The Knitted Legacy

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a noon hour call-in show on the radio and the question was: "How have you kept the legacy of a loved one alive after their death?"

There were lots of calls about recipes, treks through mountains and so on. Then a call came through that had me nodding to myself.

The caller's mother had begun a knitted baby blanket for the first grandchild who was expected within a few months. This soon-to-be grandmother's terminal condition made it difficult for her to work on the blanket for long periods of time but she did what she could. Predictably, the caller told us that her mother died before she was able to finish the blanket.

I thought back to all the similar stories that I've heard at our store. Seldom a month goes by without someone bringing in a project left unfinished by a loved one. Sometimes the pieces arrive ...well, in pieces, moth eaten, dust worn. Sometimes they're wrapped in a tea towel, sometimes in a plastic garbage bag, sometimes in blue tissue paper. The bearer sometimes just wants more material to finish it themselves. Sometimes they would like to pay us to do it for them. And seldom does it work out.

As any crafter knows, it's almost impossible to pick up someone else's project and complete it to anyone's satisfaction. Often there's a very practical crafting reason why the person stopped working on it: the pattern got lost, torn or was just too complicated or boring. Sometimes it becomes painfully obvious that there won't be enough yarn to complete the project: try finding yarn to match a 30 year old product or colour! And even if everything is in place to complete the project...who has the precise tension of the original person or the time to develop it in order to achieve a beautiful finish?

And let me tell you, it's heartbreaking to have to tell these people that there is very little likelihood that we can help them achieve the finished product that will live up to their hopes and expectations. I have a personal reason to feel bad for them as my grandmother, the one who taught my brother and I to knit by creating those great Mary Maxim sweaters for us when we were little, and who made beautiful hats and mittens galore for us, left as her knitting legacy to me but a single pair of really ugly socks in a crystal blue plastic-like worsted weight acrylic yarn. She never knew that these would be the only things that I still had of hers that fit and hadn't worn out - probably because I never wore them.

All this was going through my head as the caller relayed her story...which then took an amazing turn. After her mother's death, her father decided to learn to knit in order to complete the baby blanket. His skill was that of a beginner, but he did finish it and the baby has a wonderful momento of a grandmother that he never met and a grandfather who went above and beyond the call of duty. I think that as a knitting teacher, I would have been so proud to help this man in his quest.

I do not, however, plan to take up woodworking in order to complete any of my husband's unfinished projects in his shop. I value my fingers too much to put them that close to something sharp that is whirring that fast.