Monday, May 11, 2009

Hidden Treasures

A couple months ago I moved into an apartment. A lot of my things had been in storage for more than a year, and I'm still discovering treasures collected over many moves. I have packed and unpacked 18 times in my life.

Whenever anyone visited my grandmother, Babci, we were sure to leave with an armful of clothes, at least, or bags full of things we just couldn't refuse, try as we might. It was hard to say no to Babci, who was thrifty and earnest. Sometimes she found just the right thing to make my day--I have a great green-and-purple houndstooth dresscoat that came with a handmade (by my aunt) dress to match. Babci hemmed the dress a little too short for me to wear regularly, but it makes its appearance as a go-go dress, the only costume I can pull off. Other times, I'd come away with a stained sweater that I reluctantly took but never wore. Before my grandmother moved in with my aunt, she insisted I take a tablecloth that I had no use for, and no means to transport. She saved it for me, with a post-it note, taped to the black plastic bag, that read "for Tammie" in her shaky hand. I can't remember what year it was, but I threw the bag in my rental car, returned to Chicago, and put the bag in the basement.

A month ago I opened the bag to put away the tablecloth only to find that Babci had snuck in a couple other items. There were a few folds of fabric with interesting patterns and the cream of the crop, a crocheted afghan. I closed up the bag to deal with it later.

This weekend, I opened up the bag to find a beautiful, full-sized afghan in a bright and fun pattern. I'm sure it's acrylic and Babci may or may not have made it. But it's such a treasure. I can picture Babci cooking or slicing strawberries, but I can't remember seeing my grandmother doing any kind of hand work, though we always had crocheted slippers to wear, and her embroidery is recognizable because she never split the strands. Once she showed me a rag rug she was making; that was the only time there was a direct indication that she made beautiful things from fiber. I did learn some sewing from Babci, mostly mending, and she once helped me make a pink satin pillowcase for my Papa (my grandfather on my mom's side). I knew my aunt was crafty--she must have learned it from someone, probably Babci, her mother. My aunt tried to teach me many of the skills she has in abundance; most notably, my aunt gave me my first knitting lesson, when I was about nine.

There's a needle-arts lineage in my family that I'm proud to share. I'm a knitter, through and through, but lately I've been having dreams of expanding my knowledge of all things fabric and fiber. I'd like to learn to sew and to embroider, mostly to embellish my knitting. I'd also like to make a rag rug in honor of my Babci.

For now, though, I'll keep knitting. I'm halfway through Pucker; I have to sew in a lining and add a drawstring to the chalk bag; I've got more than half of a gift to finish; and I promised socks to Aimee's weaving teacher. I've got to finish those before Aimee leaves Korea. So the other fiber arts are going to remain on the wish list for now. Each thing I knit, though, is infused with the spirit of my grandmother, and the memories of learning from my aunt. Makes me love to knit even more.


Carrie K said...

It's fun to run across treasures from the past - and at a time we can appreciate them more fully.

Knitting Linguist said...

It's fabulous to be able to feel that lineage of fiber artists behind us as we work, isn't it?