Pete’s sister, Kristin, is coming to Ann Arbor this weekend, which set me to thinking about how central relationship is to our love for making things by hand. One of the best things about working at a yarn store is hearing people’s stories about how they learned to knit, or crochet, or weave, or spin, or do whatever it is they love. Another of the best things about working at a yarn shop is hearing people’s stories about what they are making, and why, and for whom.
My neighbor Rose, who lived on the next farm over from my family’s, taught me to crochet, and I made a weird red clown that I hung on my wall. I don’t have the clown anymore (probably for the best), but I still have two of the intricate doilies Rose worked on in their front room after supper. My aunt Sister Mary, my mother’s sister, taught me to knit in our living room one year when she stayed with us for Easter. My mother taught me to sew and do needlepoint during the winters, when fewer chores took up our time together.
All that crafting languished during college, with the exception of a long bus ride from Des Moines to St. Louis (via Kansas City!), when another student sat beside me, and we safety-pinned thread to our jeans and talked and made friendship bracelets for hours.
Then, in my early twenties, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and met Pete, and eventually Kristin, who came to stay with us over one Thanksgiving. We made broccoli pasta, and drank Huber Bock, and played darts in the damp basement, and she (re)taught me how to knit.
I’m happy she’s visiting this weekend, and I’m happy she’s going to spend time at the shop with us: it likely wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for her.
Along with Rose’s doilies, I still have a tablecloth and an afghan my grandmother made. I have many quilts my mother made together with her friends in the church basement on Wednesday mornings. My daughters have sweaters and dresses and dolls from me, hand-sewn and embroidered beauties from Pete’s mother, quilts from my mother, and a miniature closet full of hand-knit doll sweaters from their aunt Kristin.
When I make something for a loved one, the importance of relationship is obvious and foundational. I work, and I think about my loved recipient, and I think about how every inch of that doll, or sweater, or blanket, or hat, is passing through my fingers, and I’m glad. When we love someone, the impulse to make something lasting for them is inescapable. It’s a way of embodying our love, giving it a physical shape in the world.
But even when I’m making something for the shop, or for myself, relationship remains. Yes, I’m often spending time with other people while I craft, at the shop or at home, with new friends or old ones. But I’m also remembering all my teachers, and it feels like my work is making them present, even if they’ve been gone a long time, like my mother and grandmothers and my neighbor Rose and Sister Mary.
I hope you get a chance to meet Kristin this weekend! Enjoy our most recent Michigan spring, and enjoy your time with those you love.