Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Family History

How did it get to be Wednesday already? This past weekend, Easter weekend, I went home to Saskatchewan to see my mom. My brothers and their families were all in Edmonton and weren't able to be there and my sister and her kids weren't able to come down so it was just me and my mom. It was nice to spend some time with her, and, of course, she feeds me really well, so it's good all around!

I got to see my aunt Eileen (my dad's sister) and her husband, which was fun. My aunt Eileen was my favorite aunt growing up (don't tell the others). She always played with us, she always had some fun activity for us to do, and, most importantly, she knew how to make ANYTHING (it seemed). I have great memories of making candles with Eileen when I was little. She made me a Raggedy Ann doll for Christmas when I was 6. (You can see why she was my favorite, right?) When I started to amass nephews and nieces she was my role model for being an aunt. (Awwww....)

Well, Eileen is not only a crafty, creative, fun aunt, with the world's greenest green thumb (she has more plants than anyone I've ever met) but she is a natural historian. She has traced our family's history and came up with a really impressive family tree for a reunion about 10 years ago. She doesn't know all the stories, but, as I told her this weekend, she knows that there IS a story and where to go to find out what it is.

Imagine my delight this past Friday evening to be visiting at her house and to see yarn sitting out. Neither my mom nor I knew that Eileen could knit! It was like finding out that your favorite aunt takes part in your favorite activity. Oh. Wait. That's exactly what it was. Never mind.

Saturday evening Eileen and Eric (her husband) joined us for dinner. After dinner we got to talking about knitting (imagine my delight). Eileen asked if I had ever knit a Siwash sweater (also known as a Cowichan sweater. Or, if you are from my small town in Saskatchewan you might have known them as "Curling Sweaters" because all of the Curlers wore them). I have been trying to find a Siwash pattern for a long time! My sister-in-law wants me to knit her one if I find a pattern, and I have an order for one for her sister as well.

Imagine my joy, my delight, my absolute-freaking-out at the words that my aunt spoke to me:
"Granny and Esther (another aunt) knit Siwash sweaters for your dad and the boys when they were young."
(I didn't know that my Granny knit!!! I feel like I am missing huge chunks of important family history!!)

Imagine, after the joy of that statement, my EXTREME excitement to hear this:
"I found the patterns the other day. You can borrow them if you like."

And, the funniest one. The least "Siwash/Cowichan" but most like my dad and growing up in Saskatchewan:

(those are ducks)

(Now I just need to find the yarn and I will be making these sweaters until my fingers grow numb...)

BUT WAIT: There is more family history that came out in the visit with Eileen and Eric.

I spent the first 10 years of my life in the house that my dad grew up in. I have vague, fuzzy memories of a basement full of various odds and ends. Machines whose purpose was a mystery to me. Interesting gadgets that no one used.

After I calmed down from the Siwash excitement, Eileen got me riled up again.
"Do you spin yarn Lori?" she asked.
(I have wanted to learn to spin for a long time now. I fear that it would just become another obsession and I would never get ANYTHING done. Anything else that is. I still want to learn though.)
Then she asked, "Do you remember the spinning wheel in the basement at the old house?"
"There was an electric carder too. I think the hand carders are still around somewhere."

Okay. Wait. What??? First I find out that my aunts and Granny were accomplished knitters, but not only that, they SPUN the yarn they knit with??? Too much.

(The general consensus was that the spinning wheel had been USED a lot and probably was not in any kind of condition. It was probably tossed out around 1980ish when we moved into the "new" house. Sob.)

Then, Eric, who was born and raised in Ireland, pipes up to tell me that his mother used to sell yarn and that he has quite a few hand knit Aran sweaters. He said I can look at them at try to figure out the cabling sometime if I would like.

What a heritage.



  1. I love the ducks on the third sweater! Very prairie. Will the wetlands sweater be the follow up to the prairie tunic?
    My nana (maternal grandma) was a pretty big knitter. She knit me lots of sweaters and scarves when I was in elementary school. In fact, I still wear one of the scarves all the time. But SPINNERS in the family? that's pretty cool.

  2. Whao ... you hit the jackpot Easter weekend, Lori! Mmm ... but it seems you missed out a lot of your family history ... never mind, there is still chances to make up for that now!

  3. What a fantastic weekend. I'm not too sure about the ducks myself, but what a wonderful find.

    So how soon are you going to give in to spinning? ;-)

  4. Whoo-hoo, lucky you finding out about your family's major craftiness and I'd be excited about those cool retro patterns, too. Yay!

  5. WOW - what a great 'find' in your family history!

    I almost sobbed when I found out that my great-grandmother had a loom that was likely trashed in the 70s.

  6. Whoa that is just so cool. What a bummer about the wheel though. My husband's great-grandmother used to spin and laughed when I showed her my spindle. She said it takes too long. Too bad she doesn't have her wheel anymore either.

  7. *swoon* My family history is interesting but not nearly as fun as yours.

  8. Hi Lori
    When you get the spinning wheel to work I know someone who has two alpacas that wil probably get shorn every year and she doesn't want the wool, at least not yet. Just to whet your enthusiasim for learning to clean, card, and spin wool into knittable yarn!!!
    Your Aunt Pat

  9. What a fantastic time for you all. It's great to be "family" when something like that happens.
    I think the ducks are the greatest!
    Cheers Gillian

  10. Bonjour !
    those Siwash patterns you found are absolutely FANTASTIC.
    I'm French and extremely interested in ethnic patterns (Turkish, Middle-Eastern, from the Shetlands, ANYWHERE)
    Do you think you could make a copy of those patterns (or of the charts only...)? I'm of course willing to pay for them or do anything for you from here...


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