Memory Mittens


One of my earliest memories is time spent with my mother as she patiently taught me to knit and to sew simple straight seams on a garment. I often didn’t have the patience and would quickly beg to end the ‘lesson’ to either read a book or go outside and ride my bike. My mother would often sigh and agree, setting me free to explore with friends or more likely immerse myself in a good Nancy Drew mystery. However as time went on I soon discovered that knitting brought relaxation, a sense of peace, and spoke to my creative heart as small loops of yarn could soon become mittens, socks, or sweaters. This interest soon led me to co-own my own yarn and sewing business and then to eventually buy a small farm in CT where my husband, son, and I raised six sheep. Every spring the shearer would arrive to shear the ‘girls’ then the wooly pelts would be shipped out to be cleaned and spun into knitting yarn. When the yarn arrived back on my doorstep I very often sent hanks of it to my mother who quickly knit each of us a new pair of mittens for the upcoming winter. Many of these mittens had intricate designs and patterns and her knitting gauge was always true to size. I envied her ability to do that! Well, time passes for all of us and with it my mother, who died eight years ago. While sorting through her closets and drawers I came across several piles of handknit and purchased sweaters. For some reason, I found I couldn’t part with these pieces that so represented who my mother was; a knitter, a seamstress, and a clothes horse! So, I brought them all home with me. Slipped them into a box thinking someday I would do ‘something’ with them. Well, last winter that someday arrived when I came across an advertisement for a small company in York, Maine called Jack & Mary Designs.

The company, I learned, would take a person’s old beloved sweaters, or other woolen garments and craft a pair of mittens to be worn while remembering that special someone. I loved the idea and called the company and then shipped to them my mother’s sweaters. A month later a big box arrived in the mail filled with 10 pairs of beautiful handcrafted and stitched mittens. Each pair is unique to a sweater my mother often wore. Wanting my siblings, father, son, and his family along with several cousins to enjoy this memory project I carefully wrapped each set of mittens and sent them off to NH, RI, ME, and NY. Shortly, afterward, my phone began to ring. Messages of heartfelt joy, conversations filled with laughter and tears all centered around the memories of my mother wearing each of these sweaters that had become mittens. For me, one thing is certain – the pull of memories and love for a mother, aunt, wife, sister, and grandmother is as strong for all of us as anything we could fully describe.


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