Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thoughts on Legacy, Grandmotherly Pursuits

I learned how to crochet sometime around 18 or 19 years old.  I can't remember if I was just finishing high school or if I was in college.  A friend of mine at Caribou Coffee, Avis, showed me how to do it.  I went to Michaels, bought a crochet needle and some yarn, and did my best.  I think I started doing it the way she showed me, but somewhere along the line I sort of messed up.  I started doing it my own way, which works really well for me, but it's not the "traditional" way to do it, at least here in the States.  Someone told me that the way I do it is similar to the European way?  I have no idea.

Throughout college I almost always carried a crochet needle and yarn.  I loved the repetition, the soothing feeling of the yarn slipping through my fingers.  I enjoyed crocheting while having tea with a friend, while watching television, even while listening to a lecture (although professors didn't like that very much).  I realized that crocheting didn't distract my attention, it made really concentrate on the moment.  It was extremely cathartic.

Once, after dating a certain boy for a bit, I pulled out my crochet project as we sat in the car on a long drive.  He told me that knitting and crocheting is a grandma thing to do, and I think he was actually embarrassed.  It was really strange, to tell the truth.  I could see where he was coming from; a lot of people are taught to crochet by their grandmas (just not me).  But is that a bad thing?

My Grandma Nelson, as we called her (her first name was Mayadelle and so that's how I think of her, because I love that name so much), was a wonderful quilter.  She made such lovely things.  She would make a quilt for every grandchild that got married; she had passed on by the time I got married, but I was given a quilt made by my great-great-grandmother Flynn.  That is a really fantastic story for another time, however.  The things I've learned about my great-great-grandmother recently are just beautiful.

Grandpa and Grandma Nelson (Bob and Mayadelle)
How amazing is that car of theirs?  And my grandma's gams??
Grandma Mayadelle also painted.  Her watercolor work was just lovely.  She started taking classes in her 70's, which I thought was such a great thing to do.  She made such nice things.  She was such a sharp dresser, too!  I inherited a really wonderful Oscar de la Renta blazer from her; as you can see, she was super tiny, so it doesn't exactly fit me the same way it fit her, I'm sure.  My grandpa would tell the story about the first time he took her to his church; she wore a red dress and a red hat, and turned a LOT of heads.  After service, my grandpa's brother came up to him and asked, "So, does she have a sister?"

Grandma and Grandpa and I believe the toddler is my aunt Linnea
Crocheting, knitting, quilting, and cross-stitch are all 'grandmotherly' pursuits, I suppose.  They've been practiced for generations, with precision and concentration.  Generations of women have created beautiful things with their own two hands.  That alone makes me want to practice these talents.

I recently signed up for a DMC cross-stitch 'mentor' kit and it came in the mail yesterday.  So last night I taught myself how to cross stitch.  I am in the middle of making a little ladybug as we speak.  My mother-in-law cross-stitches, and she has some really beautiful patterns that she's shown me.  I'm thinking I'll do some traditional cross-stitching, as well as some strange stuff you normally wouldn't see... like, maybe, dinosaurs?  It could be fun.

I'd like to learn how to can, as well.  My dad and my sister-in-law, Stacey, can can (I know I am SO FUNNY it's just ridiculous).  My grandma Mayadelle taught my dad, and I'd like him to teach me, sort of pass it down through the generations.  There's just something really beautiful and fulfilling participating in something that hasn't really changed all that much in hundreds of years.

Who WOULDN'T want to be like these two?
Anyone else a fan of these grandmotherly pursuits?  Any fellow crocheters/knitters out there?  Cross-stitchers?  Canners?


  1. Love this Jess! Love the sentiments and the great pictures too. Just one thing...the stories I told you were about your great-great-grandma Flynn. And I think she was the one who made the quilt too. I've been knitting up a storm of hats. Gave one to David, a green and brown varigated yarn and one to Stacey, a white, green and lavender varigated soft yarn. Maybe we can get Kim to teach us how to knit in Myrtle Beach! Love You!

  2. Thanks Mom! I changed it so it now says great-great-grandma. You'll have to tell me those stories again when we go to Myrtle so I can write them down!!

    I LOVE that you're enjoying your Knifty Knitter so much! It's so fast and easy. I can teach you how to crochet if you'd like, it only takes a little bit longer, but you can do pretty patterns. Kim should DEFINITELY teach us to knit at Myrtle; I've "learned" before but was terrible and stopped right away. I'm going to bring my crochet stuff and my Knifty Knitter to Myrtle, I think, and the ladies may have to hit up Michaels or another craft/yarn store. I've decided to make Matt and Maegen's baby a blanket, and I can't decide if I want to crochet it or do it on my Knifty Knitter. ReadyMade had a really cool patchwork knit blanket on their cover this month, so I'm thinking of trying that out!

    Love you too!