Amy Artisan

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Category: Grandma (page 1 of 2)

Remembering Grandma…

It has been a year since the early morning call came that Grandma had passed away in her sleep. As we have all come to our “new normal,” links to Grandma are everywhere around us. In the time since, we have found many ways to honor her memory.

Last fall, I stumbled across a “Donors Choose” request from a Chicago school teacher who was wanting to purchase knitting supplies for her students. I donated in memory of Grandma & over the last couple of months have received updates about the project.

This past week, a large envelope arrived in the mail & contained thank you notes from the new knitters.

As I saw the pictures of the kids knitting their first scarves and read through the handwritten notes, I thought that sharing this experience with you would be a nice way to remember Grandma on my blog.

As a lump welled up in my throat at some of the student sentiments, I was also reminded how wonderful it is to have been taught this art of knitting by Grandma. Just like the stitches connect yarn into something beautiful and usable, the weekend spent at Grandma’s in1997 learning to knit a dishcloth has provided me with so many wonderful connections over the years…knitting gifts for dear family & friends…starting this blog in 2006 & meeting some wonderful new friends…teaching friends to knit…teaching Mom to knit…continuing to challenge myself with new and more difficult projects

…and my latest knitting challenge/connection will be revealed soon…once again I have joined the community of knitters in the Knitting Olympics & am nearing the finish line in an event I never would have imagined – a sweater in 2 weeks!

Of Laughter, Tears & Sunshine…

Thanks to all of you who have left sweet messages for my family at Grandma’s passing. The notes, cards and phone calls from family & friends in recent weeks have been very comforting.

Last Saturday Grandma’s funeral was held in Westminster, CA. Last Thursday I flew into John Wayne Airport (I think it’s my favorite airport) and was out there till Monday afternoon. One perk of all my work travel, it was no problem to cash in miles for a first class ticket out there on short notice (& I didn’t even use all my miles). I think the days we spent in California can truly be summed up in “Laughter, Tears & Sunshine.”

On Friday morning, after stopping by Grandma’s neighborhood florist to pick out flowers from Rebecca & me, I pointed our rental car towards the Pacific Coast Highway. In Newport Beach we stopped at their Inspiration Point park to enjoy the beautiful seaside scenery. After the winter we’ve had in Chicago, I think I was close to giddy as we were soaking in the sun & ocean breezes. In addition to the sea, sand and rocks there were beautiful plants including one of my favorites, lantana, and the biggest hen & chicks plant I’ve ever seen.

Newport Scenes

We continued south on PCH towards Laguna Beach – before getting on the plane I had searched for a yarn shop to visit out in SoCal – Strands & Stitches was right on PCH in Laguna Beach. It was a fun shop that was filled not only with beautiful yarns and patterns for knitting but also a room of beautiful needlepoint patterns. While Artisan Dad managed to walk out without any needlepoint acquisitions, I left with several souvenirs.

Grandma’s service was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Mom asked me to deliver the eulogy. My first thought was “can I just read my blog entry?” Several years ago, Rebecca did some oral history with Grandma so between her notes & our collective memories I had a starting point & wondered how to tie it together. I turned to the “Grandma’s Favorite” dishcloth and had one with me as I read my words – among the vignettes of her life were the instructions for the dishcloth:

The dishcloth starts simple – with 4 stitches – a simple beginning that is the foundation for the entire cloth.

As the stitches of the dishcloth increase, so too does the foundation of a life…

To finish a dishcloth, the stitches decrease…

When a dishcloth is finished, you see that each stitch plays an integral part in the whole – without one you would just have a tangle of yarn. So too are the stitches of a life – Grandma was our special lady because of all that she experienced and did in her 94 ½ years. We are all so blessed to have had her in our lives.

While tears were shed that afternoon, there was also a lot of joy and laughter. The neighborhood in Midway City where Mom grew up truly was a close-knit slice of Americana. Several of Mom’s childhood friends were there & recounted memories of their collective care-free childhood days – including Grandma always having a full cookie jar. After the service, we returned to the Friends church next to Grandma’s house where the ladies provided a nice reception & the opportunity for the memories to continue to be shared among all.

Grandma's Service

Other fond memories of the weekend include a delightful evening of dinner & conversation hosted by one of Mom’s cousins…fried chicken & boysenberry pie at Knott’s Berry Farm…attending the church in Pomona where Mom’s childhood friend is rector, followed by an afternoon of “remember when stories” from Mom, Uncle Don & Mary…enjoying an In & Out Burgers lunch in the sunshine before going to the airport (& watching Mom have fun with the french fries & birds)…

In the coming weeks and months I anticipate that we all will continue to encounter a lot of laughter, tears and sunshine as we adjust to life without Grandma…

Remembering Our Sweet Mama*

At 6:16 this morning my cell phone rang with a call that had been on the horizon – Grandma passed away early this morning in her sleep. For the last week or so, in every conversation with Mom it was obvious that Grandma was rapidly declining – she lived a full life in her 94 1/2 years & we are so grateful that she is now at peace.

 Sweet Grandma

* In recent years, Mom started calling her Sweet Mama.
Grandma always had a sparkle in her eye when she heard that.

As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, Grandma’s knit dishcloths are what pulled me to the needles and yarn in 1997. I am so grateful to have the the stitch legacy that she taught me (and also grateful that we got Mom knitting as well). While knitting is a big part of my memories of Grandma, there are so many other wonderful memories…

As the Artisan family moved around a lot when I was growing up, Grandma’s home in Orange County California was a constant – how lucky we were that she lived 7 miles from the beach, 7 miles from Knott’s Berry Farm and 7 miles from Disneyland! Being at Grandma’s house was always fun – I remember waking up early & getting to watch The Transformer’s on TV while eating a bowl of oatmeal. I also remember Rebecca & I loved to play with the box of kitchen toys – including some that Mom had played with as a little girl. It was around her dinner table in the evenings that we played many a game of Uno and Spite & Malice – she was a fierce competitor.

The Artisan Family - 2004

Celebrating her 90th birthday!

And Grandma’s gardening… No strawberries have ever tasted better than the ones from her backyard! No raspberries crushed over orange sherbert have ever been sweeter! Spinach is a favorite veggie because of the delicious spinach from her backyard! And avocados – oh my, she had the biggest tree “ever” in her backyard & they were the best tasting ones ever! In the last few years that she was living in her house, she would send me a big box of avocados for my birthday – a delicious meal was wheat toast with an avocado smashed on top & a dash of onion salt.

 Grandma's Avocado tree

The avocado tree that defies description!

Her flowers were always beautiful – camilleas, bird of paradise, poinsettias (taller than the roofline) & more. In the fall of 2000 as we were shutting down her house & preparing her to move, Artisan Dad & I packed up 2 boxes of plants that we shipped to the ‘Ville & Dad incorporated plants into their home.

Grandma's Flowers

While it’s tough to not be with the family in the ‘Ville right now, the simple rhythm of a dishcloth on my needles brings me comfort & keeps Grandma close at hand…

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.

Never Say Never!

As a child, you associate September with the start of school and learning new things. These days I associate September with learning stitches: September 1997: Grandma teaches me to knit; September 2001: I pick up the knitting needles again in earnest; September 2007: 10 years of knitting & I begin to knit a sweater; September 2008: 1st Sweater complete!

While the elapsed time to complete this sweater is indeed one year (ugh!) – the actual knit time was much, much less. The back half was knit from October through New Year’s Day – in the midst of a fair chunk of holiday knitting. The front half was off the needles in early April. And then…both pieces sat & sat – all through the spring & summer. After I finished my Olympic shawl in August I knew that one of the next things would be finishing up my sweater. The trip home to the Ville was the perfect catalyst to get it finished so that I could show it to Grandma & have the backyard as a backdrop for pictures. As September rolled in, there was a bit of crisp in the air that helped spur me along to block, seam & finish the sweater on September 7th.

It was fun to walk into Grandma’s den wearing my new sweater. The conversation went like:

Me: Look at the sweater I knit, Grandma.
Gma: Oh my!
Me: When you taught me to knit dishcloths, did you ever think I’d knit a sweater?
Gma: Well…no…
Me: Me neither!

Overall, I’m very pleased with the sweater. I made some dumb mistakes along the way that involved frogging back a couple of times. When I blocked the sweater I was concerned that it was much larger than the pattern measurements – but when it was all seamed together & I tried it on I didn’t end up with a tunic sweater like I thought I might. My sweater isn’t nearly as scoop necked as the one in the pattern picture. And when I went to pick up stitches on the neck & armbands I couldn’t get near the number of stitches picked up as the pattern indicated. I could rip back the bands and try again but I would rather move forward with my knitting.

When I first picked out this pattern, I envisioned wearing a white blouse underneath. Now that it is finished, it’s obvious that it is more of a ‘knit top’ sweater. Over the weekend I found a berry colored long sleeved t-shirt that brings out the berry thread in the “blueberry mix” of the yarn.

The Details: Sleeveless Top from Knit Simple, Fall 2007 (rav link)
Yarn: Berreco Ultra Alpaca in Blueberry Mix – less than 5 skeins
Needles: Addis size 8 & 9
Started: September 2007; Finished: September 7, 2008
Modificiations: Fewer picked up stitches for the arm bands and neck band

And now, the weather here in Chicago has had a hint of the fall- before long this sweater will indeed be part of my wardrobe.

What a journey of stitches I have been on since the hat class several years ago where I commented “it’s not like I’ll ever make a sweater.” This was an enjoyable project and it was exciting to think about making an actual piece of clothing instead of just an accessory. Since I cast on for the sweater I have indeed queued a couple of other sweaters to make. I have several holiday knitting projects to get through in the coming weeks; however, I anticipate that it won’t be long until I have another sweater on the needles. Thanks to all of you for your words of encouragement on the journey of the first sweater – I’m glad to be finished!

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