My grandmother used to knit me sweaters and make me clothes. As I recall, I didn’t like the clothes she sewed. She was an excellent seamstress, but the clothes tended to be frumpy. I remember a brown corduroy jumper (a dress with no sleeves that required a blouse underneath) and an orange floral blouse. She had made a chocolate brown cardigan with cables to go with it. I hope I was polite when I opened the gifts, but I remember thinking “I have to wear that?”
My father was an only child and I’m sure my grandmother was thrilled to finally be able to sew and knit for a little girl. I imagine her now (as a grandmother myself) sitting at her sewing machine, taking care to create the perfect garment or sitting at night in her rocking chair, guiding the cable needle in and out of the tiny stitches. She worked hard on these gifts all for a little girl who did not appreciate her efforts. She complained about my lack of enthusiasm to my parents and eventually she quit making me things.
These memories came flooding back after I gave a knitted gift to someone. They said the right things, but I didn’t get the reaction I wanted. I tried to be an adult and tell myself that the person had no idea of the hours that had gone into the project. They were not a knitter and garments like this were readily available in any department store. For a while, I was angry and disappointed until I realized this was my problem. I needed to let go.
Giving a gift is about letting go. Once the gift is given, it belongs to the receiver. A quilter I knew gave away a quilt to a friend only to find it lining the dog’s bed when she went to visit. When I asked her if that bothered her, she laughed and said no. I gave it to them, and they can do whatever they want with it. She had let go.
The spiritual life is about letting go. As Thomas Kemp put it in the “Imitation of Christ”
“To sum up, dear friend of Mine, unclench your fists, and let everything fly out of your hands. Clean yourself up nicely and stay faithful to your Creator.”
I love the image of things just flying out of our hands. I love the idea of making a gift for someone with no expectation. I want to be able to hand it over like my friend the quilter. This will take some continued prayer and work on my part.
I take my granddaughter with me to the yarn store. The pattern I picked out was a beautiful brown with cream lace around the cuffs and waist. My granddaughter wanted pink and purple. She got pink and purple.
I’ll end with this note to my grandmother. Something I should have written long ago.
Thank you for spending hours creating beautiful and exquisite garments for me. I had no idea how difficult it was to sew and knit. I didn’t appreciate the gifts back then, but I do now. You may have thought they didn’t mean anything to me, but the memory was there and now that I’m a grandmother, I finally get it.
Project Update: Pattern Rows 15-22 of pattern 56 of the Japanese Stitch Bible
7 thoughts on “Letting Go”
Your grand daughter is adorable in her pink and purple! And that was a clever compromise. As well as letting gifts go, we can listen more closely to the people we want to give a gift to! That exchange is best of all.
I lost my Mom just a month ago at the grand age of 96. She was a superb knitter and seamstress, talents that she passed on to my sister and me. I was very close to my Mom all my life and I miss her. Since my retirement two years ago I have returned to knitting on a far bigger scale. When my son and daughter were children, I did the sewing and she knit some beautiful sweaters for them, most of which I kept for the next generation. Looking back, I realize she did let us choose the color and style. However the letting go message in today’s blog, sent me a private message in many ways relating to how I react to disappointment in people at times in my every day life. These days as I knit, I realize all the love and caring Mom put into her projects for us and it soothes my grief. This is the reason your blog appealed to me and I am enjoying the read. Thank you
Thank you Judy for sharing. Sending prayers to give you strength as you grieve.
Julie, I’m wondering if you have considered extending your daily contemplative knitting posts beyond Lent? I have not had a daily contemplative practice for several years now, but have found your posts provide me with a framework for contemplative practice that I look forward to each day. Your use of knitting as a foundation for raising larger questions about our engagement with the world as spiritual beings is perfect for me. I find myself reflecting not just during the time of contemplative knitting but throughout the day on the subject at hand — be it spiritual guides (the source of our patterns) or the need for mindfulness (dropped stitches) or recognizing and acting to address past mistakes (cleaning out that stash). I know this is no small request to make of you. I have an appreciation for the time required in crafting our writing, just as in crafting our knitting. But I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you my deep appreciation for your posts and ask about the possibility of their continuing.
Mary, I have a book coming out next week entitled Contemplative Knitting that has 36 more reflections in it in addition to a whole bunch of other stuff! Each of the reflections includes reflection questions. It would keep you going another 36 days. I will continue to post in the blog but not every day! Thank YOU soooo much for you feedback! I’m sending you an email on another subject.
I just found Contemplate Knitting online and it’s in my amazon cart. Have also shared it with the prayer shawl group at my church. Thanks.