Over the past year, or so, I have been working on a pattern collection that, to me, represents my maternal aunts and uncles.
But everything was taking so long to get through. All the swatching, and writing, and re-swatching, and editing……. And it was all done with such a heavy heart through the whole process.
But, here, I write how this collection came about. My mom is the 7th of 9 siblings. When she was very young, just 6 years old, they were orphaned. My eldest aunt, Hazel, became their surrogate mother at the age of 19. They fought to stay together; times were really tough during the early 1940s. They developed an unbreakable bond, evident in how close our generation is with our cousins to this day.
As long as I can remember, we have spent Boxing Day dinner with my mom’s siblings and their families. When we were younger, we all fit into one of the sibling’s homes. But, as the years went on, and the next generation started getting married and having kids of their own, we needed to move into a bigger venue. So, the past several years, we have been holding our annual family dinner in a church hall.
So, at dinner, on December 26, 2014, my cousin Lisa had this really cute infinity scarf/cowl on. I inspected it, measured it, and decided that I needed to write a pattern for it. It was simple enough – just a brioche stitch strip that had one end sewn to the side of the other end. I made some cursory notes in my ‘bright ideas’ book and let it sit.
Earlier in December, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was aggressive and we knew that her time with us was limited. I had little time, or brain power, to design anything. I was knitting a lot, though, mostly samples for my lovely friend, Liisa.
My mom was also an avid knitter. In fact, she was knitting right up until the end. We would often spend hours chatting and knitting together to pass the time in the hospital. It was during one of these visits that this collection was born.
Sometimes, I wish that my mom’s pattern had been the first, but it wasn’t. The year before, I had started knitting a wrap. It wasn’t something I had worked on a lot, but it was something that I referred to mindless knitting. Something to have in my bag for the commute to work, meetings, training sessions, line ups, conference calls….you get the drift. But, I didn’t know how to finish the edging on it. I love the edging on Emily Ross’ Haruni Collection (I might have made a few) and wanted to do something like it. I poured over stitch dictionaries and Ravelry for inspiration. I finally charted out the lace that I wanted. Then, I decided to make another wrap, then my cousin Lisa’s cowl. And the collection was born. I shared my knitting progress with Mom. She watched me swatch, rip, swatch, rip, swatch, and make the notes.
The overall shapes came quite easily. I can’t draw anything, but I was able to create some sketches of what I wanted to do and the swatching told me stitch counts and basic measurements. I finished the Hazel wrap first. In fact, I finished it just in time for my nephew’s wedding in March 2015. I cast on the wrap for Marjorie – the stockinette portion was easy to do while sitting with mom at home, hospital, and, at the end, hospice.
Mom lost her fight on May 4, 2015. Truth be told, I didn’t feel like working on this anymore. I just wanted to knit… I didn’t want to have to think. But, then, a week later, I got my hands on the limited edition of ‘rain in spain’ colourway of SweetGeorgia’s Sock club. It was a luscious skein of merino + yak + silk….. I had to cast on the shawl I named Cecile. It was a hard project to work on – so many memories – but I found much comfort and solace in knitting. It was something to focus on when all I wanted to do is crawl into a shell and not talk to or see anyone. Each stitch (and one of these days I will figure out how many there are) was created with loving memories of my mom.
Although I had high hopes of publishing these patterns in a timely manner, I found I was just unable to carry out my plan. My dad suffered a heart attack at the end of July. I was, once again, knitting beside a hospital bed. This time, it was a blanket – the 10th pattern of the collection – which is to represent the grandparents that I never knew; the parents that my younger uncles barely remembered. (side note – Dad spent a week in hospital and has resumed his regular activities)
I am blessed to have such awesome knitterly friends who were glad to support me and lend me a hand by knitting samples for me. I really had hoped to get all the patterns published by fall. But, I found around the middle of September that I had lost interest in things again. I didn’t feel like editing the patterns. I really didn’t feel like doing anything. So, I put this on the back burner, once again, and just knit. (okay, side note, I designed a really cute hat-turns-cowl for the SweetGeorgia Holiday Collection)
But, I pulled myself together, once again, and got going on this collection. It was hard deciding on a name for this collection. But, there was a theme…all the patterns will keep you warm – so, the Warmth of Family was born. I got Hazel published. Then Beatrice. Then Mamie. I really wanted to publish the patterns in the sisters’ age order, but, I was horribly behind my self-imposed schedule. I wanted to get Cecile published on April 22 – Mom’s birthday. I didn’t.
After much self-thought, I decided that I didn’t have to publish in any specific order, other than when I wanted to publish. So I will publish mom’s today – one year after my life, as I knew it, changed.
Dedicated to my mom, Cecile, the 6th sister.
She had an infectious smile that immediately put everyone at ease. This crescent shawl represents that smile – something you can wrap yourself in, whenever you need to brighten your day.
Mom – I miss you every day. I know you have spent the last year catching up with those who were waiting for you when you were taken from us – your parents – Ng Dick Jong and Mabel Chow; your sisters – Beatrice, Ina, Marjorie, and Hazel; your brothers – Howard, Doug, and Herb and your friends.