We spent a lovely hour yesterday ambling through the knitwear exhibition at the Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh, from Chanel to Westwood. It was a delight to see that the curators appreciated both hand and machine knitting approaches, but for me the single salient exhibition was this pattern cover that was described as very popular in both the UK and North America during the 1950s.
That would be when my mother knitted me the very same chunky sweater that I still have in my clothes store. It seems to me that these hand-knit garments are an expression of love, that this emotion is incorporated with each twirl of the needles into a tangible envelope of warmth. All the other exhibits were very fine, wonderful examples of their high fashion or utilitarian capacity (the extensively darned jumper, especially), but no other garment said ‘love’ so pointedly as that little knitting pattern.
Back in the early days of our children’s childhood, I made a point of collecting all the love I could in the form of knitted animals. Always languishing on some shelf in a charity shop, these creatures, it seemed, were imbued with the love of their creator, and so I brought them home to add to the collection of cuddly toys. By the time I’d reached several hundred animals, the children had abandoned all pretence of appreciation, and so they got packed up into boxes destined for the loft, and I stopped adding to that collection.
Later they served as give-aways in a craft shop near us, as parents ambled through the studio to exclaim over this and that handicraft, while bored kids craved entertainment. It seemed like as good a way as any to spread the love around. I hoped that there might be at least a kind of evanescent joy before the freebie was discarded. I suppose the love apparent in the handicraft dwindles the further removed the item is from the knitter.
But my sweater is an intimate connection to my own childhood, and as such it’s unlikely ever to be removed from my clothes drawers. I must say, when we get our stuff back from store, and moved into our new home for good, the retrieval of that sweater from some black bin bag will bring a certain joy.
Meanwhile, of course, the joy is a few steps removed, stimulated by sight of that pattern, re-found when I identified it in a google search, and continuing in this blog this morning.
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