generational patterns- a story


out of school pile-thesis strand one

Originally uploaded by cosymakes.

as many of you know, i’m in the process of compiling a bunch of my accessory patterns for a book. in light of this, i’ve been thinking a lot about actual written physical manifestations of knitting and how patterns move through generations and from place to place. i’m going to try to post every saturday some thoughts/reflections/quotes on that topic. this first excerpt from a book is my favorite reflection of generational patterns. from Anne L. Macdonald’s book No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting, pages 60-61.

Such a generational pattern is recalled by Barbara McGrann of Sea Island, South Carolina, whose grandmother, Julia, a thrifty German born around 1860, acquired from her mother a pattern for a heavy-duty ‘apple leaf’ cotton spread made up of squares, each square in turn divided into quadrants of four leaves at the center of a lovely open worked design. Her grandmother, like many of her generation, Mrs. McGrann recalled, lived with her daughter’s family:

…And she worked incessantly on this spread. The pattern was not written down, but she taught the pattern to my older sister [Emma] who finished the spread when my grandmother died.

Older sister Emma remembers observing her grandmother knitting until shortly before her death in 1934, when she rolled up the spread with a wistful ‘It was well begun but not half done.’ Emma many years later retrieved the ‘not half done’ spread from storage and finished it and passed it to her daughter. Emma’s niece, Julie McGrann Dougherty, the original knitter’s great-granddaughter, picks up the story in 1986:

When my mother saw the same spread on her niece’s bed and noticed how absolutely gorgeous it was, she got the pattern from Aunt Emma. My aunt knew it in her mind but took several tries to get it on a scrap of paper before she got it right. It was from that scrap of paper that Mom spent two years working, and now has her own apple leaf spread. It really is beautiful!

5 thoughts on “generational patterns- a story

  1. Pingback: pattern writing history « cosymakes

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