Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Jacket Amy Made

I'm not very good at fiddly things and, to me, knitting and especially sewing both come under the heading of "fiddly". Knitting is quite therapeutic but when you've made whatever you're making you then have to sew it together which takes all the fun out of it.

At school the subject known as Domestic Science (cooking half the time, sewing the rest) was taught by very scary women who thought that the Eleventh Commandment was Thou Shalt Remember Thy Cookery Apron And Woe Betide Thee If Thou Forgettest It.

If forced to sew, I preferred the treadle machine which you worked with your feet and which did at least feel as though it might just take you for a fun ride round the sewing room if you got the controls right. The hand machine where you turned the wheel with one hand meant that you only had one spare hand to feed the thread through and keep the material straight. Worse, the spare hand was my left hand and I am very, very right-handed. It once took me six weeks to put in a zip, which was very probably a school record. I did try the electric machine once but it just ran away with me and sewed everything to everything, so I never went near it again.

I once won a prize for some hand-sewn buttonholes. Ah, weren't grammar schools great eh? Useful skill or what? Many's the time in my life since that I've heard the cry, "Help! Emergency! Is there anyone who can hand-sew buttonholes in the house?" Having reached this pinnacle of achievement I gave up sewing with a cheer. When I'm in Hell the first thing they'll say to me is "After you've finished the hand-sewn buttonholes, we'd like you to put in all these zips."

I did once knit a jumper but it took me so long to complete that I hated it by the time I'd finished it. Thus ended my exploits in both sewing and knitting.

Amy, who lives in Barrow-in-Furness and was at school with my mother as well as marrying Mum's cousin Frank, can sew or knit anything, the more fiddly the better. I've seen her cut material for a dress by throwing it on the floor, looking at it, and cutting. She once knitted a jumper which was worn by every child in the family in succession, including me. Anything knitted by Amy stays knitted.

Now, at eighty-two, she is teaching some local ten-year-olds to knit, to keep the skill going. Meanwhile, she made this jacket:

She didn't just knit it, however. She started by collecting the wool from hedges and fences and other places where sheep's wool gets caught in the Lake District. Then she washed it, carded it, spun it and finally knitted it into the jacket.

To Amy, this was quite an ordinary thing to do, and she was somewhat surprised that I should want to take a photograph of the finished jacket. To me, it's amazing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

snip *I did try the electric machine once but it just ran away with me and sewed everything to everything, *

Hmm, sounds like Jo - she managed to sew herself to the machine - a needle right through her middle fingernail.

I'm with you about sewing, too - I detest it, and perform only under duress.
I have great admiration for Amy and her skill.

12:02 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just amazing - and it is, in fact, absolutely amazing - it's also *incredibly trendy*.

My mother can sew. And does. It's one reason I've never really started. No need.

10:33 am  

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