Monday, May 28, 2007

In which I leap in, Lara Croft style, brandishing Addi Turbos

Once upon a time in North Dakota, a woman was born, just this side of the turn of the (last) century. Her name was Iva.

Among many things, she was:
a college graduate in the 1920s...
a home economist who worked for a time convincing rural Idahoans to "electrify" their homes...
surrogate mother to her orphaned younger siblings...
an Army officer during WWII...
a strict martinet in the kitchen...
a seamstress extraordinaire...
an opera aficionado...
the keeper of the cleanest, smallest, most organized lake cottage in the universe...
surrogate co-mother to her half-orphaned nieces and nephews...
a weaver...
scariest, most imposing little Norwegian lady ever to stand 5'1" in her tan hush puppies...
and my great-aunt.

She died when I was in college. I came home to help my mother and grandmother clean out her house. My grandmother, her sister, said, "Take what you can use." I gleaned kitchen utensils, pots and pans, an antique rocker, a needlepoint pillow, and an aqua cardigan.

Knit from the top down Barbara-Walker style (I now know), I wore this cardigan through college and beyond. Whenever I'd wear it, people would say, Wow, your eyes! Its aqua wool nearly matched my greeny-blue eyes exactly. I replaced its buttons, cheap and plastic, with Norwegian-patterned pewter circlets.

Wearing it kept me close to my aunt Iva, a woman I was never close to in real life. Her legacy is one of teaching--she taught my mom to sew, who taught me to sew (though she hates it, mostly because Aunt Iva was such a taskmaster), and I of all my cousins am the only one who does handwork with passion. (My sister is the keeper of the baking legacy.)

The sweater met with a tragic laundry accident when I was first married, the victim of a well-meaning but wool-illiterate young husband. I cried when I saw it shrunken and felted, and put it aside, unable to throw it out or give it away.

Now that I'm knitting, I appreciate the sweater more, and--amazingly--I now have the skills to craft a replacement. I'm starting with a pullover in almost exactly the same shade of aqua, the cozy v-neck pullover with deep ribbing from Stefanie Japel's book Fitted Knits.
I hope Aunt Iva would be proud.

And here's a teaser for another project from the same book...more to come!

3 comments:

Dipsy said...

What a really beautiful and touching entry this was! Your great-aunt must have been such a wonderful woman, and this sweater certainly such an awesome memory of her! I can well imagine the horror when you saw it shrinked and wrinkled - but now there'll be a most amazing replacement - mind you, I can't wait to see more of it! And that color - woah, this must be the most beautiful shade of blue that I've seen for a long, long time!

Lolly said...

What a wonderful post and story about your aunt, Dana. She would definitely be proud. The Pastaza yarn is really pretty. I have one lone skein of that yarn in my stash, and I just love to look at it :)

LotusKnits said...

What a lovely story! My grandmother is much the same kind of woman as your Aunt Iva. I might have to go buy some Pastaza in just that color because WOW it's gorgeous!