As the evenings draw in, who doesn’t love to snuggle up in a cosy jumper or wrap up in a soft scarf to head out for a walk? It sparks lovely feelings of pure comfort, relaxation and being ‘minded’ like nothing else.
For me growing up, the metallic rhythmic tapping of knitting and crochet needles with the regular chorus of ‘hold this a minute’ punctuated by the odd ‘I’d love a cup of tea’ was the theme tune of winter nights at home. The flickering light of the TV with a blur of children, then teenagers who became adults with their own babies was the backdrop to the figure of my mother magically coaxing creations of the softest cotton and wool out of thin air. Unfortunately, my mother’s gifts skipped a generation in me (how she sighed watching me knit scarf after scarf after…scarf!). So, my jobs were pretty much confined to untangling wool, reading the tiniest lines in ancient patterns, making the tea and holding a piece of unfinished work while Mam went off to do one of the twenty or so things she always seemed to have on the go at the same time.
As I sat there, I would hold each piece in my hands and trace my fingers over each neat, perfect stitch. Plain, purl, raspberry, blackberry, rib stitch, cable stitch – double Dutch to me but somehow Mam twisted and turned the threads into cosy cardigans for tiny new-borns, matineé coats for ‘high days and holy days’ as she’d say, pixie hooded rainbow jumpers for the ‘big’ boys and girls, blankets and throws for our bedrooms. Our family photos are full of snaps of babies and children smiling, dozing and playing all wrapped in the soft comfort she made.
There is just something so special about every single handmade item. At a time when the news is full of ‘fast fashion’ and ‘disposable clothes’ it is the total, wonderful opposite. Every piece is unique, made with skill and care to last and be passed on and enjoyed for many years, the definition of sustainable before we ever thought about sustainability.
Sadly, I lost my precious Mam just before I had my first baby and my lovely Dad had to brave the maternity ward alone to visit us, something I never thought he would do at the age of 74. I was so proud of him in his mismatched shirt and jumper with a small unshaven patch on the side of his face as he made his way towards us with a huge smile, his first in weeks. He gave me the biggest hug with a large crumbled paper gift bag in one hand. As I showed him his newest little grandchild, the bag opened on the bed and the tiny handiworks of snowy white, rich cream and the softest yellows gently tumbled onto the bed. I traced my fingers along the stitches and heard them whisper ‘sleep tight little one’ and ‘I love you’.