Knitter’s Notebook: Knitting Courage
As lovers of books and art, it’s wonderful to find a writer and illustrator who is as fully immersed in knitting-as-a-way-of-life as we are. We have long admired the work of Michelle Edwards. Since discovering her in A Knitter’s Home Companion, we have been avid followers of her Instagram account. We fell in love—hard—with her Studio Scrawls (hashtag: #studioscrawls). The word for all of Michelle’s work: soulful. We’re thrilled to welcome Michelle to MDK, with a page from her Knitter’s Notebook.
–Kay and Ann
At the near end of winter, I picked up the dark gray wool gloves again, this time determined to finish them. I had let them languish in my knitting basket for two summers, never forgetting why I originally wanted to knit them. They came with a story, “The Knitted Gloves that Saved my Mother’s Life.” It appeared in Piecework magazine’s January/February 2012 Historical Knitting Issue, and was written by Ileana Grams-Moog.
The writer told how her mother, Anna Munster, a doctor and a skilled knitter, knit these gloves in the 1930s, when she was a medical student in Strasbourg, France, as an alternative to leather gloves which were too costly back then. Anna went on to knit the gloves so many times that she memorized the pattern. Her knitting skills came in handy again when she and her husband were living in a German-occupied area. Their landlady asked Anna to knit a pair of gloves for her nephew, a policeman who, though he did not favor refugee Jews like Anna, once had accepted her medical assistance after an accident. Later, after the gloves were knit for those official hands, on a round-up of Jews, the very same hands did not point the Gestapo to the knitter’s apartment door. “Anna always felt that it was the gift of gloves that tipped the balance.”
It’s a powerful thing for knitted tubes to do: not to point, and thereby save a life. I remember this story of courage, warmth, and knitting, every time I pick up my number 2 double-pointed needles and knit on the glove. It gives me a kind of courage, knowing that gloves exactly like the ones I am making once did more than keep cold hands warm.
These last weeks as I squeezed in some time knitting on the gloves between what has been a seemingly endless round of hats, the gloves became a kind of comfort for my own unease. The Women’s March, the #metoo movement, and the needed forces of change, prompted public disclosures and revelations which have rocked the children’s book writing and illustrating world where I reside when not knitting. We women have come a long way, but not nearly far enough.
As it sometimes happens, the first gray wool glove needed frogging and reknitting. I was a bit cocky in remembering the pattern stitch, and by not checking, I omitted a knit row. That caused the fingers to be ribbed, making them feel too tight. Reknitting them was not only an allegiance to the story and pattern, but a matter of fit.
I am proud to tell you, I have made great progress. The gloves are almost done. I am already planning another pair. Perhaps a gift of gratitude for a brave children’s book writer. The list of the worthy is endless. Like Anna Munster, I have found that this pattern is easily memorized. The purl bumps of the pattern stitch serve as both markers and repeat reminders through out. It’s a pattern for life, and each stitch of its utilitarian warmth honors her story.
Pattern for Anna Munster’s Gloves
Find it here on Ravelry.
Outstanding Middle Grade and Young Adult Books Set in Europe During World War II
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper