Saturday, 11 August 2012

80th Birthday Blanket Journey!

I just finished three weeks of knitting meditation! Knitting magic. It didn't always feel like meditation or magic because sometimes I was knitting at work whilst keeping an eye on a sweets counter and being a smiling face to any theatre punters who came through the doors. Sometimes I was on a bus, or in a carpark or holding on to the end of a dog lead.

Bus in Bristol

Sometimes I was fighting off horse-flies or dodging golf balls or listening to my son chatting excitedly about animation (this happens a lot). Sometimes I nearly fell out of a tree.

But every square was also knitted with thoughts of my mum's life, the almost eighty years of it. Many childhood memories wove their way to the surface and mingled together with love and gratitude and reflections on what makes a life and also how I am making mine.

My Mum with her parents, a few months old in 1932

Knitting is great because it takes time. Time where I have to sit and be with it. And it takes just enough focus to allow my mind to either be still and trance-like or for thoughts to be moving around or to join in conversation. Knitting this blanket was time I spent connected in appreciation of my Mum and our relationship over the last 42 years. I could relax into allowing these thoughts and memories and feelings to be knitted into the fabric as it grew without the need for words, which even though I generally enjoy them, are always ultimately inadequate.

I could immerse myself in the colours and textures, the ease and the difficulty. It felt important to me to leave the dropped stitches and imperfections when they happened because life is like that and we can't always go back and change things, but instead have to learn how to love them as they are or at least move on without allowing them to unravel us completely.

My son joined me at the beginning and knitted several squares.

Eighty squares for eighty years, each one different, each unique as with the various textures and colours of the years. Some dark and coarse, some harsh to handle, some which it even hurt to get through! Others fluffy and soft, others bright and patterned, a pleasure to touch, warm and inviting as the best of days.

The first week I knitted in Portsmouth. The second week my son, partner and I were camping in Bristol and everywhere we went the needles and the yarn went too!

A beautiful evening by the Clifton suspension bridge

The people on our campsite possibly thought I was a bit strange. They only ever saw me knitting and I started to get a bit self-conscious that they thought I was undergoing some kind of knitting therapy and wasn't safe or didn't actually have the ability to do anything else. I just smiled and carried on knitting :-)

Note: A frisbee makes an excellent yarn holder when the ground's wet or dirty!

My partner had never knitted before and he sort of willingly rose to the challenge with the aim of contributing one square. I was hoping he'd meant one square a day but never mind, it's a particularly cute one.

Love the colour co-ordination!

The third and final week I knitted in Cornwall, around the beautiful land of West Penwith. On beaches and cliffs, moors and woods.

In Trevaylor Woods, adding memories of my dog Fang
and my parents dog Skipper, who loved to run and play there

It was knitted in fields, beside sacred wells, in cosy kitchens and gorgeous gardens.

One square was passed 9 times through the holed stone at the Men An Tol, infusing it with healing and fun and the fertility of life's desire to be lived.

With only a few days to go I accepted my friend's offer to join in the journey! She kindly knitted four beautiful squares, by night...

and by day...

With one day to go the squares were counted more than once. By this stage I couldn't risk any mathematical errors! Just a few more to go. Reflecting on the need to work under pressure... creativity fuelled by the last minute intensity! Yes I could have sensibly started 3 months ago instead of 3 weeks but part of the magic has been the daily and constant fluidity of this gift, never put down for long, never forgotten about, the continuity never broken.

Then on the train back to Portsmouth, somewhere between Camborne and Westbury, the last little square was cast off!

All eighty squares (which I nearly dropped in the compost)!

 Ready to be sewn together in one day and one night... the last stitch at 2.30am. Very sleepy...

August 7th ~ My Mum's Birthday!

A big thank you...

to Sally for a lovely field and home and friendship to knit in, yarn when mine ran out and for knitting some squares when time was running out!

to Kat ( ) for a bag of very beautiful yarns.

to Katrina  ( for lots of lovely yarns.

to Shirley for some extra mad, super-fluffy yarn that was a nightmare to knit but utterly wonderful when finished!

to Katie ( for some totally exquisite yarns.

to lots of charity shops all over the place and to a lovely yarn shop in Chapel Street, Penzance.

to Richard and Chloe for the cosy kitchen, gorgeous garden and lovely company in which to knit. 

to Stuart and Jordan for knitting and doing most of the other stuff while I was knitting. 

and to my amazing, inspirational Mum who will have warm knees this Winter!!!


  1. Wonder how Stu missed out on the knitting lessons, as I taught all the other four!!
    I was a skilled knitter in my time, that is probably until yoga took over my life, and I learnt how it was not kind to my neck and generally posture............I would have happily needed some squares for your Mum, dear Fran.

    1. I know what a skilled knitter you are Sara - I still have the gorgeous purple jumper you knitted me! I had to smile at the way Stu had to take a break of a few hours/days inbetween each row ;-)And yes, I understand what you mean about the posture and neck - I was feeling it. Time for some yoga! Xxx

  2. what a beautiful post Fran and a beautiful blanket I love that you left all the mistakes in there. And happy 80th birthday to your mum xx

    1. Thank you lilipopo! Maybe the picture of Stu will inspire Jason?! Hope to see you again before too long! Xx

  3. Absolutely amazing....What a wonderful person you are Fran. This is also very inspirational. I think I may have to borrow this idea for when I got camping soon....xxxxxx

    1. Aw thank you very much Kerry :-) Yes please do take the idea and enjoy your camping!! Xxx

  4. A gift of all thoughts, memories and kindness knitted into the woollen squares by the dearest people in the world - what an amazing gift of love and warmth, Fran you and yours are humankind x. Brilliant idea:-)

    1. Blossom,thank you for such kind comments! I'll need to come up with another idea next year too as that'll be my dad's 80th! Xx

  5. This is abeautiful Fran, what an amazing gift for your mum xxx

  6. Thank you Susie! I did really enjoy doing it so it was a gift for me too ;-) Xx