Amy Artisan

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Full Circle

When I was younger, the Artisan family lived in North Dakota. There were many cold winter nights where Mom & Dad would wrap us in Grandma-made afghans & take us outside to see the phenomenom that are Aurora Borealis – northern lights. Those afghans provided warmth from the cold as we took in all the beautiful colors that danced across the winter night sky.

A couple of years ago I came across a skein of yarn that was named Aurora Borealis – while the yarn was very bright, I knew that someday I would knit something from it. As I was deciding on a project for my holiday travels & time at home I decided that it was time to knit up the yarn. I selected a cowl pattern, held my yarn double & began to knit round & round the circle.

Earlier this year, Mom mentioned that she would like to learn how to knit – we just never got around to it when I was home in Sept. or at Thanksgiving. On Christmas Eve, I went up to the hospital to sit with Mom & brought along a skien of Sugar’n Cream yarn and some needles – in no time at all, Mom was working through the “Grandma’s Favorite” dishcloth pattern. As I knit round and round in the linen stitch, Mom was following the classic “knit 2, yarn over, knit to the end” rhythm of the dishcloth pattern. Before long, it was time to show her how to decrease in the dishcloth pattern. And then at home, as she sat in Grandma’s chair in the living room she bound off her first dishcloth. She immediately started on her second dishcloth and kept trucking along.

On Christmas Day, Mom & I knit by Grandma’s bed as she napped. When Grandma was awake, she was suprised to see Mom knitting. As Mom said to her, “Remember, you taught Amy to knit & now she is teaching me…” The day after Christmas, I knit round and round as we waited for the transfer from the hospital to the nursing home & then kept on knitting as Grandma was being settled into her new room. Between all of the bedside knitting and knitting at home as the family watched movies I was quickly done with the cowl.

This cowl project was a perfect example of the right yarn & pattern at the right time. When I mentioned the name of the yarn, Artisan family memories of northern lights were retold. And the bright yarn provided a bit of extra cheer that we all needed.


Northern Lights Cowl details
Chickadee Cowl by Kristen Kapur
Aurora Borealis Sock Yarn by Perchance to Knit held double on size 8 needle

Since I’ve come back, Mom continues to knit on her dishcloths. When it was time to finish cloth #2, she couldn’t remember the bind off so she googled & found a video of it.

For some time, it was evident that Grandma’s knitting needles were slowing down & coming to a stop. One of the last time I saw Grandma with her needles, I had to show her what to do. With Grandma’s move into nursing care, it is obvious that her needles have come to rest. But I’m so thankful that she taught me how to knit & I’m so glad that I was able to get Mom knitting as well.

The last time I asked Mom about her knitting, she said she was still knitting away – I think that my dishcloth cotton stash at home may be in jeopardy. She mentioned how relaxing the knitting is & how glad she is that she can now knit. Ah, the allure of the simple dishcloth knit! Even as I undertake more complex knitting projects, I find that the simple knit of the dishcloth can always calm. In between other knitting on the needles these days, I’m also making another batch of Comfort Cloths for washing Grandma’s face.


  1. What a loving post! Your family is such a treasure. I especially loved reading about the Northern Lights. I’ve never seen them in person, but would like to. I think a knitted souvenir is a perfect way to remember your stories.

  2. I love the cowl, and the story was a pleasure to read…. I’m glad you taught your mom to knit, so your grandma’s hobby was passed to both of you… and you got the pleasure of being your moms teacher…. how fun!

  3. I also did a lot of knitting while visiting my grandma in her nursing home. She was in a memory care unit, and the projects I brought seemed to remind many women of their needlework. Grandma’s roommate (who didn’t see herself as old, let alone as a patient) kept suggesting that I lead the “old ladies” in knitting classes, because she thought “they” would like that. And another woman became agitated at dinner the night after I left, telling everyone that she’d forgotten to bring her knitting, she needed to go back and find it.

    Grandma just beamed and told everyone how she had taught me to knit. Which wasn’t entirely how it happened, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking of her whenever I pick up the needles.

  4. While I’m sorry that your grandmother has had to put away her knitting needles (and no! it can’t happen!) it’s somehow fitting that your mother has picked up the bug.

    That cowl is darling and the story behind it makes it all the sweeter.

  5. I’ve always wanted to see the northern lights. Evan has a book (Polar Bear Night) about a young polar bear who goes on a nighttime journey to see sleeping animals and watch the lights. What a neat thing to do with your family!

    The cowl looks great, and I’m sure your grandma enjoys that you and your mom are both knitting.

  6. How wonderful that, for the Artisan women, knitting is the gift that keeps on giving.

  7. A wonderful post! I’m sure that love and memories were knit into that cowl with every stitch. Did your grandmother have the metal / aluminum needles in all different colors? There’s an Etsy shop that makes jewelry out of old knitting needles. I have earrings and a bracelet from her. That would be something neat to do with your grandmother’s needles for you and your mother. I bet you could send her the needles and she could make something from them.

  8. Nice cowl. I love that stitch. I first knit it as the cuff to socks from a Blue Moon Fiber Arts pattern. I just received a skein of yarn from Sundara called Aurora Borealis. Her interpretation is very dark.

  9. Amy, you got me feeling all mushy inside. Thanks so much for sharing this story with us. Your cowl is beautiful, and its awesome to see your mom knitting! ((hugs))

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