Knitting Grannies

Preparing for our next conference, I’ve been thinking a lot about clothing, about how first impressions are made by clothing, how there are so many idioms around clothing – a wolf in sheep’s clothing; wearing your heart on your sleeve; put on your thinking cap; clothes make the man ….. and so many more.


On my bookcase, I have a photograph of my first grandson wearing an outfit made by both my mother and me just before he was born nearly 12 years ago. She was declining with memory and orientation issues, and we made this little outfit together when I visited her in her care home. I did the ‘fancy bits’ and she could still manage the plain rows – much as she had taught me to knit over 60 years ago.


As a young child, I would knit a few stitches on a joint project – an apron or skirt for a doll maybe – and she did the ‘tricky bits’ like beginning and ending a row. As I was visiting her, we passed the knitting back and forth between us in companionable and rhythmic quiet, allowing for occasional and rambling conversation. Passing the knitting back and forth replaced the thread of a conversation, knitting the relationship together in a non-verbal, and tangible way, linking space and time.


When I write or speak about why we teach children to knit, I almost always say “it’s not about producing knitting grannies” – there is so much more: the bilateral coordination, supporting will development, laying a foundation for future abstract three dimensional thinking, etc., etc. But sometimes it actually is about grannies knitting. Right now, I am knitting a baby sweater for a colleague, reaching out with a gesture of love and care, ‘twice-clothing’ the baby in both a soft and beautiful sweater, and wrapping her in the care of an older adult pouring good wishes into every stitch. Passing on the unbroken thread of the tradition of knitting ‘grannies’ from generation to generation.



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