Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yarny Aunties

Do you have a Yarny Auntie? What is that?, you ask. Yarny Aunties are the ladies in your life that encourage you to knit, crochet, spin, weave or sew. I told you about GG my grandma, she taught me to knit, just like many of your grandmas taught you. But, I also had for inspiration a Yarny Auntie. Auntie Gladys, she was my father's youngest sister. She was quite the talented lady. Not only did she knit many things, she also crocheted, made human hair wigs (pulling strands of hair through a wig lining one little bunch at a time) and she taught lots of women to knit and crochet. She was amazing.

Her mother taught her to knit as a child and by the time she was a teenager in the late 1930s, early 1940s she was knitting bathing suits for boutiques in Hollywood for the movie stars.

She would knit for the girls in the family (me, my sister, my mom, my Aunt E, Cousin D and Cousin T) matching sweaters almost every year at Christmas. I remember wearing the beautiful soft white mohair pullover with big colorful circles on it in a "Girls Only" photo one Christmas as a teen. What an impressive sight, 6 of the same patterned sweater in 6 different sizes.

For my wedding gift, 33 years ago, she asked my husband and I if we would like an afghan. We jumped at the chance and she knitted us one, with her own pattern that is still intact and warm today all those years later.

I also have a crocheted "cat" that she made for me when I was an infant. She was making up her own pattern and the cat had too big of a head for the rest of the body. She had finished it while we visited her and Mama said that Gladys laid the stuffed cat down near me and I grabbed it. I chewed and chewed on the cat's head and Gladys laughed and told Mom I could have it. I still have it and that was over 60 years ago.  

Knitting and crocheting lasts. And so do the memories of our Yarny Aunties. Gladys was never able to teach me how to knit socks, the one thing that she did as regularly as most people wash dishes. But after she died I remembered her knitting sock after sock for her husband, my Uncle Red (he had red hair). I was inspired by the memory and decided that I could teach myself a few things that Gladys did that I had always wanted to do. So, I got out a beginning knitting book and taught myself how to do cables, first. I had assumed that cables were so hard to knit. Boy was I wrong. That was so easy, I decided to teach myself how to knit socks, next. I got another beginner's pattern for socks and away I went. What an adventure. I can't tell you what kinds of words I said as I learned how to do that by myself! Of course the first sock I knit was HUGE, but I TURNED THE HEEL CORRECTLY.  So, then I began practicing. I knit a lot of baby sized socks until I was better at figuring out my foot size. Then I thought that I would love to knit my husband and son a Christmas Stocking just like the one that Auntie Gladys made for me when I was 1 year old. By this time, the internet was becoming more accessible and I was able to search the internet for these sock patterns that Auntie Gladys always used for Uncle Red's socks. I had already been searching stores everywhere I went to see if I could find a Grace Ennis pattern. I had no success. When we moved to Rapid City the internet service was wonderful compared to dial-up access in the rural area where we lived before. I found a web site with Grace Ennis' patterns! But, not before a catalog came in the mail with the very pattern I wanted! I was so excited to see the pattern that I ordered the Christmas Stocking pattern from the catalog. Then I wrote this letter to the man who put up the web site. He published my letter on his site:

Dear Grace Ennis Graphic Knitting Patterns:
Thank you.  Thank you  for saving these wonderful patterns and bringing back to us the joy of those years that Grace was designing. 

I received a Grace Ennis Christmas Stocking, the Reindeer and Sleigh, for a Christmas gift  when I was about 1 year old. I still have that stocking and proudly display it on the wall each Christmas, that was 47 years ago! The aunt that knitted that stocking, knitted 4 others for her children and nieces and nephews from the first time that Grace's pattern came out in 1949. This aunt also knitted quite a few of Grace's men's dress sock patterns, as I remember watching my aunt make magic with 4 needles and yarn as she turned out sock after sock for her husband.
Last Christmas my teenage son asked me why I didn't make he and my husband matching Christmas stockings like the one that I had and I replied that I had no idea where that pattern came from and if I could ever find it again. Then last week I received the Patternworks catalog and there was the very pattern of my stocking!  I am so happy to have a little of my history restored to me, and to know of the history of Grace and the knitting patterns. 

When I was 10 years old I watched the flames from the Bel Air fire from the roof of my parents' house in Van Nuys, California and wondered about the people who were losing their homes. Since I taught myself to knit socks, my aunt passed away without showing me, I have often wondered about her sock patterns for her husband. Thanks to you, I have to wonder no more!

A Happy Knitter thanks to you!

Sue Jensen

Rapid City, SD

I knit two of those Christmas stockings and they hang on our wall every Christmas.

Memories are made while you watch life go by. Please make memories as a Yarny Auntie, or the Mom, Grandma, Sister etc that teaches another person to continue the time-honored crafts of knitting, crocheting, spinning, and weaving. Some day someone that you taught will be blogging about YOU!

Have a great week.

1 comment:

  1. Where did you fine the patterns. My daughter in law is looking for them.