Published on 26/09/2014 by Jean Roberts
I think I got my main love of knitting from my Grandmother Delia, who was born a couple of months after Queen Victoria died and lived to almost 100, in spite of her fondness for whisky and cigarettes.
When I was little, I was captivated by her ‘speed knitting’ – you could barely see her fingers wind the yarn around her needles, which were often as thin as tooth picks. When my dad was little, she knitted swimming costumes for him and his three siblings - and I’ve got a photo of my Dad in his, just to prove it. She also knitted coats and suits for herself – usually in rather sugary shades of lilac. As a child, I was rather taken with the fact that they matched her two-tone Triumph Herald car.
My Granny could never resist the temptation to ‘snazz’ things up a bit – and I like to think I’ve inherited a bit of that. If I look at a knitting pattern, I often think: ‘Well it’s nice… but it would be better if it was a bit longer/a bit shorter/had a slightly different shaped neck… or whatever. I always want to do things slightly differently.
When I was nine or 10, I used to love sitting on my Granny’s huge bed, complete with 1970s nylon sheets, leafing through her copies of Woman’s Realm, with all its knitting patterns and crafty ideas. In those days, my ideas far too ambitious for the level of skills I possessed. But perhaps that’s where the seeds of becoming a knitting writer were sown. Well, I like to think so.
Luckily for me, I inherited a huge pile of my Granny’s knitting magazines and patterns, dating right back to the 1950s. I keep them in big boxes behind my sofa and love browsing through them. It’s amazing how some designs seem to have hardly changed at all – the jumpers and cardigans in particular. Admittedly there’s not much call for lacy bed jackets these days – and the market for the knitted string underwear was always probably a bit limited. But who knows? Twenty years ago, when we were all in love with sleek, mass-produced garments, who would have believed that ‘handmade’ would become so fashionable?
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