Grandma’s Knitting.

(Warning: Photo-heavy Grandmotherly nostalgia post. Misty eyes.)

Old Cabin Pics_1

My grandma could do anything.

She owned and ran a cab company in the 1930's with men
working for her. (Men. Working for a woman. Such scandal, I tell you.) She later owned a restaurant in the same town, working in the wee hours of the
morning baking pies for the days' customers, then returning home to
clean the house and be a wife and mother.

She loved to tell my sister and I sassy stories involving a
hat pin and an unwelcome suitor at a movie showing, or tales of
driving late night cab runs with a pistol tucked into the driver
seat. She was part rebel, part domestic homemaker, part woman-ahead-of-her-time, and part sass.


But mostly she was crafty.

When we cleaned out her basement and and sewing room after her death we found her collection of works-in-progress: a half-caned chair, a half-made wreath, two half-sewn quilt tops, and several half-knit sweaters, mittens, and afghans.


More than anything else Leah Brackob was a knitter. 

Grandma Lee left behind an entire dresser filled with enough
hand knit afghans, mittens, and baby sweaters to clothe and comfort a small
village. She also created hope chests for my sister and I (her only
grandchildren) brimming with handcrafted heirlooms of all kinds. Those chests were filled with lots, and lots of knits.

Grandma and Rachel

Grandma Lee taught me how to knit when I was a child. I remember sitting on the floor at the foot of her recliner, needles awkwardly in hand. Over the years I forgot her lessons but retaught myself to knit after she died. Through my knitting I am transported back to my childhood perch at the foot of her chair.

I inherited her knitting needle stash, her sewing machine, and her passion for crafting.


When I picture her in my mind she is
seated in her recliner overlooking the Wolf River, with an afghan or baby
sweater on the needles in her lap. The constant methodical click,
click, click was the tempo of her days.


I grew up clothed in her knits. Most of the photos in this post are of knits that first belonged to my sister and I before Sage and Lupine inherited them. This pink and white hat (and its matching sweater with vintage bunny-shaped
buttons) has now been lovingly worn by four children over the past
almost forty years. Forty years! And it's now tucked away for another


Though there were lapses in her good taste most of her work was beautiful. (This is the most noteworthy lapse. Think patriotic Village People. My sister and I each wore a matching tam and pair of short-short overalls for the fourth of July, 1976. Acrylic. Knit. Shorts. Oh, the seventies.)





As I looked through my photos over the past three years I was struck by how often the image of her handwork is woven into our story. My Grandma died just after Pete and I met, when I was 21. She's been gone for fifteen years, yet she is still a colorful part of our family's day-to-day life.

This is the power of crafting.

When you craft you take your raw materials and your love and create something from your very heart. You are making that love a physical tangible object that will likely outlast you. Handmade is love that you can wear or hold in your hands. So powerful.

I miss both of my grandmothers very much. I think of them often as I mother, teach, cook, sew, and knit. When my kids need new mittens we dig through the bin of Grandma's knits downstairs and they call out "Thank you, Grandma Lee!" to a great-grandmother they never met. She is real to them. They know her and love her through the things she made for them when I was only a child myself.


I hope to be remembered as fondly in the eyes of my children or grandchildren someday.

With that in mind, I've got some knitting to do.

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17 thoughts on “Grandma’s Knitting.

  1. denise says:

    I love love love that last photo! A lady with sticks and sass. I learned to knit & crochet from my grandma, and only recently (last year or so) picked it back up again. It is a nostalgic craft, for sure. Lovely post.

  2. Lori Midthun says:

    Hey Rachel, I just found your blog not too long ago and was so happy to read one about your gram. I seem to remember you working on a 3rd generation hooked rug of hers as well… I hope you’re doing well and keep the great posts comin’! Lori
    (thought I posted something similar to this earlier, but it didn’t go through, I guess, so I’m trying again).

  3. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hi Lori! So sweet to hear from you. Yes, the three-generation rug lays in Lupines play kitchen. And you are one of the few there to help me with those first re-learning to knit lessons! xo

  4. Wendy says:

    I know this post is about knitting, but I have to mention the snow mobile. I’ve got pictures of my grandma sitting on one too. She had a black and yellow outfit and her helmet had a pom pom on it. I always thought she looked like a bumble bee. Yah, my grandma was super crafty, but not much of a sass. I think she would have had a happier life if she had.

  5. Heather says:

    “Handmade is love that you can wear or hold in your hands.” I LOVE that! That is so true, and something I know, but you did well putting it in words. 🙂 Happy knitting..

  6. KC says:

    Well said. I wish so much more of our world was hand crafted. It’s so sad to think about how many people of my generation can’t cook themselves a hot meal let alone knit a sweater! Wonderful post!

  7. melissa says:

    That was just beautiful. Every time I craft or garden I think of my grandmother. I still have some of the things that came from her craft room! Two years ago I ran across two balls of crochet yarn that were from Edinburgh, Scotland. These are so special to me now after having lived near Edinburgh and knowing that they were my grandmothers. One of these days, I’ll find a project worthy of the yarn!

  8. Mom says:

    Well, I sniffled my way through that one. I wish I inherited the hand work gene…I guess it skipped a generation. My worst nightmare in Home Ec in the 50s was having to do samples of different knitting stiches. I produced a couple of squares half the required size and so tight they could have held a grown man’s weight if his feet were small enough. I also got hives. Your grandma finished them for me (instant A!) Your blog made me appreciate again all the wonderful things she made for you both. She was a pretty amazing individual. I miss her color and humor.

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