I THINK it’s safe to claim you’re a knitter when people bestow or retire their knitting needles to you. I can’t say I’ve ever really c... || my great aunt's and mrs murray's knitting collection || mrs murray's knitting needles

I THINK it’s safe to claim you’re a knitter when people bestow or retire their knitting needles to you. I can’t say I’ve ever really considered myself a diehard knitter. I don’t think I am that good. My Nana is a knitter. My friend, a former knitter for Jenny Kee who can knit multicoloured Fair Isle with her eyes shut, is a knitter.

Me? I am a wannabe knitter, and every wannabe knitter knows it’s not really about the knitting but about the knitting haberdashery. I am all about the knitting haberdashery, especially vintage knitting haberdashery, and it’s been my great honour over past weeks to bequeathed the family knitting needle collection of a former colleague’s mother, and the needles, patterns and other knitting knick knacks of my late Great Aunt.

Both collections have their stories to tell. || aunty glen's glass head pins tin || aunty glen's novelty tea cosies and doll clothes knitting patterns

The Patons-branded pattern books of my aunt stretch over close to four decades. Each one is filled with patterns I imagine she liked and knitted for herself, though I can’t recall ever seeing her knit, or noting garments she knitted for herself. Following my Great Aunt’s death, my mother collected some of her beautifully cared for wardrobe pieces to pass onto family members, but not a hand-knitted garment was among them.

Aunty Glen never had children of her own. As a child I never questioned why she was childless – she was widowed when I was a toddler and I have no recollection of her as anything but this beautifully coiffured, elegant – but cheeky and fun - single woman. She was every bit, ‘the good stick’ and as I child I liked her. I know her niece and nephew, my Dad, did too.

However, I never stopped to wonder if she felt any great loss at not having children of her own and as I’ve thumbed through her knitting collection, sans the patterns for children and her husband, Ron, it’s struck me the very particular story the collection tells. I imagine two books of patterns featuring knitted doll clothes were made for my aunt, her only niece. I could be wrong, but these are the clues this collection offers up of a woman I knew very little of. || aunty glen's female relative's pin WWII

My favourite clue is a pin, stored in a satin pouch that once held a small bottle of Panache, and was tucked inside my Great Aunt’s box of knitting needles. The pin reads “To the Women of Australia” and is marked as issued by the Commonwealth of Australia, along with a stamped ID number. The bar that hangs below the pin has a single star to mark the number of men from the woman’s family serving in WWII. My Aunt’s husband was a WWII veteran and this badge, I can only assume, was her own Female Relative’s Badge. I could trace the history of it by the number stamped onto the back.

Like the women of her time, tins that once throat lozenges and first aid dressings – pre Band-Aid stickies – now hold glass head pins and other odds and ends. Nail scissors are housed with the needles to snip those cast off ends. A single white handkerchief has been bleached, washed and ironed and added to the collection by my mother – as is her way. Needles, many of them, still have their paper wrappers around them, quite different to the much loved and clearly well used needles of my colleague’s mother. My aunt’s needles are carefully stowed and I wonder whether, when she bought the patterns, she bought a new set of the required needles; just in case the size she needed was not already at home. A knitting gauge would help in understanding the difference between American and English sizings and perhaps assist in matching up odd pairs, though I suspect every knitting project was tackled with a known, and possibly new, matching pair each and every time.

The clues match the woman of my memories, and the memories my father and aunt share. The puzzles too have been found. Odd dates in the family timeline, a wartime postcard from Belgium, with no stamp mark or notes, suggesting it was carried home from the battlefield and matching a vague reference to a family member called to serve during WWI. The postcard sits among the patterns to be mused over in decades to come when my own passing unveils storylines to be read and interpreted by those left to root through the trinkets that make up my life and story.

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  1. So interesting to ponder and try to piece together others' histories. We've been clearing out my Nanna's house and there are so many stories, and mementos, and photos sent by others, and just an overwhelming number of lives lived really. It's confronting to realise how few of them do matter to anyone other than the keeper.