Knit 1, Purl 2…

Mom always excelled at whatever hobby caught her fancy. For a time she was into walking, later bike riding, then for awhile she had beautiful flower gardens. She bought several odd shaped, flat vases, stuck in this green putty stuff with a porcupine like disk stuck on the putty to hold the flower stems in place and arranged flowers.

She entered some flower shows, even got some awards, but just as suddenly, was done with the flower growing and arranging hobby.

I don’t remember if Mom could knit and crochet when I was really young. She was raised by Dutch grandparents because she lost her mom when she was just a few days old. Hard to imagine that she wasn’t taught at least the basics. However when I was in junior high, she decided to take knitting classes. These were held after supper in our school. Might have been continuing education. She breezed through beginner’s and advanced classes. I think Mom even taught some classes later, she became that proficient. Pretty sure her teacher was Wilma Duits. Soon my wardrobe would have some unique, beautiful changes.


Knitting and crocheting proved to be more than a passing fancy. She would do this for many years, constantly improving. Mom knit me sweaters of every color (all 100% wool, each with a sewn in tag stating “Handknit by Florence”) but it was her pattern choices that were truly amazing. Complicated cables, popcorns, each one seemed more intricate than the last.



Plus she was sneaky about this. Mom would have one of her (mine really) sweater projects next to her chair in her knitting basket, (a cloth patterned bag that stood on 4 wooden-dowel legs, Shannon has it now) and work on it after supper. Little did I know at the time, she would also have a second, sometimes even a third sweater project going at the same time, but hidden somewhere in the house. When I wasn’t home, she’d be busy working on them. A new hand-knit sweater was never enough. Mom would have a coordinated wool pleated skirt to match or for awhile, I wore a lot of lined-wool Bermuda shorts, even during Iowa winters with knee socks. What a hoot! Distinctly remember a pair of black & white hounds-tooth wool shorts with a truly amazing winter white sweater.


Had a matching one for a kid I dated at the time, 1965…


She would buy me neat, simple pins to adorn the new sweaters, a rooster, mouse, paper boy. I wasn’t the only lucky recipient of these highly sought after prized sweaters. My bestie, Char Schelhaas received several, so did whatever guy I was dating at the time when the knitting needles were in her hands.

I don’t know why it was so important to Mom that I have unusual clothes. Still often wonder why I never argued with her choices of what I wore? Heaven knows I tested the rest of the boundaries she and Dad set for me. Guess even then it was pick your battles. This one was definitely not worth the effort resulting in a huge melt-down. Plus I did love dressing cute and I was pretty shallow. Also smart enough to realize this cost a lot of money, time, and effort on Mom’s part. Besides if my clothes came from Penney’s, Shriver’s or Younker’s, several girls could have the “same outfit.” But when Mom had custom clothes made for me from the fabrics and patterns she chose, then what I wore was unique.


She had a couple seamstresses “on retainer.” The spinster Dearborn sisters. They could sew about anything, pretty sure they made my dress for Mona’s wedding when I was 10 (candle lighter duty with Ed’s little sister)


Me, Mona, Ed’s sister Linda, Sept. 1960…

I’m the cute one on the left. The problem with using the services of these little ladies is they shared their home with at least a dozen cats. Anything leaving their house (including people, even kids) was: 1. Full of cat hair. 2. Smelled like cat poop. Mom had to wash or dry-clean everything before I could wear it when it came from the Dearborn cat-house. They were aging (the Dearborn sisters, the cats never aged) so Mom eventually found another expert seamstress (cat-less) and used her almost exclusively, a Mrs. Van Holland who lived across the street from our church.
For a couple of years Mom decided I should be wearing hand knit wool socks everyday. When she worked on socks (socks look simple enough, but are quite complicated in the knitting world) it was something to watch. Think they were made with several needles because they weren’t sewn together like the front and back of a sweater, with multiple needles it would be circular. Once she got to the heel (me! ha) knitting the socks looked even harder to do. Oh Mom, wasn’t it easier to go to the store and buy me a pair for 49 cents? No, everybody else wore 49 cent socks, nothing unique about that. The socks were gorgeous, but they were about 10 times thicker than normal socks. I either needed new shoes four sizes bigger, or not wear them daily, only with winter boots.


Mom enjoyed knitting and crocheting afghans, baby blankets, booties, often gifts for co-workers or friends. For my 24th birthday she crocheted an afghan of 24 different colors plus white.


Kind of reminds me of Joseph and the technicolor dream coat-afghan. When Shannon entered her world and the poncho craze hit in the early ’70’s, I can’t tell you how many different ones she made, knit or crocheted. Vividly remember Shannon, her doll and me all in matching red, white and blue ponchos. I think the doll might still fit into hers… Shannon and one of the famous poncho’s, 1972.


Shannon w/ crocheted poncho by Mom, 1973…



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