Weaving Stories through Craft – Helen (Part 1)

My name is Helen and this is my story.

I was born in Scotland a long time ago… 73 years to be exact.   In primary school when we reached grade 5 we were taught to knit mittens.  We did this on four double pointed needles and had to place and knit a thumb.   Because we were so slow at school, we were allowed to take them home for the weekend to get a wriggle on.   I must admit my Granny helped me a lot with this.   In grade 6 we graduated to socks.   Once again 4 double pointed needles but this time we learned to turn the heel, very important and when we finally knitted the sole of the sock we grafted the toe.  Once again Granny came to the rescue.    What would we do without grannies?

I joined the Brownies when I was 7 and because of the knitting and sewing I had done at school, I soon gained my proficiency badges which was a very big deal.   I went onto Girl Guides and the standards were lifted higher.   In the town I lived in, Montrose, there was a Singer Sewing Machine Shop and we were invited to visit the shop and use their sewing machines to make aprons, which were then displayed in the shop.

When I was 21, a relative from my family, who had immigrated to Australia came to visit.  He desperately wanted someone from my generation to go to Australia as he thought it was the best place ever.   I was the only one who agreed to give it a try, mind you, no one from my family thought I would ever do it.

Arriving in Melbourne was a shock to the system.   Everyone spoke so slowly I was waiting for them to catch up.   I was a shorthand typist and went for an interview in a solicitor’s office.  He told me I was over qualified for the job, but we’d do a shorthand test. First problem; I had to translate what he was saying in Aussie into English and by then I was too far behind in the translation.   As I had been reasonable at maths, I got a job in the Methods or Timestudy department and there I met my husband.

Once married we moved to Moe, as Ian was teaching at Yallourn Technical school.   I couldn’t find employment as soon as the prospective employer discovered my husband was a teacher, it was, “sorry but you won’t be here long enough”.   We lived in a small unit and I did a lot of hand knitting, mainly aran jumpers and cardigans.   My husband was transferred to Dromana Technical School at the end of that year and we lived in Rosebud where we still live.

I spent most of my time hand knitting not just for the immediate family but for friends who had been told I could knit.   My mother-in-law, Ruth taught me to crochet  when I was pregnant with my son Ken.

It was time for something new. I’d been reading about knitting machines and finally plucked up courage and bought one.    I bought it at Myer in Chadstone and on regular visits to in-laws in Murrumbeena I would visit Myer to get lessons and pattern books.

By now my kids had plenty of knitted jumpers, friends’ kids had knitted school jumpers complete with the school colours included in wristbands and waistbands.  Time for something a bit more difficult.   I made a skirt for my mother-in-law all done on the knitting machine, including darts, waistband and hem.

I still have the pattern for the skirt if anyone is interested in trying…