I recently found myself thinking about my paternal grandmother, Jean Lee. I didn’t get to know her all that well because she lived in Winnipeg and I grew up in Montreal, but our family visited probably once a year or so. My grandmother taught school in a one-room schoolhouse starting at age 16, but gave it up when she got married a few years later. She then raised my father and aunt and looked after the house and her husband for the rest of her life. I imagine she found plenty to keep her busy just doing those things, but on top of that the urge to create was strong in her. Over the years she quilted, sewed, knitted, did leatherwork, learned découpage, and was an accomplished painter; those are the ones I’m sure about. I’m pretty sure she embroidered and possibly did some weaving, also. I think I may have taken her abilities for granted when I was young, but since I’ve taken up knitting, I appreciate her talents a lot more. Practicing one of those skills is challenging (take it from me!), but having the curiousity and drive to tackle all those skills, is pretty amazing. Perhaps she went through phases, didn’t do them all at once, but still!
As kids, my siblings and I (Grama only had four grandchildren through her son and two step-grandchildren through her daughter) were each the recipient of a quilt and a knitted blanket, amongst other, smaller things. I remember receiving a handmade turquoise mini-skirt, which I loved; a couple of paintings, one of a fox that I particularly liked; and after my grandmother passed away all of her things were spread out around the family. She made a beautiful leather briefcase that my husband used for years until it finally gave out; I still have one of her large paintings in my house; I have a découpaged jewelry box she made. So many beautiful items came from her talented hands. I know her enthusiasm and love for crafting was passed down to her daughter, my aunt Thelma (an accomplished weaver) and my sister, Nora, and I, who both knit and Nora is an expert rug-hooker and enjoys sewing. I’d love to think that crafting will continue to be a part of our family for generations to come, despite full-time jobs that take so much time that previous generations of women might have used to create things (both useful and decorative).
Now, crafting is seen as a purely leisure activity, something one can take or leave as individuals see fit. Pleasant but entirely unnecessary. Now, I’m convinced that it’s absolutely necessary, even more so because things are so easy to acquire these days. Order a sweater on Amazon, and it arrives in a day or two. Casting on yarn and creating that sweater from scratch makes you truly appreciate what goes into it and brings you closer to your ancestors, who would be knitting as they waited for the soup to boil, while the baby nursed, and in between everything else. Where else would the family get their socks, sweaters, hats, mitts, etc? Thank you, Grama, for passing on the crafting gene.