Last December on Prairie Home Companion, one of the skits was about a man receiving a scarf for Christmas. His girlfriend had knit the scarf especially for him and couldn’t wait for him to open the gift. When he saw it was “just” a scarf, he looked at it with disdain, clueless about why his girlfriend could be so excited about giving him such a gift. “You would think she had knit the Shroud of Turin!” he huffed. I felt sorry for this fictional woman. I knew the scene rang true for many of us knitters. We quickly learn to rethink who we knit for and what we knit for them.
When a newbie to knitting, I started with scarves and hats. I knit watch caps for my dad and for my brother, Steve. Love was in every stitch as I thought about the recipient during my knitting. When I excitedly presented Dad with his hat, he had a puzzled look on his face. “It’s a hat, Dad, for when you’re working outside or fishing. It’s 100% wool and will keep your head warm.” He replied, “Oh. Thanks.” I’m pretty sure he had no idea why I knit such a hat for him and I never saw him wear it. Come to think of it, I only remember Dad wearing watch caps during harsh New York winters when he and Mom lived in the Catskill mountains. The weather had to be windy and bitterly cold for Dad to wear a watch cap, otherwise he wore a cowboy or baseball-style hat. After retiring to North Carolina, he no longer needed a warm wooly hat. The hat for my brother was ridiculous: Steve’s hat could have fit a good-sized pumpkin. He put it on his head and said, “Geez, how big do you think my head is?” My expectations were too high.
My knitting has come a long way since then. I’ve gifted socks to my sister-in-law, Diane. When I recently gave Steve a pair to pass on to her he looked at me with amazement and said, “Now I know why you told me no one should have so many beautiful socks in their drawer. These socks are amazing! Diane loves every pair you’ve given her.”
Dad loved the pair of socks I knitted for him one Christmas. He was disappointed when he could no longer wear them because of swelling in his feet and ankles. He was amazed by the Girasole blanket I knit for him and his lovely wife, Helen, for their first wedding anniversary. He was 79 years young and Helen five years his junior when they married. Helen enjoys the socks I’ve knit for her and was the recipient of my first and to-date only felted hat.
This past December, Helen and I rushed Dad to the emergency room because he was having difficulty breathing. As uncomfortable as he was, Dad introduced me to the nurse, “This is my daughter. She’s a knitter.” I could hear the pride in his voice. “Is that right,” the nurse replied. Dad said, “I bet she knit that sweater she has on.” When I said, “Yeah, Dad, I did,” the nurse looked at my heavily cabled, zippered and hooded cardigan with admiration. I made Dad proud. I was proud of him, too. He understood my passion for knitting. We had both come a long way since that watch cap.
– In memoriam John Gregory – January 1, 1929 – December 23, 2012