table of contents
November 12, 2005
the life of a knitter
As a knitting teacher I get to witness the birth of new knitters and welcome them into our midst. But just as there are these times of joy, there are also times of sadness. It is important, I think, to mark the loss of knitters from our lives. Last month, my aunt, Margaret Helen Johnson Strong -- known to everyone as Bricky, for her bright red hair -- passed away at the age of 84.
Bricky was born in Kansas in 1921, the second of five children. As my mother's senior by 19 years, she was often mistaken for her mother and they maintained a strong, close relationship throughout their lives. As a young woman, during World War II, Bricky served in the US Marine Corps. After her service, she moved to Washington State and devoted herself primarily to her family. She was a dedicated wife of over 50 years, mother to three boys, grandmother of four, and friend to many. She was always a woman of strong mind and opinion, but ultimately encouraged others to think for themselves and loved those around her deeply regardless of any differences they had. She did what she believed was right and did it well. Whether it was making a large family dinner, laying tile, or designing a sweater, she seemed to accomplish it easily and well. Often, it is my impression, simply by believing that she could do it well.
I do not remember specifically who taught me to knit. Most likely I learned in successive passes under the guidance of my mother, my grandmother and my aunt. What is clear is that it was my aunt Bricky more than any other that I watched knit. I cannot remember a time when she was not knitting on something -- and almost always with enthusiasm. Slippers, sweaters, blankets, vests, ribs, cables, intarsia, slip-stitch patterns: evidence of her knitting abounds covering all epochs of style and fashion. I can think of countless examples scattered throughout the closets, drawers and easy chairs of her extended family. Even at an age when you might have thought she had seen and done it all, she still enjoyed seeing what was new or trying something different. A knitter to the end, apparently, her children observed her in her sleep, using her eyeglasses as an impromptu set of needles, finishing just a few more imagined rows before she passed. Clearly her love and persistent attachment to the craft rubbed off on me, and inspires me constantly. Her presence in my life will be remembered and missed.