Thursday, 20 March 2008

My mother was a great grafter

When I get to this stage of a sock I wish I had my mum here for tuition. When I said she was a great grafter I meant it in both senses of the word. She made the money to buy our first wool shop through knitting day and night on her industrial knitting machine and her sock machine that she bought second hand from Henshaws Blind workshop. I wish I had that machine now. I used to watch her making sock after sock - even re-footing socks that she had made for people previously. I wish I had taken more note of her grafting the toes (or kitchening as they call it these days) I struggle with it every time. I get out my instruction paper and start chanting knit, knit, purl, purl. Half way along the row I lose the plot and put the needle in knit wise when it should be purl wise and the whole thing goes pear shaped.
My mother was a grafter in another sense of the word as was my maternal grandma (the second photo). My mum was one of the eldest of Gran's 16 children so spent most of her childhood knitting socks and baby vests for her younger siblings so I was born into a family of knitters. My gran knitted socks for me when I was a child. Unfortunately she used rayon silky yarn that came from the local spinning mill so they looked lovely but after a few washes slouched down my feet as they had zero elasticity. My mum on the other hand knitted pure wool knee socks for me and as I have eczema on my ankles I spent most of my childhood in an itching frenzy.
My mother worked so hard all through her life, as did my Gran. Two remarkably strong women. My gran had no luxuries like washing machines or even tap water. She drew all her water from a pump from a well. She only had a bathroom installed when I was a small girl. Before that she had an outside toilet that was emptied by the night soil men (that is what she called them) once a week. I was scared to death of this toilet and not only lived in fear of falling in but also there was a loose board at the back of the toilet and a field full of nosey cows behind. These cows had a habit of coming up the the loose board and either sticking their nose through it or moo-ing right behind me and scaring me half to death. Cows with a sense of humour obviously.
My earliest memories are falling asleep to the hypnotic Zzz Zzz of the machine as it swished back and forth far into the night. We lived in a small two up two down house and had this huge industrial machine in the kitchen. My mother had to stand to use this machine so it's no wonder she was troubled with varicose veins all her life. When she wasn't at the machine she worked evening shift at Meredith and Drew's biscuit works and sometimes at the local cotton mill. I am humbled by the amount of work she got through in one day. In my grans (both of them) latter days she cooked, washed and cleaned for them as well as all the knitting and part time work.
When I used to hear people say Oh your mother is so lucky when my parents had 3 wool shops and were able in their later years to go on cruises etc I used to feel so annoyed as my mother earned every penny with hard graft. It's no wonder that the specialist said that she had literally worn the bones in her back away. My friend who is in her thirties used to say to me (before the last 2yrs of pain stopped me in my tracks) that I never stopped working but I was a slow poke compared to my mum and my gran. I come from a line of strong hard working women. My aunts were all the same. Grafters every one of them. I salute them all. The sad thing is that most of them died without any money to show for all of their hard work. They lived before the days of equal fair pay for women and had no savings. Some dying from the side effects of years in cotton mills.
The pattern for the socks was easy to do but despite that I went wrong half way down the leg and again near the toe as the eagle eyed can see but as they are only for me I am not unpicking it. I have quite a lot of the ball left after this first sock so I may get another pair of socks out of the 2 balls if I make the leg shorter on the second pair. The sock is lovely and soft to wear but I think I will keep the socks as house socks as I don't think they will be hard wearing due to the looseness of the stitch. I altered the pattern and made the toes in stocking stitch as I thought my toes would poke through the holes if I continued in lace pattern as instructed.
Second sock to be cast on this evening. Then I will brace myself for a bit of grafting!


Crobbles said...

OOOH! That sock's looking great.

I find the visual aids to grafting really help. There is a great one on Knitty.

Mad about Craft said...

I love the sock, I'm still having nightmares with socks, I think I'm being too much of a perfectionist.

I feel guilty sometimes when I think about how hard women worked years ago and some days I struggle to push the hoover round because of my back or hands.