Stitching Through the Generations

Many knitters and crocheters learned to stitch from older relatives. Some of them, and others to who learned on their own, have taught younger generations. We’ve gathered the stories from Red Heart consumers and Coats employees. What parts are familiar to you from your life? Share your stories in the comments.

Several people who shared their stories can trace knitting and/or crocheting back to their great-grandmothers, or even farther. Most of them learned from their family members, and in turn many of them have also taught their children and grandchildren.

Lee Campbell learned to crochet from her great-grandmother. “It’s actually a funny story. I’m left-handed, and my Mama, Granny, and Great-Granny were right handed. Mama and Granny tried having me sit next to them while trying to teach me how to do a starting chain. My Great-Granny put me on a stool in front of her and told me to “do what I do”. I moved and sat down next to her. She grabbed my long pony-tail, and snatched me back onto the stool and said again, “Do what I do”. As she was working from her right to left, I was seeing the mirrored image (left to right). I was making single crochet squares after about an half hour.”

Lee can trace 6 generations of crocheters on her mother’s side. She says, “I LOVE the idea of having things that are hand made to be passed down through the generations. It helps to remember those people that made the items once they have moved on from this Earth. Not enough people take the time to teach the next generation how to crochet and/or knit. I have a couple of Grandkids wanting to “play with yarn, just like Nana”. I’m excited to teach them once they are a little older.”

“I have a couple of Grandkids wanting to “play with yarn, just like Nana”. I’m excited to teach them once they are a little older.”

Jenny K-O'C husband's second afghan

Most of the stories involve learning from and/or teaching female relatives, but Jenny Koehler-O’Connor, who has taught at least a dozen friends to crochet, has also taught her husband. When they were dating, he was interested in learning, and has since made himself two afghans and is helping Jenny finish a third. His second afghan is shown here [left].

Speaking of husbands, Jody Rogers and her husband are dealing with his chronic medical conditions. She credits crocheting with helping her get through the “really tough times” of his illness.

Learning from older relatives both allows a skill to be passed down, but also positive feelings.

Lynn, a Coats & Clark employee, says “As luck would have it, I was surrounded by a family of talented sewers and crafters.  I learned to continental knit at age six by my Aunt (as I am left handed), at the same time my mother taught my best friend. I remember the comforting warmth, sitting on her lap with her arms around me, offering encouragement after each laborious stitch.”

Brandi-Aldrich-poncho-2Brandi Aldrich learned to crochet from her grandmother, and improved her skill through videos. Her great-grandmother also crocheted, as do some cousins and her son, and she plans on teaching both of her granddaughters. She says crochet “is very meaningful. To start, it was great time spent with my grandmother, and by her teaching me this craft I am able to make beautiful handmade gifts for my family and friends. I truly love being able to create things that other can have for a life time that my heart went in to making.” Her grandmother crocheted this poncho [right], which is at least 30 years old.

Deb-Maranell-afghan-1“I truly love being able to create things that other can have for a life time that my heart went in to making.”

Deb Maranell says “I learned to knit from my Grandma Sams. My sister and I were staying with her for a few weeks one summer and she decided to teach us to help us pass the time. I was probably 8 at the time, and I ended up making Barbie doll clothes. They weren’t anything elaborate, just a knitted square or rectangle that I sewed together to make a dress.

“My mom taught me to crochet when I was in my teens. I started with making small squares until I got the hang of it, then I progressed right to crocheting Afghans. I don’t remember the first one I made, but I did make one for a full size bed while I was away at college.” All three of her grandmothers, and two of her great-grandmothers knit and crocheted as well. She has some afghans from them, but unfortunately the beautiful sweaters made for her sister and her were worn out and tossed. Deb also has made afghans for her younger family members, and her niece and daughter crochet. Deb crocheted this rainbow granny square afghan and won a second place ribbon for it in the county fair, continuing a tradition of entering items in the fair that her mother started.

Jenny Koehler-O’Connor says: “I come from a long line of women who were crafter’s, artists, teachers, chefs… I feel a link to history when I am creating something, or using something handmade. I feel like I leave that good, connected feeling in the pieces I make. Every crafter knows how much dedication and thought goes into any handcrafted piece. Someone put their heart in it.”

Edie's-first-project-small“I feel a link to history when I am creating something, or using something handmade. I feel like I leave that good, connected feeling in the pieces I make.”

Stitchers frequently make items for people we love. My first knitting project, at age 4, was a scarf for my baby doll, continuing the tradition in my family of scarves as first projects. My mom Edie taught me to knit, and she learned as a child from her grandmother, who lived with them. She says, “The scarf [right] is the first thing I ever knit, when I was about six. It was a Christmas present for my father who was a Georgia Bulldogs fan, thus the red and black. Even though I worked hours and hours and hours on it, you can see that it wasn’t really long enough. My father never wore it but he kept it for many years; I’m so glad he didn’t throw it away. You’ll note that the scarf has tapered ends which is due to the beginner mistake of adding stitches at the beginning of rows and is finished with a round of single crochet which helped neaten up the very rough edges. I can’t remember if I did the single crochet or if [my grandmother] did.” My younger brother’s first knitting project was also a scarf, to match a hat our mom made him.

Joan-Barnett-afghanJoan Barnett, a Coats & Clark employee says: “I decided I wanted to learn how to crochet with thread…My Grandma made beautiful doilies and lace edgings for pillow cases, so I went to the expert and asked her to teach me how to crochet.

“Grandma sat down with me to teach me.  Watching her crochet at full speed, her hands were just a blur of motion.  When she slowed down to show me step by step, she had a hard time remembering!  We worked at it for a while and enough of her lesson stuck with me to give me a basic understanding so I could get started.

Over the years I have added to my crochet repertoire of stitches….I have even designed a few crochet projects for Coats and Clark and I can say I owe it all to those lessons at my Grandma’s knee.” Joan crocheted the afghan [left] for a friend’s wedding in the 1980s. You can see Joan’s patterns on RedHeart.com.

 

 

Thank you to all of the Red Heart fans and Coats employees and families who shared their stories: Brandi Aldrich, Joan Barnett, K. Lynn Brown, Lee Campbell, Edie Eckman, Margaret Eckman, Lois Chase Fetterman, Jenny Koehler-O’Connor, Joanne Kwiecinski, Janeen M., Deb Maranell, and Jody Rogers

Afghans in header image from Jenny Koehler-O’Connor. Sweater made for Edie Eckman by her grandmother.

6 thoughts on “Stitching Through the Generations

  1. Jacqueline

    I feel so fortunate to have been surrounded by such talented needle workers. I learned to knit and crochet from my mom and grandmother. Both of them learned from their grandmothers. The stories of these strong and creative woman have always been a part of my family history. Recently I took a break from my own knitting and crocheting to unearth and present some family memories to my aging mother. A few years ago when my grandmother passed away my mother gave me a bag full of lovely doilies and filet crochet pieces made by my grandmother and my great grandmother. I cleaned and blocked them and made beautiful pillows for my mother. I gave her a filet crochet “Cupid” for Valentines Day and a “Farm” scene with roosters and chickens for her birthday. She was thrilled to say the least. The farm scene is especially precious to my now aging mother as she recalls so fondly visiting my great grandfather’s farm in Maine as a child. Seeing these pieces has inspired me to learn filet crochet. I saddens me to think it could be a dying art. I have posted them on my website if you are interested in seeing them.

  2. Anonymous

    I was the 7th child born to my mother, who was overwhelmed. My dad homesteaded a 3 room log cabin in the mountains of Northiern CA . When I was 6 weeks old I was taken in and raised by my elderly aunt and her husband. My aunt taught me to crochet when I was very young. I would make Barbie doll clothes for my dolls and a friends. I was really quite the designer. I learned how to crochet hats for myself when young, and when I grew up I made sweaters, jackets, custom afghans, animal pillows, slippers and whatever! I taught my daughter and foster daughters to crochet. I ended up helping a large group of Russian refugees when they left the Soviet Union and came to CA and taught some of them to crochet! Neighbors have had items made for them by their grandmothers that were worn out and torn, and I learned the art of repairing crochet items to look like new. I made every elderly person in my family a pair of Hexagon knee boots that I call Hilarious Boots! And they all wear them and they smile every time they put them on! I love to crochet! The joke around here is “If you stand still long enough, Sandy will crochet something on you!”

  3. Maria

    I have two daughters in their late 30’s I have told them that filet crochet must not be an art that dies. I have crocheted filet items for both of them one a set of curtains for her bedroom and one a runner for her table in her front entry. Both of my girls know how to knit, crochet and cross stitch. The younger of the two has begun to do filet crochet and really loves it I’m still working on the oldest. My mother taught me and her mother taught her and on and on and on….. It’s a Breathtaking art and I hope that more and more people will show interest. I have been talking to everyone I know who crochets and tell them to try it. It isn’t difficult and it has a very strong WOW factor.😊

  4. Anonymous

    I learned crochet from my Mom. My Grandma and “Grandma Great” did both knit and crochet. We have afghans from both of them which I cherish as all 3 of them are gone now.

  5. Dorothy

    As a young mother , I lived 5 hours away from my mother. Each time we would visit , i would sit with her after everyone else went to bed. I can still remember the comfort and rhythm of the crochet hooks as she made us afghans and scarves while we talked and shared our thoughts and hopes. I looked forward to that time yet for some reason neither of us brought up the subject of teaching me to crochet. She was making me a sweater when she passed away , rather young. I found the knitting bag with her things. I kept it for many years and then decided I would attempt to finish the sweater. I had to take lessons in crochet and easily found my skills. It is amazing, but our tension is the same and I can not tell where she left off and I began. I altered the pattern slightly (leaving off the cuffed hem and left it with a straight hem which updated it and also accommodated my larger waistline ! (over 25 years have passed) I loved touching the same fibers she lovingly touched and so in many ways she did teach me in those moments we spent together. I now knit and crochet and have even taught one of my daughters and a grandson . I am in a prayer shawl group and have made new friends along the way. it is nice to see how this craft has woven it’s way into our lives.

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