Monday, November 1, 2010

A tale of knitting

It's 23 years today since we buried my dearly beloved Mother.

My heart still breaks when I think of all that has happened in that time, all the things she has missed. Or rather, that I have missed having her here for, because I do believe that she can see everything that's going on, and that she is here, just that I can't see her or hear her. I sometimes feel her presence, and there have been a couple of occasions over the years when I have really needed her, and she was here for me. On one recent occasion, I awoke in the middle of the night, felt her right beside the bed, and "heard" her ask me to look out for someone for her. I thought that very strange, as I didn't know that person needed me so, but later it transpired that Mother knew best.

Anyway, in her honour, I'll share a knitting story today.

My Mother was a fantastic knitter.

She learned to knit at age THREE, taught by her Dad (the same grandfather who was born in Buenos Aires!).

This was in the 1920's and Ireland was a poor country, making this recession look like chickenfeed! My Mother's family were poor too, and materials were scarce, so she would knit her little piece of yarn as she walked around the yard, throwing it over her shoulder when it became so long that it trailed the ground- which wasn't all that long, she was only 3!

Then, when all the yarn was used, she would rip it and start again. Over. And over.

When she was older, she had a job minding a little boy. A latter-day au pair.
She loved to knit little outfits for him, and our family album had a couple of photos of him in her creations. Sometimes she would follow patterns, but she often adapted or made up her own. A latter-day designer.

Then she went to the UK and trained to be a nurse, but in the evenings she would knit beautiful jumpers and cardigans.

When we were children, her speciality was Aran knitting. She sold her creations, and had quite a little business going sending them to the US, through a lovely lady who we met on a family holiday in Donegal. With each sweater, there would be correspondence, and I was the scribe. My Mother was left-handed, but in those days at school, children were forced to write with their right hand, so she never liked writing, and would always dictate the letter to me as her needles clacked away. Well, I had nothing better to be doing, and she did!

When she passed away, she had about 20 Aran sweaters completed which didn't have wearers. She always had something "on the needles", so if she didn't have an order to complete, she just knitted something anyway.

We wondered what to do with all these sweaters

One in particular was a beautiful "bawneen" gents cardigan, in a lovely subtle cable and trellis pattern, similar to the pattern in this picture. It had two pockets in the front. I knew exactly who it would fit!

At that time, there was a broadcaster on Irish radio each weekday morning from 10 to 12, and my mother greatly enjoyed his programme, as did most Irish housewives. She had often said to me that she would love to knit an Aran cardigan for "Gaybo".

Not long after that, Gaybo had his autobiography published, and he was doing a signing at a Dublin bookshop. I wrapped the cardigan, along with an explanatory note, and went to the bookshop. I got cold feet at the last minute, and thought I would be extremely embarrassed giving it to him, so I just gave it to the employee who was managing the long queue, and told him that Gaybo would know what it was!

I received a lovely note a few days later, typed and signed by Gaybo, He was thrilled with the Aran, told me that it fit perfectly (which I knew it would!) and that he would enjoy wearing it on his walks around Howth Head.

When I read his autobiography, I discovered why the note was typed and not handwritten. He too hated to write, ever since his accountant had embezzled his pension fund - Gaybo had trusted him and just signed whatever papers he produced. And after he discovered this, Gaybo found it almost impossible to write.


  1. Oh, Mimi, what a touching story... Chills run down my spine reading this, it was so personal and yet so easy to recognize the sentiment.
    The bond between a mother and a child is a very strong one and I loved reading about the faith of your mothers knitting creations, at least one of them.;))
    Have a lovely day,

  2. What a delightful story! I think knitting is awesome. I've tried it myself but haven't had much luck with it.

  3. What a lovely knitting story. I can see Gaybo striding into the wind at Howth Head in his Aran sweater. I've only knit one - long ago - and I know how much work was in that one. Let alone doing it as a business. What a beautiful reminder of your Mum's touch a sweater must be.

    I think there's a book in here somewhere, Mimi.

  4. Age 3!!! I can't knit to this day. What a story.

  5. What a remarkable woman your mother must have been, and I suspect that quite a lot of her lives on in you.

    I love too that I can picture Gaybo's rambles around Howth Head after having spent a lovely day rambling there myself.

    My photography is available for purchase - visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!

  6. What a lovely story Mimi. My father's sister is a beautiful knitter and sent me some arans for the children a few years ago. I kept them for years, and the younger kids got a few years out of them too. Nothing like them for the cold winters.

    Your mother was a very special woman from what I've read about her here and in earlier posts too.

  7. What a lovely way to remember your mother!! My mother, too, was a knitter, and would spend many an evening clicking away whilst doing other things...the sound of needles tapping together was a comforting sound to me. Your story brought it back to me...all those evenings in front of the fire...

    My mum died just two years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    Peace to you and yours

  8. My mam is a knitter, it used to drive me crazy the click clack of the needles but now I like to hear it... knowing there will be a day when it will be gone.

    Life is tough huh. Anyway, thanks for commenting over on my new blog, I'm enjoying it and yes the little puddle between us and england seems to be teeming! I actually saw the dolphins while I was spying on a little otter believe it or not. He came out as small as a pin through my camera though!

    Anyway thanks for the comment!

  9. Hi Mimi..a wonderful inspiring post..beautiful heart touching stories...aweseom..thanks for sharng this magic!And,wow..yes.. Lovely visitation from you special when that happens!
    Hugs and Blessings

  10. I lost my Mum on 11 September this year and right now I have just returned from her place where my sisters and I have been clearing out all of her things. It's been a difficult thing to do but amongst the many many things she had accumulated we have found some wonderful treasures.

  11. That was a mighty interesting tale and a fitting tribute to your mother.She learnt to knit at a very early age.

    I also feel such a lot has happened since my parents died, especially my father in the 80s. He has missed all his great grandchildren and I jolly well hope there is some way he knows about their existence!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  12. Thanks everyone for these lovely comments.
    The sensitivity really touches my heart, and convinces me that the mother-daughter bond is indeed very strong.
    I believe, and jolly well hope too, that we'll all meet again one day and have a good laugh about lots of things.

  13. I really, really loved this story. What a fascinating thing. I love that you have beautiful memories of your Mother and one of her passions. Knitting. I have always thought that knitters were very creative people. I love the work they can do with their fingers. I am sorry for your loss. I know it was many years ago, but you never stop missing the ones you love, do you? I miss my grandparents so much. Wishing you a wonder filled Sunday!

  14. Mimi what a lovely story and it resonated in so many ways for me too - as I love to knit, did some Aran jumpers in Africa when the kids were small and I had time (partly because we lived in the remotest bush and there was nothing else to do but find our own amusement. My mother was an Aran knitter for Cyril Cullen the designer who worked in the Social Welfare office in Lismore when I was a child - before he went off to become a full-time designer - and I have fond memories of her click-clacking away. I lost her this year in March and still feel it very raw. I love your story of the jumper for Gaybo, he was a real Aran jumper kind of fella- the original little leprechaun man! He had a kind heart and of course his radio show and the latelate under him opened up a new and more open Ireland - I am old enough to remember him being read from the pulpit in the wake of "the bishop and the nightie" scandal! google it if you don't know it - here's the BBC link on it
    Thanks for sharing a special memory - I have some of those great old aran patterns - some style!

  15. Hi!!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and visiting the Follow Friday 40 and Over Blog Hop!

    I am now following you. Please follow me if you haven't already done so!!

    This was a beautiful post about your Mom! I really enjoyed it!

    I would also like to invite you to join the Over 40 Bloggers Club!! Take a look and join in the fun!

    Have a wonderful week!

  16. Very nice, Mimi. You must have lost your mother at a very young age--so sad. Hugs to you. XOXO