth, she had always had a live-in ‘girl’ – usually one of my grandfather’s poor cousins. About when I was born, the last of them married. That’s also about when she stopped knitting. That last kelly-green sweater never did get finished; it provided the first yarn for me to practice nearly a decade later.
    I don’t know when my mother learned to knit. In fact, I never saw her knit; my earliest memories of her were seeing her sitting knitting and smoking while conversing with other adults. It was only while she lay dying of lung cancer that – while beginning the cleaning out of the house – I came across a gigantic afghan my sisters all remembered her knitting on during their childhoods. I filled in the missing areas as best I could and she got to use it during her last few months. It was warm, if a tad too big for any bed in the house. What interested me was looking at the way she knit. I KNOW who taught her: her mother! The proof to me is in her purled stitches; they are wrapped the same as I was taught. It didn’t much bother her lacy stitch patterns since her knitting was much looser than I’ve ever been able to attain. It was wonderful to learn that there had once been a time when she and her mother were on speaking terms and could sit together while teaching/learning to knit. It’s sad that they spent so many years with never a kind word between them. I do not understand such family rifts. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact.

  • http://www.phatgirlsdream.blogspot.com Lui

    I’m in the process of teaching my south paw 8 year old how to crochet. We’ve been having some difficulty but I found a book last weekend with images of how to crochet both right and left handed so we are both anxious to give it another go!

  • Gail

    My grandmother crocheted every spare minute. She could just look at something and then make it without a pattern. She was going to crochet my wedding dress but the day after she died I found out that I could get the special thread I needed for the dress. She knew of all the grandchildren she had that I was the only one that had shown any interest in crochet and so she left me all her yarn, thread, hooks, needles, books, and other supplies. I never was able to learn from her so I sat down and learned on my own in her memory. I now am thinking about what I’m going to crochet for my first grandchild due this next May. As soon as we know boy or girl I will get started crocheting a blanket and sweater.

  • http://www.mrsdof.com Diane Wiman

    The next door neighbor lady taught me to crochet a chain and single stitch so that I could make a doll blanket when I was 8 years old. My grandma could crochet just about anything, so when she saw me with a hook and yarn, she realized I had an interest and enough patience to keep going. Grandma taught me more stitches and how to read a pattern. I inherited her crochet hooks, and treasure them, especially the tiny steel ones to make lacy bookmarks.
    My 7th grade study hall teacher allowed me to crochet there, as long as I had my seatwork done. I crocheted a granny square aphgan for a gift to her.

    These days, I carry my yarn bag everywhere. I don’t leave it in the car very often. My favorite time is to be at a recital at our local university and crochet in time to the music.
    If I don’t have a hook and yarn in my hands, I tend to fiddle in other ways, such as running my hand through my hair.

    My husband is very tolerant of my hobby. Recently when I was going our for a meeting, he seemed concerned that I had only my purse with me. I explained that doing yardwork had made my wrists too tired. He said we should hire somebody to do the raking next year.

  • http://www.mrsdof.com Diane Wiman

    for Comment 8: Lui
    I am left-handed, so when I was learning to crochet, I would sit across the table from my grandma and watch what she did with the hook. Also, with some patterns, I put the page up to a glass window so that I can see a shadowy outline of the drawing and arrows through the paper and tell what to do from the left side.
    Often, watching the motions in a mirror can be helpful.

    When folks watch me crochet as a leftie, they say it looks awkward, yet my stitches and pattern are fine.

  • Renee

    When I was 5 years old my Great grandmother taught me how to knit. At the time I thought she knew all there was to know. She passed away when I was ten so I didn’t have too many years with her but the few I did have were precious. My grandmother instilled the love for knitting and the knowledge for intricate patterns. We lived in a small farming town and she knitted sweaters with great detail on the back, such as deer and elk and sold them to supplement their income. I can’t remember a time that she ever just sat and rested. She always had some project she was working on whether it was a sweater or just some slippers for one of us grand kids. I dearly miss her but have taught my granddaughter how to knit so am passing it on.

  • Michelle

    I come from a long line of crocheters, knitters, and seamstresses on both sides of my family. My mother tried to teach me but, with me being left-handed and her being right, there was some difficulty. The problem wasn’t my stitches (that was the easy part) but the turning stitches. For some reason, I couldn’t grasp them. I did attempt to make a blanket for my Barbies and an eyeglasses case but that was all. Getting frustrated, I stopped.

    When my second child was three months old, I ran across an article in Parents Magazine about teaching anyone to crochet. My curiosity was peaked so I bought some yarn and a hook. Step by small step, I taught myself to crochet. Since then, I have had a blast making blankets for my kids, family members, and baby gifts for friends. My craft has extended to my church to make prayer shawls for those in need.

    My daughter and nephew have shown an interest in learning to crochet. We have had some difficulty with the handedness (they are both right-handed) but we will continue little by little, passing the love for the craft down to the next generation. My next project is to teach myself to knit.

  • Marci

    Thanks for the chance to share about my dear neighbor, Mrs. Gibson. She taught me how to knit when I was in the second grade. I realize now how much patience that woman had! She spent hour upon hour with me teaching me how to knit, from simple headbands to four needle mitten, golf club covers, and baby clothes! Mrs. Gibson passed away suddenly when I was a senior in high school. I think of her often and fondly for all of the time and care she gave me.

  • Sandra Peters

    I learned to knit from a book, with a little help from a “stitch and coffee”group. I was expecting my second child, who is now about to become a father himself for the first time. I wanted to make something and I decided on a pram blanket that was a kit. I could do the cast on and the main block of the pattern, but I needed help with the bobbles and the fair isle part, but I finished it in time and I was able to give it to my son, for his baby. I was so proud of it and have since made many blankets for so many different babies, but the first one has always been special.

  • Susan Stein

    I was given the gift of learning how to knit by my mother when I was about 10 years old. We were living in the South Bronx at the time, in a formerly lovely neighborhood that was on a rapid downturn. Most of my friends had already moved away, and I was lonely. In order to fill time during summer vacation, my mom introduced me to the wonders of spool-knitting with multi-colored yarn. We then rapidly progressed to Continental-style knitting (taught to her by HER mother, who learned it from HER mother somewhere in Romania). My first project was a groovy earth-toned (orange and brown) scarf for my older brother. I am writing this and I am back in 1967 sitting, knitting, on the stoop of our apartment building in the Bronx. Of all the gifts from my mom throughout my lifetime until her death 12 years ago, knitting is one of the most special. It brings me so much joy to create such beautiful things. When I give a knitted piece as a gift, it is as though I am giving a little piece of myself as well, as my mom gave a piece of herself to me by teaching me her craft. How precious.

  • Claire

    I have watched my mother knit and spin for as long as I can remember, but I never had the urge to learn for myself until my sophomore year of college, when I came home for break and discovered that my younger sister had just learned the basics. Well, if she could do it, so could I! I remember sitting outside in the yard, in the wooden chairs my mom loves so much. I had picked out some mustardy yellow plastic needles and pumpkin-colored Lamb’s Pride. After a few mishaps casting on, I was knitting away, then purling and next came ribbing! It seemed so easy and I wondered why I had waited so long to learn.

    I still have that very first piece of knitting, and a bigger love for all those sweaters and hats my mother made through my childhood. She had been taught by her mother, who knew her way around a pattern, but did not view it as a “fun” activity. All the same, we still have some of the most amazing Barbie clothes she made for my mom in the 50′s – mohair coats and tiny ski sets. I’m glad she passed the craft on anyway, giving my mom, sister and I a hobby that has brought us all closer together. Every holiday season since I learned, most all of my friends,and especially my family, have received various items, starting with basic scarves and moving up to lace hats and all sorts of gloves! I’ve also taught many of my friends to knit, and while they may not all keep up with it, I hope they remember enough to want to pass it on to their kids if they ever show an interest.

    And now I’m also giving some knowledge of my own back to my mother! She ran into a pattern that required more crochet than her basic chain and single crochet and called me, since I had just taught myself to crochet. Luckily I was able to help her over the phone, but I plan on giving her a crash course when I head home again for Christmas this year!

  • http://www.meadowsfamilynews.blogspot.com Tracie

    I was about 8 or 9 when I watched my grandmother crochet and asked her to teach me. She taught me the chain stitch and double crochet. Last year around Christmas I bought a how-to book and re-taught myself to crochet. I have made so many wonderful things in the past year and have learned a ton. I am now teaching myself how to knit, as I was inspired to learn by a bunch of wonderful women in my church. We have a shawl ministry and I am using my new skills to help others who are grieving or are suffering from illness. I love keeping my hands busy with new projects and love using Lion Brand yarn!

  • Ilana

    Thank you all for sharing your stories and sharing of yourselves. Knitting and crocheting has brought you closer to loved ones and your stories connect us all.

  • Josette

    I have really enjoyed reading all of your stories so much!
    I learned to knit when I was about five. My grandmother, who lived 3000 miles away had sent some things she had knitted for us grandchildren. I was fascinated and wanted to learn to knit. My mother did not know how to knit, but she bought me an instruction book with good pictures and some fingering yarn and size one needles. The first thing I knit was a garter stitch scarf. I think it took me a couple of years to finish. (It was awful, but I still have it for the memories! That was over 50 years ago). Recently I found some tiny little doll sweaters and things I had made. I still have no clue how I did that without a pattern!
    Two years ago I made my daughter-in-law a scarf for Christmas. She got really excited and had me teach her to knit. Now she is a knitting fanatic too! Pass it on!

  • http://www.theestateplanningblog.com Estate Taxes

    I’ve learned the art of crochet back in my fifth grade. It was a wonderful experience because my teacher was really patient in teaching us the steps. I cannot forget how my grandmother encouraged me to put my heart in creating a work of art.

  • Dixilee

    I taught myself to knit and crochet as a child, mostly I learned from books! I sometimes go years w/o touching a needle and then get the urge and go at it again. I alternate between knitting and crocheting as the mood strikes and have finished many blankets, afghans, vests, scarves, sweaters even golf club covers!

    I have 3 children, but carried 4. When I found out about #2, I was a little upset because my first was only 3 months old and the new baby was due on her 1st birthday. I worried about having a newborn and a 1 year old. So to concentrate I began knitting a sweater/hat set for the new baby. When I lost that baby I was filled with guilt. I felt that because my 1st reaction wasn’t immense joy, I had somehow brought on it’s loss. As many women know, people don’t always understand that miscarriage is a real loss, and I didn’t always get the support I needed at the time. Somehow I just kept working on that sweater and hat and then put them away. It’s been 37 years and I still have them. To me it’s a concrete reminder of that baby. I have asked that this sweater/hat be placed in my coffin when I die.

  • Denise

    Dear Dixilee,I also lost my second child, almost before I knew of his existence. I felt so bereft, so sad and also guilty for not feeling his presence early enough, not knowing he was there. I sometimes picture that middle child when I look at my two sons a wonder how much like them he might have been. We are lucky to have had that glimmer of these other lives, these little beings that remind us to take very good care of those can see and hugs and that we love. Those little beings were positives in our lives and are with us always.

  • Dixilee

    Thanks Denise. I knew other women felt like I did, but it’s nice to see it written out like that.

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