One of the themes that unites the very different characters that make up my extended family is that we have always loved making things with our hands. Everywhere we looked there was something that someone had taken time and trouble over and these are the things that my sister and I have kept because they say the most about the people we are and the people who made us what we are. I thought I would show you a few things today to illustrate what we mean.
My maternal grandmother was a village school teacher who married a farmer. Hard times during the depression led to him becoming a forester, living in a tied cottage in the forest with neither electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. This didn't mean that she had no use for beautiful and intricately worked household linens like this tablecloth decorated with fine cotton crochet and cut and drawn thread work.
By the time I knew my grandmother arthritis meant that she was unable to do such work any more but she still managed to teach me to knit and do the ribbing for jumpers which she would hand over to my mum to finish.
It's lovely to have this beautiful tablecloth which shows what she was capable of at the height of her powers.
My Aunty Ena was a very petite woman standing at 4ft 10inches tall with size one and a half feet. She worked for a time at a cigarette lighter factory where she was apparently one of the fastest on the production line due to her small hands and dexterity. When she had the time she used these natural gifts to better effect and did some beautiful embroidery. This simple piece has seen a lot of use, some of the stitching has disappeared but it makes me smile as it reminds me of my Aunty.
Next we have a baby shawl knitted by my mum. It is a circular shawl in traditional Shetland stitches. The yarn may well be acrylic but it is soft and cosy despite being over 50 years old. She used it for both me and my sister after which we used it for wrapping up our dolls as well as Tibby, the long suffering family cat. In recent years Dad had taken to wearing it around his shoulders when he sat up in bed to read to keep the draughts off the back of his neck.
Finally I wanted to show you this rather bedraggled latch hook rug made by me when I was about 10. Mum and Dad made quite a few rugs for the house and I was always mithering them to have a go. Eventually dad drafted out a pattern on graph paper for me and with rug wool left over from their projects I made this little mat which sat in front of the dressing table in my bedroom.
Some of these pieces may be old fashioned, some slightly bedraggled and worn others made in materials and colours that yarn snobs might baulk at but they sum up to me what handmade is all about. They are so rich with meaning and memory, created by active and busy women who thought it was important to use their hands to make something beautiful and to share those skills with the next generation. Whenever I look at these things I am reminded how important and sustaining a legacy I have been left.