‘Number 13, unlucky for some: Remembering the day my mother taught me to knit’

May 31, 2020
Fleur shares the beautiful memory of her mother teaching her how to knit. Source: Getty Images

I work in aged care out in the community, and I am very privileged to share a small part of my client’s day, their lives and stories. Recently, I was admiring a beautiful blanket, or was it a throw, or something in between, that was elegantly draped over a well-worn couch. The couch had seen many a backside parked on it, and by the look of the scraggy pulled threads along the arm and at the back, it had been used as a scratching post by a feline or two as well.

The blanket was so colourful, it couldn’t help but lift the spirits of those who saw it, and the comforting touch of the soft woollen fibres was so cuddly. I had mentioned to the client that it was a good snuggly blanket, and on a cold winter’s day or night it would be ‘just the ticket’ while watching TV or enjoying a good read.

I shifted my attention momentarily from mopping her vinyl-floored lounge room, to have a closer look at the complicated cable stitch that created an eye-catching pattern in the colours.

“That looks like a lot of work. How long did that take you to do?” I asked curiously.

My client smiled proudly. “About a month. That’s my fifth blanket, I’ve done 12 of them so far, I’m working on the 13th. Unlucky for some, but very lucky for my granddaughter!”

“Thirteen?! That’s amazing!” My eyes popped as I thought of the time it would take to complete them all.

Then she asked a question that sent me back to my childhood memories. “Do you knit?”

As I answered, I continued mopping the floor.

“Yes, my mum taught me when I was seven years old. I remember that day so vividly. She was trying to mop our kitchen floor and I was at a loose end. I had already played with my toys and dolls and now I was looking for something new and interesting to do. I asked mum to teach me how to knit, as she could whip up an adult-sized jersey, complete with a complicated cable stitch, without a pattern, in about a week.”

“A week? Sounds familiar. I can do that too, and my mum was the same,” my client commented.

“Mum patiently put aside the mop and went to her knitting caddy and produced a pair of Number 8 needles. She fished out a ball of fluoro orange baby wool and looped and tied the wool around the needle. She got me started, I watched intently, then she said to finish the row.

“In what felt like an awkward style, and frowning with concentration, I slowly and carefully worked along the row. I was pulling the yarn way too tight, so it was hard getting the needle through each stitch. Mum carried on mopping. Then, at the end of the row, I stopped. I asked, ‘What now? What do I do now?’” I laughed as I changed the water to rinse the mop.

“And?” my client asked from the couch as she continued knitting.

“Mum came over and said to start again. I shrugged, feeling lost. How do I do that? She put her mop down again and swapped the needles around. I was totally unaware of it, but she was teaching me to knit right-handed, as I’m a leftie.

“She was right-handed, so it was her way, or nothing at all. Left-handed knitting was way too hard for her. So, I made my first wonky-edged, fluoro orange scarf. And I knit right-handed now, as always.

“However, I crochet left-handed, and I can’t remember who taught me … I’ve no idea! No one in my family was a leftie except me, and very few of my friends were, either, so that remains a mystery, but I’m glad they did, as I love to crochet too!”

The floors were mopped and sparkling clean, my story was told and my client expressed her appreciation over a cup of tea as I had a few minutes to spare.

I have since been back and have seen blanket number 13; it’s beautiful. She is currently working on yet another for her huge clan. I think she’s working through the great-grandchildren now!

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What are some of the things your mother taught you? What things have you passed on to your children or grandchildren?

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