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You must meet my mother, Carole. She is the reason why I am here, painting knitwear on MDK. It is an homage to her and to all the creative time we’ve shared together. She is the knitter in the family. And the sewer. And the quilter. Among her many other talents.

My mother always needs a project. If she is not working on a project, she doesn’t feel right. These days she primarily knits. She is a fast knitter. At least to me she’s very fast. She seems to start a project and the next thing I know, she is blocking it out!

And she is a perfectionist. She will rip out and redo. Even her marks on notepaper to count rows resemble abstract works of art. She mostly follows patterns, but sometimes she adapts them. Should you be a recipient of one of her creations, you receive it beautifully folded, packed with some extra yarn, and with one of her labels. The package always smells good.

My mother has been knitting since she was a young girl, taught by her mother. She has taught me to knit, but that is a story for another time. She really loves to knit. She says it feels like solving a puzzle. She finds great enjoyment in the creative aspect, and the sense of accomplishment with each project. I see how it highlights and draws upon her talents in mathematics and art.

Deciding on the project and then selecting the yarn takes time. There is a lot of thought and discussion. Some back and forth. Yarn shops are visited. Photos are exchanged and skeins of yarn are brought home to mull over. Various colors and textures are considered. Yarn is selected. Then, often it needs to be rethought due to lack of stock. Over the years I have spent many hours with her in various yarn shops. I study the layout and display of the stock while my mother is busy visualizing her creations. And then we go out for coffee. Thinking is hard!

Here is my mother in one of her favorites, a Fair Isle sweater she made in the ’80s. Its colors remind me of the décor our home at that time: taupe, beige and coral  The pattern is reflective of her aesthetic: tailored, delicate and refined. I remember that she wore it a lot at the time. She still has it but it is stored away.  How it can be too small for my petite mother is an absolute mystery to me.

Recently my mother has been eyeing a sporty Chanel ready to wear Fair Isle design in white, fuschia, and yellow from their new Coco Neige winter sports collection. She has been carrying around a photo of it for a couple of months now. It has inspired her to consider making a version this year. Though she seems to live now in black and navy, she likes the bold and unusual color combination.

She is starting to look at patterns. MDK Field Guide No. 2: Fair Isle, Vogue Knitting Fall 2018 (featuring the Modern Fair Isle trend), and 200 Fair Isle Motifs by Mary Jane Mucklestone are all on her table. Recently she made me a sweater based on Diana Walla’s Sundottir, and she has pulled that out as well.

As I write, she is searching for yarn to make her vision. I am sure I will be asked to look at the yarn and give feedback as we do for each other each time.

About The Author

Amy Routman is an architect and designer living and working in New York City.

The daughter of a consummate knitter and sewer, Amy has spent years looking at knitting pattern books and fashion magazines with her mother, and is excited to explore the art of knitting through her watercolor illustrations.

Follow Amy on Instagram to see her latest illustrations, art and design work.


  • Thank you for introducing us to your mother!

    • You are welcome! She is a very lovely and creative person!

  • What a lovely article. I love that your mother seems to get as much fulfilment and joy from the preparing phase as she does from the knitting itself!

    • The preparing phase is a big part of the experience. She says she only wants to knit things that really appeal to her!

  • This is delightful. Such a happy piece and the artwork is lovely. Now I want to make a fair isle sweater…

    • She’s made me two in the last two years….and I still would like another one!

    • Yup. Me too.

  • Lovely. What a lucky girl you are to still have your Mum and share in her knitting talents. Great story on how she percolates to her perfect design.

    • I am very lucky to have her as my mother! I’m glad you enjoyed the story!

  • This is a beautiful tribute to your wonderful mother! Thank you for posting! I love your paintings!! They are so incredible!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! I was just hoping I wouldn’t embarrass her! I’m sure I will be writing more about her/our knitting sagas!

  • Ooohhh, I’d love to know how your mother makes her gift packages smell good! I give away lots of my knitting; making each gift smell good would step it up a notch!

    • I’m sure it is the soap she uses on the sweaters and scarves! I’ll have to ask what she uses. They do smell good!!!

  • Your writing is beautiful, what a lovely description. I really enjoyed this, thank you!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  • I just loved this article.

    • Wonderful – thank you!

  • What an awesome tribute to your Mother, Amy. My Mom started knitting @ age 16 and 71 years later she still knits, just less. It was so fun taking her to my lys last weekend and I was proud to introduce her!
    Mom is Very Frugal and got “sticker shock” at the prices but she did buy out the stock of 1 particular yarn she liked Luv your sketches!! Very talented:)

    • How much fun you both must have had! I am so impressed by your mom!

  • What a wonderful tribute to your mom and your relationship. Also an education, I looked up the Channel sweater, $1900. We need to insure our work!

    • Oh boy! If I had to pay for all the special sweaters my mom has made me!!!

  • What a wonderful story about your Mother. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You are both so talented and interesting.
    My Mom was like that in the sewing realm. Miss her so. Enjoy your times together!

    • I’m glad you could relate to my mom and I. Thank you for your kind words!

  • Amy, I love that you responded to all these lovely Mom stories. My mother did not knit but she loved the things I made her and I often found her wrapped in a shawl I made maybe what? 30 years ago. I still have it and love throwing it around me now that I dont have her.

    • I love your mom story, too! How wonderful that you have and wear the shawl you made her.

  • Did you notice the price of the Chanel sweater ?!
    Your mother has wonderful taste in clothing and an excellent eye for color. Thanks for the introduction

    • It is expensive! But a fun inspiration! I’m glad you enjoyed her story.

  • Hi Amy! I also an blessed to have an awesome mom, who is 90yrs young! I always feel rejuvenated after spending time with her, as she has such a powerful positive outlook on life even though she is wheelchair bound these days. I love how your paintings capture the organic nature of yarn and knitting.

    • Your mom sounds inspiring! How lucky you both are!

  • Aww, my mom taught me to knit, but we weren’t geographically close enough to yarn shop together. She was always interested in what I was knitting, and I treasure that memory of her first lessons. Thanks for sharing your mom, her esthetic, and your glorious paintings with us! Hugs!

    • I’m happy you enjoyed the post and it brought back good memories for you!

  • Amy, your mom has many beautiful creations, not the least of which is you. Such a graceful piece, filled with the strong bond you & she share, all light and grace. Looking forward to hearing more from you, about your mom’s knitting and anything else!

    • Thank you for your kind words! I suspect I will be sharing more of our knitting adventures in the future!

  • Back in the 40s/50s, my Mum would take her knitting, wherever she went, and that included the cinema; in those days, in UK, people smoked in cinemas; my Mum would wind a different colour yarn on each finger (and keep track of them!). She’d nudge my Dad “please, give me a light, Alf” he’d flick his lighter, and she’d read two or three lines of pattern, then off she’d go … two stiches red (on her index finger), three green/ ring finger, 11cream/pinkie.
    An amazing worker of art.

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