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My Own Bit of Knitting History....

I learned to knit from my Mum, she learned to knit from her own Mum. Nothing unusual about that.

Once, when my mother was a teenager, she asked her own mother (my grandmother) why on earth she was so quick at knitting and did not need to look at what she was doing. Her fingers used to move in a blur and she didn't once have to look at them, and she taught her daughter to do the same and hence this ability to knit without looking passed on to me, but I don't have the speed.

Her reply was, that her own mother (my great grandmother) having had 13 children and losing a husband at a young age, could not afford to keep the girls so the boys went out to work but the girls went into a children's home to be looked after and fed properly until such time as my grandmother could afford to release them. They had a visit once a week from their mother, who always brought a cake which was confiscated after she had left them and was assured the girls had a wonderful time there, which was not the case at all.

On her visits and prior to her visits, she had taught the girls to knit but my grandmother was the eldest and hence the fastest. Each child in the home was given an almost impossible knitting quota from age 4 upwards, much of it to go to the WWI Front and the boys fighting there, or for babywear for the newly admitted orphans each week. And they had to reach this quota or they were beaten and told that they were lazy and locked in a dark cupboard for hours on end with no food. My grandmother quickly made friends with the girl in the bed next to her, who having a weak heart and claustrophobia died in the cupboard after not meeting her knitting quota. This put great fear into all my great aunts and especially my grandmother who felt responsible for them and had made a promise to my great grandmother that she would allow no harm to come to them.

After that awful event, my grandmother was in fear of her younger sisters (there were about 7 of them) not being able to meet the quota, so she secretly took their knitting on and used to knit under the bedclothes at night, in complete darkness purely by touch and in fear of being caught. She was so fast, she managed to keep the girls from being given the 'cupboard' punishment, which had been built up into such an awful event they truly believed it had the power to kill.

Eventually the boys became old enough to be able to get better jobs and look after the younger sisters, and my own grandmother became old enough to leave and marry. Anyway, the skills of knitting like lightening, and being able to knit in the dark, carried my grandmother through World War II as well and she was able to knit like crazy during long blackouts and being in bunkers whilst Plymouth took the worst bombing of any city in the whole of the UK (due to its having military bases and shipping docks).

This is my bit of history, which I wrote up for KatFlap
Pictures, many thanks to historical websites for sharing these, I don't have pics of the girls in the home, mainly because my family were far too poor to own a camera or have commercial pics taken.


Butterfly Sparkle said...

That's really interesting - how awful for your great grandmother, being forced to put her daughters in a home. Family history like this is fascinating.

BabyLongLegs said...

Its amazing how people lived in the past...and how their experiences have shaped them, and their descendants.
Your poor great~grandmother though...
did she ever find out the truth of what really went on??

S xXx

Erssie said...

My great-grandmother was a really hard lady. She was not that keen on kids, though she liked little babes. She did find out what was going on, but said they were better off there than out on the streets looking for work. The boys had to go and find jobs and only the girls went into a home.