The Memory of Stitches
Life is full of changes. Right now my husband and I are selling our home. It’s a long story, but we’re getting ready for a move and we don’t know to where.
Getting your place ready for an open house means packing up a LOT of your stuff. For a knitter, that means packing up yarn, sweaters, gloves, hats, and every form of handknits you can imagine.
It’s funny how powerfully these little bits of fiber hold onto memories. As I was packing away each ball, skein or hank, I could remember exactly when and where I bought it. That beautiful hand spun from the market in Dublin. The giant hank of llama from my friends store in Columbia Gorge.
The finished objects held even stronger memories. I think there, muscle memory also kicks in. Our hands creating every stitch, locks in the sights, sounds and smells of everything around us.
While folding up a hideous sweater I knit about 15 years ago, I was right back on the porch of the inn that David and I were staying at in Connecticut. I was sitting in the rocking chair doing a three needle bind-off, like it was yesterday. Putting away a sweater I made for David (that’s in the to be repaired pile) I could see myself just finishing seaming it up during Thanksgiving weekend at my sisters house so I could take photos of him wearing it on the porch.
Stitch memory is so powerful I was worried that I’d never want to look at the Clapotis I knit up while serving on a Grand Jury in Brooklyn. I was hearing 9 – 12 of the most terrible cases a day. I though the scarf would forever remind me of all those terrible cases. Weirdly, when I wear it, I do remember, but mostly I remember how the knitting brought me comfort and gave me something to do to keep me from crying between cases.
Even someone else’s finished objects are far more powerful memory catchers than anything store bought. Sitting at the back of our couch is an afghan knit by my late mother in law. It’s a favorite of mine, and my husband and our friend Nell (who never even met her). It’s just somehow cozier than anything that could have come from a store.
What are you stitch memories? Leave me a comment and tell me what yarn, UFO, WIP or finished project sends you right back down memory lane.
For me, it’s the finished garment which holds memories in each of its stitches. Picking up a gansey I knit for my husband transports me to the car ride from Front Royal, Virginia back to Wisconsin through a snow storm with thunder (weird stuff!) or a pair of twined knit socks evokes a vivid recollection of sitting in the back seat on the way to Cape Breton Island.
My paternal grandmother (who also taught me to crochet when I was 5ish) crocheted me a diamond-panel blanket when I was a child. It’s acrylic, therefore indestructible, and still with me 40 years later. The colors are a bit (a lot!) garish and many of the fringe-strings are braided or knotted, no doubt by my bored hands at various ages, but I love that blanket and still cozy up with it on chilly days.
It’s amazing what gets tied to memories. One is that unused skein of J&S Shetland wool whose mates became a shawl for my husband’s grandmother. She was losing her memory and eventually had to be moved from assisted living to full nursing care. Well, after the move, she was very agitated, but her son went back to her old room to retrieve her shawl. After putting it around her shoulders, she calmed down.
More recently though…it has been photos, but probably not in the usual sense. Another of my hobbies is photography, and I’ve taken a number of workshops. These photos remind me of one of my instructors who tragically lost her life in a freak bicycling accident last summer. I see these photos and am reminded of her coaching me and what fun she was to be around.