Nancy knits

I can’t remember if I have told you about Nancy. If I have, skim ahead. If not, settle back, there’s a story here.

My mom had two cousins on her dad’s side, Nancy and her sister. They were both older than Mom and her sisters, so of course, she looked up to them as lovely, cool, very grown up, when she was growing up. She tells me that as a girl, she used to wish she would grow up to be as pretty as Nancy. (side story: one day many years ago, I stopped by unannounced at my grandparents. My grandmother opened the door to let me in, and I could see into the living room where someone was sitting on the sofa. I remember saying to my grandmother “I didn’t know Mom was down!” which made her chuckle. It wasn’t Mom, it was Nancy. Wishes do come true.) anyway…

Nancy married and had a family and lived half way across the country, was in about the same financial condition that we were, so I never met her until that day at Gram’s when I was in my 20’s. But I heard lots about Nancy. My grandfather was very proud of this niece. She had her own business knitting. She actually made money knitting, and not in some sweat shop. She designed her own things and sold’em and people paid her for it. It was an amazing concept.
nancy 2
So, after that meeting at Gram’s, I emailed Nancy to ask her for advice on how to price things. That’s when I found out the secret: there is no way to price hand-made original designs so that you truly make money, unless you are either knitting for the wealthy or find a market for your patterns. You can receive some money for your garments, for sure. And it might very well cover your costs, but it will probably NEVER cover your time in designing and knitting. Nancy did inspire me to keep knitting, and to think about ways to use my skill and love of fiber to make ME happy, and maybe someday make some money.
nancy 3
I kept in touch, pretty loosely with her over the next several years. we only met one more time in person, at her mother’s funeral, where I also met Nancy’s daughter. She also lived far away, and we kept in touch by email, better than Nancy and I did.

Nancy was diagnosed with cancer several years ago. Her daughter kept the family up to date on how she was doing, and near the end of Nancy’s life, her daughter went to stay with her. She emailed that one thing that Nancy was very worried about was her stash. What would happen to all her lovely yarn when she was gone? I emailed that if it would set her mind at ease, tell her I would welcome the stash and appreciate it. She settled down and I forgot all about it. Months later, my cousin emailed me that the stash was on its way. Her mom had been so appreciative that I was interested, that she would hear of nothing else.

Well, when it arrived, it was an immense amount of yarn, I can’t even begin to tell you. More yarn than I could ever use. really beautiful stuff. 4 large boxes of it, vacuum packed.

I went through it all, every little skein and ball. I sorted out what I loved from what I didn’t, what I thought I would use from what I knew I wouldn’t. then, I called my sister. Did she want it? We finally lit on the idea of having a party with all the women in the family, to dig through Nancy’s stash and divvy it up. After all, why should I be the only one to benefit from this wonderful gift? We were all Nancy’s cousins. So we did that, I took the yarn down in large trash bags, I can’t remember how many, but the car was full.

My mom and her two sisters, my sister, my cousins all had a great day, and they all went home with bags of yarn. I came back with two trash bags that I shared with my sisters in law, and we all moved on.

nancy 4

But upstairs in the craft room, I have a few totes of yarn from Nancy. And I also have a bag with some WIPs. I pull them out and look at them, wish I could do forensic knitting so I could finish them. today as I was cleaning up the craft room, I came upon that bag again, and took it out. I held that knitting and wondered when Nancy had started the things. Was she feeling good one day, and thought she would be able to finish? Did she get bored with the pattern and put it aside, in favor of some new yarn or pattern? I have no way to know.

Today I unraveled two of the WIPs, winding the yarn, and thinking about her, and how creative she was, what an accomplished knitter. I thought about what I would make with the yarn I was wrapping into balls. It might not be as original in design, but I am also a competent knitter, so I know it will be well made. I think one of the projects will turn itself into hats, but the other, a wonderful rayon chenille, begs to be made into something special and luxurious. I don’t know yet what it is. Or who it is for. But I know, as I knit it, Nancy will be there beside me, her needles clicking away.

nancy 1

I often think of Nancy as I knit, whether or not I am using her yarn. I wonder what she would think of the hats I make, much more basic and less fancy than the ones she used to sell. But they keep heads warm, and they are well made, from good yarn. I wonder why she didn’t write down her patterns, so I could finish her WIPs. I wonder at her optimism, buying so much yarn at the end of her life, but I am very grateful that she did! I am glad she joins me in my craft room and on the couch, at meetings when I work on the endless hats.

3 thoughts on “Nancy knits”

  1. What a beautiful story! The year my grandmother died, I was at home with a new baby and had just had major surgery – Mom asked if there was anything that held special meaning for me, as she and my aunt would be clearing out grandma’s apartment – well aware of other family nightmares regarding inheritances, I asked for the Skip-Bo cards, as Grandma and I played that every afternoon the long winter I stayed at her and grandpas, caring for them after her broken leg accident.

    I figured the cards wouldn’t be anything that anyone else would want – hence no fighting – and had special meaning for me – a nice keepsake.

    Was I surprised when Mom brought home to me (all 1,920 miles cross-country) all of grandma’s sewing materials, tools and sewing box. Seems my aunt said insisted they go to me.

    Nestled in with this treasure trove were grand things – like hand carved wooden crochet hooks, smooth and polished from years of use – a couple of hat pins (which can double as personal protection in a pinch – those suckers are long and sharp!) and a small miniature of a blond girl in colonial period dress –

    Nothing better than being gifted the ‘craft room’ – 🙂

    1. Wow – that is such a great story. Skip Bo is a game we played at my grandmother’s house, too. I wish they still made those cards! When my mother’s mother passed away, there was a featherlight singer sewing machine available – I snagged it for my sister, who figured there was no point in starting a family battle over it. Turns out there was no battle, and everyone was glad for her to have it. You just never know. Sounds like the things you got are really special.

      1. As the treasures you and your sister got – it’s so nice to have those things that were important to your loved one passed on in the family and (in the case of materials) put to such good use!

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