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.
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.