I’ve been thinking about Christmas’ past and memories from my childhood lately. It’s funny how an object can become such a token of a time and place. My Dad grew up in a wonderful rambling federal style house on a hill in the Sauquoit Valley of New York State. The place was called Wyndmoor Farm, which always sounded somehow romantic to me – like Wuthering Heights could have been written about a place with that name.Those two ground floor windows on the left in the picture where in my Gramps’ study. It had a wonderful old cobblestone fireplace in one corner, and a huge oak roll top desk by the window. Because it was also the only room in the house with a TV, we kids spent a lot of time in there when we visited. On the chair at Gramps’ desk was a chair pad made my by Gramma Stephenson. I never gave much thought to it as a child. It was just colorful and soft and always there.
After my Grandfather died (at the ripe age of 97), my Dad and his last surviving brother took a few special mementos to keep, and I was surprised to see that he saved that chair pad. He took it home and put it on the chair in his office/den – the place he paid the bills and watched sports on TV.
In 2006, I lost both my Mom and Dad, and as we were packing things up to sell the house, I found myself drawn to that chair pad. I took a close look and realized that – ever thrifty – my grandmother had knitted that chair pad from little bits of leftover wool, and stuffed the rows with old nylons. What a great way to use up those little bits of yarn at aren’t enough to make anything; how bright and cheerful the clash of colors.
I had recently finished a Christmas ornament project – making a zillion little wet felted ornaments – and had plenty of yarn left over. I decided it would be fun to replicate the chair pad with my own leftovers. Of course, first I had to teach myself how to knit in the round. I tried circular needles, but I couldn’t get the tube small enough for my purpose. I tried the knitting spool from my childhood, and the tube was too small. Finally I bit the bullet and bought a set of five double point needles. I started. It was hard. I set it down. I picked it up. I decided I didn’t like it and ripped it out. I set it down again for a long time. Then one day this year I picked it up again because I needed a some hand work I could do while sitting in meetings, watching TV, etc. Low and behold, it was easy. In short order I had a tube that was over 200 inches long, and after some hemming and hawing about how to assemble the whole thing into a chair pad, here it is.
When I look at the original and mine side by side, I have to concede that I like Gramma’s better. Her yarn was all worsted weight and mine is fingering, so the texture is not so obvious. And, in retrospect, I don’t think she knit a tube after all. I think she used plain old knit stich turning her work at the end of each row, then seamed it when she was done. When you knit in the round, your work is never turned, so the texture is different.
Live, love and learn. Even though Gramma has been gone since I was six years old, she still was able to teach me something about the crafts that I love. And now I have something special on my desk chair that reminds me of Gramp, Gramma and my Dad.