Myrtle

Myrtle Green © Kirks Studios, Cowes, IOW

This is the lady who got me onto my lifelong making kick. I was first taught to knit, sew and craft by my Nan, Myrtle Francis when I was about 5 years old, in the early 1980s. She seemed to be constantly knitting when I was young – she would make jumpers and cardigans for me with intarsia Mr Men, Smurfs or Care Bears on them, then later ones with Postman Pat for my sister. My Mum also knitted but with less enthusiasm (and probably with less time available). I remember her making a mohair cardigan for herself which my Dad washed soon after it was completed, shrinking it irretreivably.

She was a prolific knitter and sewer all her life and could easily adapt patterns to fit anyone. She also crocheted and I think kept all this going to ease the pain in her hands from arthritis: the more she used her hands, the longer her joints would keep going.

It was so exciting to go on holiday to her house on the Isle of Wight. I would be collected from the mainland by my Grandad (always known to me as Georgie), and we would take the bus down to get the passenger ferry across to the Island. It was a slow, slow journey on the ferry at that time. Taking almost a hour, there was enough time to have a leisurely lunch and to get out on the top deck to see how close we were to Ryde.

Isle of Wight Ferry by Just_Tom. Used under Creative Commons license.

After another ride on the bus to Newport, we were finally there. My Nan had the most wonder understairs cupboard which doubled as a food larder for pickles and jams, and craft supply area, with a good stash of wool and hundreds of patterns from the 1930s on. I was in my element in that cupboard and would sit and play for hours with my friend Amber from across the road.

I was a real bookworm when I was younger (actually, who am I kidding. I’m still a real bookworm. Nothing changes.) One school holiday, after I had read all of the children’s books in the house, and all of Amber’s ones too. My grandparents were fed up with me complaining of being bored, so my Nan taught me to knit on short metal green needles. It was an epiphany and the beginning of an itch that I still have to scratch every single day. I had all the usual problems with dropped stitches and adding about 25 more stitches as my garter stitch scarf grew and grew. It ended up a nicely triangled bright orange thing, but my teddy bear, Robert didn’t seem to mind.

So that’s how I got started. I’m still inspired by my Nan: in photographs, in her knitting patterns and her 1930s sewing book and even when I’m making something and think to myself ‘what would Nan do with this bit I’m stuck on?’

Tell me then, who taught you to make things? What were they like? Do they still inspire you today? Tell me about them in the comments: I’d love to have a conversation about this.

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4 responses

  1. I was actually taught to knit by both my grandmothers but I am sad to say that none of it caught on at the time. I still like to think that being creative with fabric, fibers and yarn is something I do have from my Grandmothers and my mother. I don’t think there is anything my mother can’t turn her hand to if she wants. The only problem being time and motivation.

    27/07/2010 at 1:42 pm

    • ingridnation

      I definitely think that what we get taught when we are young stays with us, even subconsciously. There is always that reminder that you were first taught by your grandmothers and mother and what that means to you. It seems like a heritage that has been passed on.

      28/07/2010 at 10:43 pm

  2. I can’t remember being taught to knit, but probably it was my Mum, as my Nana lived at the other end of the country. What I do know is that in the 1930’s my Nana went to WEA Workers Education classes to learn to knit, and from that moment on she knitted up a storm. Mostly useful things, slippers, bedsocks, and rugs … she taught my Mum and my mum taught me. They taught me well .. for at 14 after my mum died I could knit my own cardigans and sweaters. I fell away from knitting until my son was born .. but now knitting is my main distraction … and I’ve taught my daughter and son. i don’t care if they don’t stick with it …. they know the basics and they can return to it if they need to.

    28/07/2010 at 2:29 am

    • ingridnation

      It is really interesting to me that your Nana learned to knit at the WEA classes. I did some research a few years ago about craft education between the wars and how it enabled women. I think that a lot of people learn to knit and then fall away from it, before coming back some years later. Perhaps your children will too 🙂

      28/07/2010 at 10:48 pm

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