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.