My grandmother was a fun-loving petite woman who, as many women of that time, sewed her own clothing and maintained a stylish appearance even through the lean economic times in the post-depression and post-war Midwest. I recently discovered in the 1940 census, a year after this photo was taken, she was earning only slightly less as a stenographer with large railroad company than my grandfather who sold insurance. Go grandma! But alas, the first of several babies came shortly thereafter and she no longer needed to sport a working woman’s wardrobe, though that’s not to say she wasn’t still stylish. My only memories of her are of a very sick and small woman who appeared much older than her middle age.
Recently my mother gave me a pair of old gloves that were my grandmother’s. I have memories of them being at the bottom of the box of our family’s winter accessories – the glove that you always grabbed while fishing blindly for another, and tossed back annoyed. But now the palms are dried out and coming unstitched and the knitted portion battled with moths or barbed wire or another prickly country thing.
They appear to be a humble everyday glove, better for sweeping flurries off the stoop rather than going shopping downtown. But a label still survives in one…
What an odd mix of posh and not… though in its early years acrylic had a much better reputation than now and was used to make “cashmere-like” twinsets. But the raccoon is interesting – I keep thinking how short the fibers must be, though perhaps not unlike an angora rabbit. And the horsehide palm…yes, we Americans are squeamish about all things horse that aren’t riding off into the sunset, but it’s still leather just like from any other leather producing beast. The gloves seemed to be knitted in a shaker rib, and I hope to be able to stitch up the holes without needing to actually replicate the stitch as I will never find a suitable yarn to match, though they feel a bit like a baby alpaca blend. They also have maintained a beautiful shape and are a testament that wool has memory (I will not acknowledge that the acrylic probably brought something to the table as well). I am curious, however, about their size – as seen from the picture above, my grandmother had tiny hands, and these are labeled a sized medium and in fact fit my man-sized paws. My mother believes that they are from the early 1970s or late ’60s, and thinks they couldn’t be much older since they still exist, and in fact still exist as a pair, but I wonder if they might be older. (But I’m also secretly hoping they weren’t actually my aunt’s…) Either way, they will go back to a life being worn and won’t be the lonely pair at the bottom of the box.
Mine is a tale too common of late, and it could be much, much worse but it has left me unmoored… Last spring I lost my job that had been more of an obsession, a way of life, than just a place to go and do something in exchange for money. I left my beloved small city that I had threatened to leave so many times in the earlier years, but I discovered that I had grown with it, and really loved it after all. I now live with the generosity of my partner N in the grey areas of the suburban outskirts of the east coast where fantastic cities are an hour’s drive away, yet a walk outside my door is impossible due to the overwhelming and maddening car culture of the area. In my former city, we had a humble house of our own, technically two and one half stories, but you can call it three. The two rooms on the third floor were my “studio” as well as the depository for off season clothing since the old structure only had tiny closets from the time we owned so much less. In one room was my sewing machine in a little window nook, birds-eye level with the trees in the back and a tiny glimpse of a beautiful cemetery one block away.
In the other was a comfy window seat where we napped and watched the neighbors come and go from the bus stop. The middle of the floor was about the size of a king sized bed, so I could lay out my quilts to piece and baste. Both rooms had shelves lining the walls so most of my various stashes were visible and accessible. We lovingly restored the house to something of its original state and spent days and lung tissue stripping off the shellac on these floors and finishing them to an outrageous glossiness. Our realtor took this picture, and it appeared on the listing of the house when it sold. No one questioned having a photo of a room with a dead pheasant (which my grandfather killed decades before I was born) perhaps since hunting was popular in the rural areas outside of the city.
The curtains were a vintage find to the precise length needed for the windows, and I regret not photographing them in detail, but they continue to live in the house (I hope). I am still lucky enough to have a workspace in our temporary rented apartment, but it is shared with our boxed up lives, my part-time work-from-home station, and all stashed materials are now boxed and stacked high, or bagged and lumped. It is hard to finish things in this state, especially when I know I have the perfect handles or thread somewhere, just somewhere, but can’t find them…
Filed under knitting, sewing