Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I want to be like my Grandmother

Have I ever told you of my Grandmother, my mother’s mother?

She lived up to 95. Her mother was a tailor. She married very young, buried her first born when the baby boy was one year old, had many children after him and raised the kids in poverty. Raising up a family in poverty meant that sewing and knitting skills both were necessary. Maybe that is the reason why crocheting was her passion; it was luxury during those hard times. She watched her husband suffer for years and widowed quite young. She buried one of her daughters later on in life, and saw her leave behind small children. She buried most of her friends since she almost saw her 100th birthday. She joked that God had forgotten all about her and it seemed to her that she already was living her eternal life.

She was born in 1905 when Finland was Grand Duchy of Russia, saw the independence come, fled with her children to Sweden during the war in Lapland. My mother was a small girl then and she remembers how she had one of her best presents there, this little set for her doll given by a friendly and generous Swedish woman. I don’t think she had seen a set like that used even by real people so far. Imagine how beautiful it must have looked more than 60 years ago in the eyes of a little poor girl. It was used and was not kept as a collector's item as you can see from the picture. After the war they returned home to find nothing but a small hut built in haste by their father. Everything was destroyed and the country was short of building materials, short of everything.

My mother says always that she had a happy childhood; she says that even though they had almost nothing they were happy. They played outside all the time, since they really did not have room inside and at those hard times, Grandma thought that fresh air was the only way to keep her children healthy. And all of them survived those hard years after the war. Grandma remembered many of her neighbours thinking that she was purposely harming her children letting them stay outside hours on.

And Grandma was happy, she never felt sorry for herself nor was she ever bitter. She always thought that she had plenty. She had an eye for beauty. She was playful. Every year before Christmas my Mom told me that their dolls disappeared to come back on Christmas Eve brought by Father Christmas with new faces, hairs and clean bodies and clothes. Grandma played the part of Father Christmas and the children were always so sorry to tell her later that again he had visited while she was away.

I have many fond memories of her. We all have.

When I had the twins and Sonja was less than two years old I would come with my children to my Mom’s to rest and Grandma came to help with the girls. She was already very old, close to 90, but she was there to offer a warm lap for the girls. I slept and slept during those stays trying to recover from lost sleep, Grandma lived near to Mom, and she would sneak into Mom’s very early in the mornings to be there.

Grandma lived alone, close to my Mom, because she chose to and spent only couple of months in hospital prior her death. She knit socks until the very end, she could not see well enough in the end to knit anything else, and was worried of not seeing the occasional dropped stitch.

Her old school had a celebration sometime in the 1990's, and since she was one of the very first pupils she was a guest of honour. She was already over 90 at the time. So we were discussing what she would be wearing for the celebration and were auditioning her some of her dresses. There was one that both me and my Mom thought was appropriate for the day, but she refused to wear it because that particular dress made her to look too old!

She wrote poems. One of her poems was read in her funeral. She wrote memoirs, they are not published but are dear to us. All in all, she was a good woman, someone we talk about often with my Mom.

The reason why I’m bringing this all up now is these mittens. I have been thinking of her a lot while knitting these. These are knit with hand spun with small needles and have old-fashioned quality in them, are extremely soft and not stiff as if they have been used for years already. They feel exceptionally good. The colours are humble. I think these are the best mittens I have ever made. (I know the fibres are top quality, something that Grandma never had.)

(I’m taking about mittens because these are double layer but only first of the pair has been made. I don’t have a published pattern to follow; this is a knit-and-re-knit-until-satisfied pattern by me.)

Mom has told me that every piece of clothing she had when she was a child was decorated. Her aprons had ruffles, they might have been small but ruffles there were. Her clothes always had the finishing detail. These plain, grey mittens are not done. They need Grandma's touch yet.

61 comments:

  1. You have written a nice tribute of your Grandmother. The mittens are outstanding.

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  2. Ellen in Conn12:44

    Oh, Lene, Thank you so much for that story. I am crying, it is so lovely. The sky is still dark here, and I am crying.

    You remind me of how much we have these days, and how poor in spirit I am some days, and of my failings but also of my triumphs. Some of my forebears were poor like this, although we have had no war refugees in a very long time. But we have had a few warriors, for which I am sad.

    I am grateful to have three big boxes of yarn, and some time to use it, and for the skills that my family taught me, and their families taught them.

    I will use my mother's doll tea set when I have grandchildren, some day soon. Thank you again.

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  3. Lene, thank you so very much for sharing the story of your Grandmother with us. What a beautiful soul and an incredibly exceptional woman.
    I sit here wishing I could reach in and touch and hold the mitten. I think it's beyond lovely... perhaps some design of your Grandmother's favourite flower or bird or....
    There's a lot of your Grandmother in you.

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  4. It seems to me that both the eye for beauty and writing skills run in the family... I love your stories as much as I love your crafts!

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  5. What a nice story about your grandmother.

    The mittens are beautiful! I love the turned down cuff.

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  6. What a lovely story. I too have twins and remember well those sleep-deprived days. How lovely that your grandmother was able to help - she sounds like a wonderful inspiration.

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  7. What a beautiful and touching story, thank you for sharing it!

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  8. What a glorious tribute to your grandmother. Thank you for sharing it. It reminds me of how I feel about my great grandmother who was born in 1901 and lived to be 94.

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  9. Your story is touching, relatable and elevates my frame of mind. The mittens, being double thick will be so warm. Will your little bird adorn the cuff? Send your mom my greetings, I remember her, her hospitality and good cooking too :) I think it is wonderful that she still has the tea set!

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  10. Luisa14:30

    I also miss my grandparents a lot.

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  11. I want to be like your grandmother, too. I think that a sense of humor can carry us through the worst of times. Clearly, she was a woman whose strength of purpose was tempered with that sort of perspective.

    Your telling of her story gives me a new outlook on this bright morning. Kiitos.

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  12. Julie14:54

    What a beautiful tribute! Thank you for telling us about your grandmother. She sounds like a remarkable woman.

    The mittens look so cozy!

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  13. carlarey15:06

    Such a lovely story. I didn't have a loving grandmother, but I had a great aunt who made me a quilt I still use every day. Makes me want to be sure I leave something behind that my descendants can have to remember me by.

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  14. Thank you for sharing the story of your grandmother with us. She was quite a woman.

    I look forward to seeing Grandma's touch on your mittens.

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  15. grandmas have a wonderful place in our hearts, if we were lucky to have them for a long time. I had both mine until I was 42. I consider myself lucky! how lovely to read your grandma's story.
    lovely mittens. would love it if you wrote the pattern to share!

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  16. Rachel H15:56

    Your Grandmother sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing these memories with us.

    The mittens are lovely already, but I look forward to seeing you add her touch to them.

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  17. Beautiful story, and beautiful, simple mittens. Thank you for sharing them both.

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  18. Beautiful.
    Your mittens might need your little bird.

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  19. Thank you for sharing the wonderful story about your grandmother. I can't wait to see what you do with the mittens.

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  20. What beautiful memories of your family.
    I am fascinated by your mittens.
    How did you achieve the picot edging at the join with a provisional cast on?
    I can’t wait to see how you embellish the mittens next.

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  21. Lene, I think you are like your grandmother!
    I have a little saucer from a tea set that was my Mom's as a child - she would be 101 this year if she were alive. I think of her and my grandmother, especially when I knit, as I have some of their needles and a few old pattern books.
    I love the mittens, and you know, I think they might be warmer than mittens knit with heavier yarn - I will eagerly watch for your embroidery on them.
    Would you be willing to share a bit of a pattern for the knitting, once you are finished, even needle size and probably the yarn is fingering weight!
    Thanks, it is good to shed tears over pleasant memories - it washes our soul and makes it fresh to take on other things in life.
    Grandma was right, fresh air is good for children and it gives mothers and grandmothers room to breath inside the house!

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  22. Ah, what a marvelous story! :-) Your grandmother was really something. I think back to the times when women's everyday lives were so difficult--poverty, hard work from sunrise to sunset and beyond--and I think that I could not possibly have survived it. And yet she lived nearly to 100!

    Maybe you could name a new design after your grandmother. Something pretty but also very durable... maybe some twined knitting?

    And your two-layer mittens clearly need a little bird on them. :-)

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  23. How very beautiful and touching! Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful woman who you will always hold dear.

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  24. That is a beautiful story and it added so much significance to the picture of your beautiful mittens.

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  25. Esther18:14

    Thank you so much Lene for that beautiful story and the best is that it is a true one !
    Really, you inherited many skills and wisdom from your grandmother.
    My maternal grandmother was born in 1887 and lived up to 1976. I was pregnant(2 months) of my first born(to be) but she didn't have the possibility to learn about it before passing away. I still have from her, a little quilt she made for her first born (girl) in 1914, so sad this little girl lived only 2 months...She became widow in 1930 with 5 children...
    I have a great admiration for the courage, the mental strenght of those women, like your grandmother, who suffered a lot of poverty and manage to raise children properly and have a kind of good life anyway...
    I remember my childhood, so poor also and I see my kids today, always demanding, more and more, never completely satisfied...what a contrast !
    Your post is full of wisdom and simplicity, I love it...
    I own plenty of fabrics and wool and weaving threads at home to work with, I feel rich !

    Thank you again,
    Esther

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  26. Thank you for the story of your grandmother. I knew little of Finnish history (but a little Russian history). I am learning much history through the history of knitting though! I am going to try & line my mittens! Yours are wonderful.

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  27. sonja poor - USA18:58

    Lene, thank you for another wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing your Grandmother's story. It is my inspiration for the day. I always enjoy your blog so much. I will now send the link to my good friend.

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  28. Thank you for sharing your wonderful stories about your Grandmother. I so very much enjoy your writing style, and the delicious not-knowing about what treasure you'll complete next.

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  29. Your grandmother was a woman with a great heart and so much strenght and creativity.Happy you made a tribute to her.When you grow older you fell from the bottom of your heart the connection to the past and to people who really gave you a great wisdom.
    Ulla in the north of Sweden

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  30. Today's entry is a good example of one of the reasons I soooo love your blog, Lene - Touching and very moving thoughts about a wonderful strong woman, your grandmother. These type of 'woman-memories' connect most of us back to the basics of knitting and sewing. I didn’t know my grandmother (she was from Iceland & died before I was born), but I do know I knit in the same manner as her - as that is how I was taught by my mother - but I think of her often when I do knit, and it comforts me and connects me to all those strong women in my past and present.

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  31. Beautiful touching story of your grandmother. I can't express the effect it has on me any better than the other commenters already have. How lovely life would be if they could appreciate every little thing until their dying day like your grandmother did.

    I already know that those simple mittens will be one of the most breathtakingly beautiful creations I have ever seen... when you have added your finishing touches. I look forward to the photos.

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  32. I meant to say "how lovely life would be if we could all appreciate every little thing until our dying day like your grandmother did."

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  33. I loved hearing about your grandmother. You are so lucky to have those memories and legacy. Thanks for sharing it, The mittens are gorgeous, you always do such beautiful work.

    Kate

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  34. I want to live not too far from you, so we could trade stories.jls

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  35. Sharon01:40

    Your story about your grandmother was so touching. My grandmother passed away last month - she was 90. I have one of her quilts, and it is one of my most cherished possessions. When I hold it, I think about waking up at Grandma & Grandpa's and it's so cold because the fire in the stove went out. (But so toasty under that quilt!) Her cooking a huge breakfast at the break of dawn every day. Her squirrel hunting in the woods behind their house. I felt honored that she took delight in my quilts. There is no one in the world I would want to be more like than my Grandmother. I hope you don't mind my sharing my story too. I will miss her very much.

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  36. Barb in Texas01:42

    Lovely story, Lene. It would make the basis of a delightful children's picture book, you know...

    With your words, your drawings, and your photos.

    But it's also quite lovely to read right here, just as it is.

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  37. Grandmothers are so very special. Thanks for sharing some of her life with us.

    The mitts will be beautiful when completed...My Grannie always decorated my mitts...simple embrodery work...no one else had mitts like mine.

    Blessings to you

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  38. So touching, thank you....

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  39. I look forward to your enteries and I see your Grandmother lives on...through you. What a beautiful pair of mitts, I think you should name them Grandma's Blessings:)
    Thank you so much for letting me live some memories with you.I often wonder what my grandmother would have been like. My husband is Swiss and is the 2nd generation born into the states. He tells of wonderful stories of his "Swiss Family" I love each minute of it.

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  40. Thank you so much for sharing the story. It was truly beautiful. Old tea pots are a weakness and that one almost made me cry with the story.

    The mittens are lovely as well.

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  41. Amazing and terrible times out Grandmas and Great-grandmas lived through . I don't know enough about Finnish history but my Mother's family escaped Russia during The Revolution . Then they saw two World Wars .Despite all these things women made many beautiful things. I only have a doll's dress made by my Granny ( who died of cancer in 1930). A huge tribute book of the handicrafts of women from all parts of the World made from any materials they could get would be wonderful. Even my mother had to unpick garments to re-knit but I can buy fabulous yarns.

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  42. this the first post i have read in trying to catch up with everyone's life over the weeks i was gone. it was so heartwarming to read about your grandma, who has the same birth year and shares many other similarities with my own grandma. the mittens are really nice, and i can't wait to see what you will do with them next

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  43. Anonymous16:42

    Oh, Lene, what a fantastic tribute to your Grandmother. Thank you for sharing that story...and thank you for such a lovely blog. Your knitting and crafting skills amaze and inspire me. The mittens are looking very cozy right about now. I am grateful that my Grandmother (still living) is now 94. I only wish we lived closer- Indiana is quite distant from California.
    Mary in CA

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  44. Your Grandmother and my Grammy sound so much alike. We are very, very lucky to have had such wonderful women in our lives.

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  45. My grandma lived to be 97, and sharp as a tack to the end.

    She didn't do crafts or sew, but she made the very best egg custer pie.

    For every holiday she would send all of us grandchildren a dollar, which amounted to about 40 dollars for her. She couldn't afford it but boy did we all LOVE getting our Grandma money. I was 35 when she died and she was still sending me a dollar. I miss her.

    I just remembered something crafty she would do. She crocheted rag rugs. My granddaddy carved her a huge crochet hook that she used for that.

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  46. So many thanks Lene for this. My "mémére" was on this earth for 98 full years. In that time she bore 8 children, burrying one and adopting another, was a loving wife, lived through two wars, saw her fisherman husband go out onto the wild sea every day in a little dory boat (like most fishermen at the time, he didn't know how to swim. If the weather was bad, she would go up to the attic window and look out for him, appearing and disapearing in the swell of the waves, praying that he would come back to her.)

    She was completely self-sufficient. She ran a farm, milking the cows,churning the butter, collecting the hen's eggs, feeding the sheep, cutting up the pig, smoking the bacon, tending the garden and preserving and canning her crops for the winter.
    She spun her own wool, weaving fabric which she sewed into clothes, piecing and quilting beautiful blankets, knitting cozy garments... all the while warming her kin's hearts with her love. She also had an easy laugh, a mischevious sense of humour and a unwavering trust in God (one I wish I could share). Just like your grandmother, she also joked that God had forgotten about her, or at least was not in a hurry to see her. She died so peacefully, content with her well-lived and full life and knowing that she would be reunited with her dearly departed. Such an inspiration to me. Thank you thank you for sharing your story and reminding me of my own wonderful grandmother.

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  47. Thanks for sharing your memories of your Grandma. I'm feel sad to say I don't have anything even close to that but hope to be something similar to my own children and grandchildren someday.

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  48. Thank you for the glimpse of the beautiful, richly colored tapestry that your grandmother wove from her life.

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  49. Beautiful simple mittens, and such a great story to go with them!

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  50. marjorie02:09

    Thank you for telling us about your grandmother. I never knew my dad's mom, as she died quite a few years before I was born, but she was an artist and my family has the legacy of her many beautiful oil paintings. She lived in fortunate circumstances, because although she was widowed very young, and had to raise her four boys on her own, she never had to sell her work, so we have all her paintings. My mom's mom I knew and loved well. She was a sewer, and so are my mom, my sister and I. I'm thankful for what I've received from both my grandmas. (and grandpas too.)

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  51. Lene, Thank you so much for telling us about your Grandmother! I too, had twin girls, but my Grandmother never saw them. She died just before I was married. She did not do many needle crafts, but she was a prolific crocheter! Every time I see crochet, it reminds me of her! Your Grandmother was a grand lady, and I consider it a privilege that I have gotten to know her through you. Again, thank you so much for the post!

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  52. whosadele20:24

    I want to be like your grandmother too.

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  53. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother! I love the mittens and I can't wait to see how you'll decorate them!

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  54. Nice story. I hope I'll have the opportunity to make an impression on my grandchildren, likes your grandmother did.

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  55. Sigh. My great-grandma was this sort of a person.... however, she died when I was ten or so. She lived almost next door from us and since my mom couldn't afford to take a maternity leave, I spent there most of my childhood. After some 50 years of working she had some silly pension so there were never gifts or candies but she was simply and overwhelmingly nice. She didn't knit, though....

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  56. What a lovely post. My Grandma was born in 1906 and died at 95 1/2 years of age and though she did not go through the political upheavals in the US that your Grandma experienced, their lives of hardship and working hard and honest and loss are paralleled. I learend so much from my Grandma that nearly everything I love has a root in the things she taught me as a girl. I'm thankful your Grandma lived a long time so that you could benefit from the beauty of her soul. It sounded from your post that you are a mother of twins. I am too, four year old girls.

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  57. Sarah16:19

    Those mittens are lovely, as it your post. She would be proud.

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  58. A beautiful tribute to your grandma. My grandmother was born in 1902, in England, also a tailor descended from a long line of tailors. She died about the same time too.

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  59. Wonderful images of your grandmother and of your mom's childhood. I love how your writing captures the senses AND spirit of people and their environments. You know, after reading this, I want to be like your grandmother, too!

    PS. I also love your mitts...it's really cold in DC today--I can almost feel their warmth. Thank you!

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  60. What a wonderful story, and such beautiful mittens.

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  61. I hope that you write up this pattern and publish it somewhere, with at least a bit of the story behind them. They are beautiful mittens, with simple, clean lines. Even more than that, they are yet another way to share the life and love that you have just written about so wonderfully.

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