In a drawer

We’ve been going through my Mum’s things. It’s time to empty her house and sell it, and unbelievably, months of wishing the house would sort itself without us hasn’t really done anything. Erin and I are not really terrific at this, we’ve both got a low threshold, and I think we both feel like the house is full of emotional bombs.  You’re going along fine, sorting something, and then run into something that’s just so… Mum, that it hits you like a sledgehammer. Nothing is safe. Even trying to get rid of stuff from the freezer was hard – Erin pulled out the little jar of frozen lemon curd I’d made mum at Christmas, and I came undone, two minutes later we’re laughing and crying because we’ve pulled something out with a best before date of some time in 2014.  Mum didn’t really believe in best before dates. She thought they were a scam. (She once ate an 14 month old yogurt by accident and didn’t die. This cemented her philosophy.)

I knit a lot of things for my mum over the years, and I’ve been stunned to discover that she kept them all. Every bit of it (with the exception of slippers that wore out) are still in her closets and drawers. She’s got a fantastic sock collection, and hats, sweaters and tops. Erin took a few of the sweaters, and the silk tee that I knit her, and I think I’ll take the socks back – I’m not sure yet. Socks are such an intimate thing, I don’t know if I can bear to let them go, or bear to have them here.  There’s a lot to figure out and I hadn’t expected it to come down to weeping into old socks, but there you have it.  In her cupboard of sweaters, I found an old one.

musweaterchair 2018-02-11

This was the first sweater I knit my mother, and frankly, it doesn’t have much to recommend it. For a while with my mum, there was a sheep thing. It’s hard to explain, but she ended up with a lot of sheep stuff, and at the beginning of all of it, I knit her a sweater that was supposed to be reminiscent of her grandfathers sheep farm in BC. It was 1990, and at the time I was very young and broke, and Amanda was six months old, and the outlay of cash for the yarn was a big deal, even though it’s absolutely acrylic. (Canadiana, ordered from Mary Maxim. I remember it coming in the mail.)  I designed it myself, such as it is, a little square, drop-sleeve sweater, and charted the intarsia sheep and hills and clouds, and embroidered on the little bunches of flowers and the legs and noses of the sheep.

I remember making it. I remember hoping she liked it, and I remember being worried because the clouds didn’t look quite right, and the seams aren’t perfect, and the green wasn’t quite the green I thought it would be.  All those things are still true. It’s not the most expertly executed knitwear, my skills are very different now, that’s for sure. I remember her opening it, and I remember her saying that she loved it. I don’t know if she really did. I mean, now that I’m a mother I see that she certainly did love it, but we’ll never know if she loved it because of what it was, or because I made it for her.  The stuff your kids make is like that, and I suspect it doesn’t change because they grow up. She wore that sweater for years. Years and years.

mumsweter 2018-02-09

(That’s her and Meg. The sweater’s already three years old by then.) I felt a little twinge of shame every time I saw that sweater in the last 10 years or so.  Wishing, now that I am older and wiser and have more skills and money that I’d made it better. I thought a few times about re-knitting it, this time in wool, with the green I’d always meant it to be, and with shoulder seams that were a bit tidier.  My intarsia isn’t much better, but I could have tried. I never did though, and now there it was, on a shelf in a cupboard in her room, carefully folded, with a bar of soap in-between it and the sweater under it. (My mother has a bar of soap in every possible spot of her closets and drawers. We can’t explain it, but there’s got to be fifty of them.)

It smells like her (and like soap) and right now it’s in my living room, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, and I can’t even explain my feelings toward it, but I knew it couldn’t go to Goodwill.  I now own a pretty crappy acrylic sweater, one that I’m super attached to, and rather ironically, it was knit by me.  Couldn’t have predicted that.

musweaterdetail 2018-02-11

Life is surprises.

By the way, we’ve opened our April Retreat up for Registration, there’s some info here if you would care to join us.  Who knows. Maybe I’ll wear the sweater.

217 thoughts on “In a drawer

  1. I don’t knit much but I made my mum three pairs of socks. One shrank so much when a Carer washed them they were three inches long. One pair she wore to her funeral and I take the third pair to yoga with me and sometimes I wear them and think about her. Socks are intimate but sometimes in a good way.

  2. I diid this with my Mom’s stuff and it helped me to think that this was one of the last things I could do for her. I knew she would want me to do it, to pass along to others who needed it things that she had enjoyed, and to have my sisters and I take the things that were of meaning to us. As a family we divided furniture. I love seeing her things in my sib’s houses not to mention in mine! I think of her often…not that I wouldn’t without the “things”…..but I know she’s with me, with or without reminders! I hope you are able to have some peace of mind while you do this and know that your Mum is looking down on you and blessing you for caring where her things go and for taking care of this very difficult and intimate thing for her.

    • Oh dear. And now here I am, sitting at my desk, crying like a baby because my dad too, wore a pair of socks that I knit for him to his funeral. Couldn’t let him have cold feet, could I?

      • Me too. Dad lived the socks I knit him so he wore them to the grave. My brother and mother nabbed the rest. My husband wears one of his sweaters.

  3. It’s a wonderful sweater. On so many levels. For so many reasons.

    And I think it should stay in the family. Many years from now, I can envision your daughters pulling it from a drawer, and telling their children how their grandmother, who was an amazing knitter, designed and made it for their great-grandmother. And pulling out that picture. “Look – here’s your great-grandmother, still so young. And look at Meg – so tiny!”

    There are disadvantages to acrylic being essentially immortal. But in this case, it’s a blessing.

  4. I brought home all of the socks I knit for Dad. I won’t wear them, but every time he did he showed them off and told everyone who’d listen that I knit them for him. So I’ll keep them.

  5. This hits me. I know exactly how you feel. I once made an acrylic cabled cardigan for my dad. He loved it. Now the idea of that cardigan makes me cringe, but the thought of him wearing it makes my heart warm. And he’s been gone for 34 years.

    • My Nana, (Great grandmother) knit an acrylic cabled sweater for a friend she loved very dearly. When he passed it returned to her, and after she passed, it came to live with me. On days that I miss her so much that I feel like falling to pieces, I wear it, and remember both of them.

  6. My sympathies. You have entered the tough intense part of the mourning process. An idea for consideration- could the sweater be auctioned- with proceeds to go to a favorite charity of your dear mum’s or yours? I only suggest because the joy you felt knitting this for your mum and the joy she felt receiving it are wonderful memories. Could the proceeds of the sweater go to provide joy for another organization? I hear we knitters are very generous. Wishing you courage in this next phase of celebrating a life well lived by your mum.

  7. Oh, Stephanie. Life is indeed surprises.

    I’m sitting here crying and thinking about the four drawers of my husband’s t-shirts that I still haven’t done anything with. It will be four years this March.

    Hugs and love and strength and courage, dealing with your mom’s house. It’s so very hard. So much harder than you can explain to anyone. I’m glad your mother loved her sweater, whatever the reason. The love endures, even more than acrylic.

    • I have a suggestion for your t-shirts. When my husband died suddenly and quite unexpectedly two years ago I made teddy bears out of his favorite clothing items and gave one to each of our grandchildren to remember their “pop.” Each bear has a pocket on the belly for their treasures. I also made myself a bear, which was a great comfort to hug, especially at bedtime, but will be passing it along to a special grandchild due next fall.

      • Thank you, Patricia, that’s a lovely idea. A friend of mine is going to make me a t-shirt quilt, I just haven’t been able to bear looking in the drawers yet. I should, though. Maybe next weekend. 🙂

        • Have your friend come over to go through the drawer with you, and have a cup of tea together after. She’ll take the t-shirts with her and you’ll have a “buddy” to help you bear it.

      • I work at a tshirt quilt shop and we do memorial quilts all the time. They’re very special. And teddy bears. I lost my mom 10 years ago and I just came across a cross-stitched tablecloth that she never finished. It must be 50 years old!!! I cut out the parts that were mostly complete and turned the squares into a quilt for myself and I love it. I think it would make her laugh that I couldn’t throw that mess away! 🙂

  8. My Mom was a fabulous and constant knitter herself, and I still have the Fair-Isle cardigan she made me (from a kit) in 1959. She made ski sweaters for the family every year until were all out of the house and on our own. As she was getting on in years and I was getting back into knitting, I asked if perhaps I might have one or two of the many ski sweaters she had made, since I was living in cold and rainy Oregon. Sorry. She had bundled up all twenty or so of her remaining hand-knits when she and Dad had quit skiing and sent them off to the Salvation Army several years before. I still have her knitting basket, though—not that I need anything to remind me of her.

  9. My mom used to use soap as a sort of potpourri – scented ones in drawers, especially lingerie. Her favorite was rose geranium. It keeps things smelling fresh, not like they’ve been in storage. Scented bath sachets work well, too. It’s a bit like putting lavender in with your woolen for off season storage.

    • p.s. I have a pair of socks mom knit for my dad. Acrylic from the 50’s. Very stiff, and she wished she’d done them in wool, too.

  10. long time reader here, but a rare noter.

    I think you should frame it and hang it. If not as a full sweater, then maybe trim it down, frame it, and hang it in your yarn room, or for your grandson in his room. It should become a family heirloom. <3

      • I was thinking you could make it into a pillow (or two, if you used a different fabric for the back). It’s a beautiful family heirloom that has to be displayed for all to see. There’s so much love in it!

        • My neighbor recently lost her mom after a long health battle. One of our other neighbors worked with her husband to sneak one of the mother’s favorite outfits out of the house and she had it turned it a pillow in time for Christmas. I know it’s a much-loved item. I think this sweater would transition well too.

          • I agree that it would be a wonderful cushion or two.

            Keep it nearby a part of every day.

  11. (hug) Steph (hug)
    My Dad passed this past June and my sister and I spent the Summer going through what he euphimistically referred to as his “papers”. 20 year old coupons, our grade school report cards, old National Geographics, dusty newspapers. That was the good stuff. Better you not know the bad stuff. 6 closets and 2 files full. We sold the house for $40,000 over asking thanks to a wonderful realtor and considered ourselves fortunate. I twinged at the thought of dismantling his life bit by bit, but consoled myself on the fact that he lived to 95 and plenty of time to “play with his papers” as my Mum used to say.
    I never knit him anything, but now I wish I had.

  12. I have the last pair of socks my mom knit. I was there when she was finishing them and had me try them on. They fit and so she sent them home with me. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer not too long after that. I will never wear them because I can’t bear to wear them out. They live in my hand knit sock drawer with the socks I’ve knit myself, a reminder of who taught me to knit and to value handmade items.

    • You should wear those socks. You won’t wear them out if you look after them but wearing them honors your Mom in a way that saving them doesn’t. Trust that she made them strong like you and flexible to last. Please don’t save them…later your children, if you have them, will think that you didn’t like them…and that is why you didn’t wear them.

      • I totally agree ! Wear them. Your mom would want you to. She will be smiling in heaven each time you put them on.

        And because clearing my mom’s place was so tough for my sister and me, I vowed not to do the same to my kids. I am purging right and left to lighten their load 20 years (hopefully) down the road.

        • After having to clear my parents home, I go through mine twice a year. I will not do that to my kids. Although, I did find some cool vintage crochet patterns in the attic.

    • I wear the socks my mother made me (as dementia set in – the gusset on one is curiously back to front but fits perfectly) on special occasions or when I’m feeling unwell – small doses, so they won’t wear out too quickly, but enough so that they can be put to use. I also like the visible mending movement, should my socks wear through.

    • If it’s cold where you live, perhaps wear them as bedsocks? That wouldn’t wear them out. Or around the house with scuffs? It might feel cozy to think of your mom being with you in that way when you knit at home.

  13. Walk away when it gets too much for either one of you. Plus it is good that Erin and you are doing it together.

    I’m still cleaning my sister’s house and discovering things that were from Mom and Dad’s house. It’s been a triple whammy some days. I for the most part am doing it by myself. Mom and Dad’s was so much easier when Sis and I did it together.

    Do keep that sweater – your mother liked that sweater or she wouldn’t have wore it repeatedly over the years. Keep the knitwear, socks and all. I’ve had the younger generation be very grateful when a piece of Mother’s embroidery or quilt work gets passed on to them.

  14. There are so many different types of beauty, Stephanie, and this post shows us a lot of beauty: beauty in your loving knitting for your mother, beauty in her love of your knitting for her, beauty in the love that radiates from this post– there’s a lot going on here. (And I can tell it must be hard on you because you’re posting on a Sunday!)

    I’m definitely in no position to offer advice, but can I just suggest, as others have, that you be gentle with yourself in this process? I don’t know what the right thing to do with those beautiful handknits is, but I do know that it’s emotionally wearing to go through even the crappy paintings my daughter brings home from Pre-K, and I think it’s important to make room for our humanity when dealing with lovingly handmade items. Acknowledge their importance. Acknowledge our own feelings.

    Whatever you choose to do with these handknits, remember that they are, truly, beautiful, and touched by both your love and your mother’s.

    And that’s enough blather from someone who started off by saying she was in no position to offer advice! So feel free to ignore every word I typed. (I blush.)

  15. My heart goes out to you and your family. I teared up when reading this post. My mom still wears the very first scarf I made her. It was the 3rd thing I’d ever knit, and now I cringe whenever I see it on her. But she seems to really love it. Moms are great like that.

  16. I know that when I wear or use something of my mother’s, I feel somehow closer to her. Doing it brings back memories of her voice, especially her laugh and her wicked sense of humor.

    That said, some of these posts have really wonderful ideas for what to do about ‘the sweater’. I’ll wager one of your daughters will want it one day.

    Also, take your time – unless there’s some hurry to complete the task, take it in steps you can handle. Mourning loved ones may require breaks from the sorrow. And it will all be there tomorrow anyway.

    Peace to you and yours.

  17. What is it with the soap? My gran had so much stashed (somewhere around 70 big strapping bars, I think) that even divided among her descendants, it was more than five years after she died before I’d worked my way through my share.
    Except for the bar of coal-tar soap. I don’t use that, because every time I sniff it, it takes me right back to her house, and what if I used it up?
    As for the sweater, I would say don’t let figuring out what to do with it become a source of anxiety. There’s no One Right Thing to do with these kinds of things.

    • My mum also put soap in everything – to keep the moths away. Every drawer we sorted more and more bars of soap appeared! We just didn’t know what to do with it all!
      – love the smell of coal tar soap, that takes me straight back to my grandfather’s house 🙂

  18. My heart is with you. My mom passed away Jan 4th and I’ve been staying in her home since then getting the house ready to sell. I live miles away but have a very, very understanding husband. The first couple of weeks were extremely hard but I felt closer to her just being here…talked to her a lot in between crying fits. I, too, found bars of soap nestled in with her clothing. I also found a deck of playing cards in each drawer…no clue why. Today I finally tackled the pictures and found that she had framed a letter I had written to her years ago and found cards I had sent her for Mother’s Day, birthdays, Christmas all the way from when I could first print my name to the last one I sent – with the dates written on the corner of each card. It’s so terribly hard.

  19. Steph, I have a really ugly acrylic afghan that my beloved Aunt Jean crocheted for me when she discovered broomstick crochet. I’m estimating 30 years ago or so. Thank goodness I was mature enough to thank her and even gush over it a little, although by then I was an expert crocheter, okay knitter, and yarn snob. Aunt Jean has been gone about 25 years now, and that afghan has traveled with me through 3 moves and I’ll never get rid of it. Now that I think of it, since it’s acrylic, it will most likely outlive me. Glad you reminded me of this.

  20. I would make a pillow cover with the sheep sweater. I doubt I could give it away, even though it would keep someone else warm. I cringe at the thought of some of my early knitting projects. We all started out somewhere less skilled than we are now. There’s a bar of soap in my undies drawer! Makes things smell nice. My mum used to put them in among the towels too.

    • A pillow cover made from the sweater is an excellent idea; something that is useful and will be on display, whether at your house or the house of one of your daughters. Very appropriate for Elliot’s room too.

    • I was going to suggest a pillow as well. A pillow can stand on its own on a bed of chair, full time, rather than being folded away in a drawer. I think soap, besides the scent, was thought to keep the insects away. Probably not, but that was what my grandmother did.

  21. I think the sweater is really great standing on its own. When you add in the love and sacrifice it took to knit it and the love for it she had, its pretty much up there in the priceless category.

  22. The scented soaps keep knitwear and even the linen cupboard from smelling musty and keep crawlies and wool munchers away……also smell way better than moth balls.
    It isn’t easy tidying through a loved ones life possessions but taking photos of some things and passing them on to someone else to love is better than ending up with lots of stuff when just the memories are enough . You do have your girls and Erin’s kids to share special things with, I treasure my Grandma’s old silver salt cellar and 2 linen doilies, knowing she used them every day because I lived next door to her.

  23. I vote keep the socks until you’re a bit further out. Mom died 2 years ago and because my dad still lives in the house we really haven’t dealt with much. We did the closet finally around 9 months after she died, because a hurricane had hit down east and they were doing clothing drives. It wasn’t as hard as I feared because by the time she died she had been bed-bound for nearly 4 years and so hadn’t been wearing hardly any of it. But I did retrieve all the socks I knitted her, and some other good wool ones because I inherited her Reynaud’s as well. You may not want to wear them now, but you will probably want them later, so keep them until you can make a decision.

  24. My Polish mother-in-law taught me to use bars of soap as moth repellent: in drawers of sweaters and socks, in the pockets of winter jackets and coats. And I always have a few in my boxes of stashed yarn.

  25. My daughter died in June of last year. She didn’t make things but was very good at buying good stuff. Her family took care of her stuff but I have the My Wallet she gave me that I use daily, the fleece slippers I wear when I’m cold and the cashmere scarf that is so warm. Lots of other things but not her voice on the phone.

  26. My sister and I cleaned out my Dad’s house almost seven years ago, which was really like cleaning out for both him and Mom because he had kept most of her things for thirteen years. So I can tell you that you’re right. It will be full of emotional bombs. And it will also be full of memories and laughter. And it will take as long as it takes. Give yourselves time and as many breaks as you each need. It’s Ok to keep whatever you want – you don’t need a reason. It’s just as Ok to let go of things you always thought you’d keep. And it’s Ok if you’re not sure. If you are moved to keep the sweater, then keep it. Without guilt – whether over your skills at the time you knit it or the fact it’s acrylic. I imagine your Mum loved everything you knit equally, just as much as she enjoyed watching your skills progress over the years.

  27. Push that boat on to Goodwill. You’ve memorialized thsi sweater through pictures and blogging. Now, someone will get it and it will keep them warm and they will enjoy its uniqueness. Better to be on someone than stored away.
    I think it’s a wonderful early project and there’s no doubt she loved it.

  28. That jumper is lovely – it’s sure to become an heirloom!

    I keep soap everywhere too – I like the smell and it cures the soap so it lasts longer. My Nana has rose scented soap in all her drawers, so her whole house smells faintly of roses, lovely.

    When my grandfather passed away I helped my dad and his sister sort through his house. I got the job of going through his books, he had a huge collection and I’d used it as a sort of library over the years. He had an odd habit of hiding money in his books and occasionally I’d find a “bookmark” as he called it. He’d let me keep it as pocket money, he spoiled me terribly really. Anyway the book job revealed around $10,000, hidden away for who knows what reason. It was a heavy task, made lighter by chatting about where the money may have come from (bank heist? Lotto win? Paranoid re banks?) what it was for (exotic holiday? Just a way of siphoning money to grandchildren who enjoyed reading?) and what we would do with it (we donated a large chunk of it to a footpath library). The books are now in my house and my parents’ house, and I never fail to think of Pa when I read them.

    • My late mother-in-law hid cash in books as well…we assumed it was an emergency stash due to growing up during WWII in Italy and being poor. Who knows?

      • I think hiding money is quite a common thing with the elderly. Pa was lucky to grow up in Australia, though having been born in 1917 he lived through the Depression (much less dramatic here than elsewhere), fought in WWII, and of course remembered the rationing afterwards. His family was large (16 brothers and sisters!) and while they were never well off they were reasonably comfortable as a result of having many people of working age during the Depression and after the war. He was very “waste not want not” so it may have been an emergency stash, something for a rainy day as he would have said. He also had a sock (of all things) full of coins, which he called his emergency money, so there was cash everywhere!

  29. I saw a video an hour ago that showed someone sewing a seam across the chest of an old sweater at a height to match that of a pillow insert. Which they put in and then sewed the bottom of the sweater shut around it. They stuffed the sleeves and the upper body, then sewed the neckline shut, then the bottoms of the sleeve hems together, pulling them around the now-pillowed body (a little more handsewing to finesse that) in such a way that the upper part of the sweater and those sleeves formed a circle around the pillowed part: voila! A cat bed! (We won’t tell the cat the video ended with a dachshund leaping in.)

    In case that’s of any help at all.

  30. The sweater and it’s story are beautiful. I recall reading about someone who kept a baby blanket (more scarf shaped) that she made early in her knitting life. (Sound familiar?) I think perhaps the sweater may occupy the same sort of emotional ground and keeping it, at least for now, is a good move.

    When my sister and I cleaned out Mum and Dad`s house, there were things I just could not let go of. I packed them in boxes and they came home with me. It has taken me a long time, but I have gradually winnowed out what is really important.

    Now, almost 20 years later, I face the task of cleaning out my sister`s house (she is moving to a nursing home) and I`m sure I will find things from my parents that will come home with me, to be winnowed out later.

    My point being, you don`t have to make a final decision on everything right this minute. As your grief eases, you will be able to make decisions that you just can`t make right now. And that`s OK!

    My heart is with you while you work through this difficult time.
    Chris S in Canada

  31. Ah, sugar. Well, the soap was to keep moths out (I know spinners who do that) and clearly it worked, right? No moths got into that acrylic. Mums know best.

    Phew. Well, the hard goes on. Glad you’re not an only child.

  32. As a tribute to her and to yourself. Wear the sweater. That sweater is an important time machine. Don’t be ashamed of that living time machine that speaks to you, of you. It also speaks to a woman who did appreciate you..all of you as you are, mistakes and all. She was proud of you as she wore that sweater. Remember her as you wear it. Re-knit it in wool and make it as you really want it. But do that for your daughters, so that when you are gone, as we all will be one day, they will have that same, tangible time machine to remember you by. This is what makes hand made items so very precious. You capture time and hold it in your hands.

  33. This is one of the hard parts. My sister and I were just going through this last year with my mother’s things. One thing she did was have several of my mother’s favorite shirts made into pillows. Maybe you could make the cherished sheep sweater into a pillow?
    Much love to you and your family.

  34. My dad passed in August (I think it must have been just a few weeks before your mom) and I was also faced with a stack of handknits that I had made for him over the years. I totally get what you mean about the socks. I folded all the knits up and put them in a basket which I tucked away in a spare bedroom closet. I think someday I’ll be in a better place to do something with them. Until then, they will wait patiently.

  35. The stabs to the heart just keep coming. There’ve been many good suggestions, but I’ll add my voice of experience anyway. We couldn’t take too much time at my Mom’s, so we had to get through her house somewhat quickly. A lot of things were fast and easy to decide, but eventually we were down to the hard stuff. We made the best decisions we could at the time. Some things we took home to decide later. Regrets? The things we let go too soon. Keep the knits, decide later. So glad you have your sister with you, it helps. Raise a glass to good memories and happy times.

  36. Tear-stained, my only sibling, my sister, and I went to the bank to empty Mother’s safe deposit box. Our late father had a short-fuse temper. When we found a letter from his commanding officer describing him as an even-tempered individual, we were so shocked we burst out into laughter. We laughed so uproariously the bank attendant who had let us into the vault came to see what was so hilarious. Try to find the humor, your mother would be pleased.

  37. Your story about the soap reminded me of my grandmother. When I was about 5, I tried to get a fresh towel from her linen closet. I pulled on the towel, and two dozen bars of soap came tumbling out — all sizes, from those little hotel bars to jumbo cakes the size of a brick! The brand is still made, and I think of her every time I smell it….

    I think you’ll keep that sweater, if only for one specific purpose. You need to wear it, hold Elliot on your lap, and have someone take your picture. Years from now, he’ll love the photo of his great-grandmom holding his mom paired with a photo of his grandmom holding him when he was about the same age!

  38. Frame that sweater. It won’t mean much to anyone but you, but it means a lot to you and your memories of your sweet Mum. I still have little pillows embroidered with my Mom’s initials and I replace the Ivory soap bundles every 6 months or so. I keep the soap bundles in every drawer because she did. I think that’s the proper way even now, 17 years later. The scent of Ivory Soap is a little thing, but strangely comforting. Do what feels right for you.

  39. These things are definitely crazy-making. I’m going with the frame-it person … When you’re done or it’s done with you – then pass it along. Hugs to you and your family.

  40. Dear Steph. Lost my father ten days ago. I know how you feel. All of the emotions sort of foam up like a shaken beer, with no rhyme or reason. Keep the love, let go of the sad, hug your family close.

  41. My mother used to live with us, and she was always cold. She almost always wore this horrible, shabby, brown hoodie. It made her look homeless, such a far cry from the beautiful, sweet soul she was. I hated it.

    The day before she died last May, she sat next to me in her wheelchair as I was knitting in purple wool / silk. She asked if I was knitting something for her. I was. I was knitting her a beautiful, warm shawl in her favorite color. I told her that she was not allowed to wear it with that awful hoodie. That I was making this to replace that awful hoodie, and I had every intention of burning the hoodie once the shawl was complete.

    The next day, she was gone. And now I wear the damned hoodie. And every time I put my arms in the sleeves and shove my hands in my pockets I sulk a bit because I hate that she has endeared that stupid thing to me.

    But there it is.

  42. When I cleaned out my parents house I learned things about them I didn’t know. Mother gave her time to good organizations I didn’t know about. I found I liked them more than I did before.
    It’s s hard job.

  43. I have been away from the blog for years, yes I know bad me. But when I read this, I felt a tear escape my eye. As I bite back, the flood of tears threatening to come. See, I lost my mom last year in July, she was 57. The pain is still there, fresh, glaring and gripping its claws into me (As I am sure you can relate). I am not writing this for pity of any kind, but I just wanted you to know, that you are not alone. We, the people of the blog love you, and your family. Take care dear yarnharlot, take care!

  44. I echo Liz aabove me, aving been away from this blog for years. Lovely and tearful to read; my mom has been gone for 29 years. I still have the silly pink/blue worsted wool cardigan from vastly different dye lots she knit for me, not knowing what I would be. Steel round buttons, crude little button holes and it is precious to me still. Never got good enough at knitting before she died to make one for her. . . . . ..

  45. Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion, I believe is the quote from the movie and I love that sentiment. When we were cleaning out my mother’s home after she dieded, we ran into the box of letters we’d written to Santa Claus. She’d saved every one of them. Our little kid scribblings were fun to see. As teens we stopped writing, but then picked it up again as we hit our 20’s and were starting our own families. The letter that did us in was the one where our soon to be sister-in-law had come to spend the holidays for the first time. We wrote to Santa that she was here and to please leave her a little something because we had come to love her and we knew she would be a good wife for our only brother. She walked into the room as we finished reading and wondered what had us in tears. We said ‘you’ and handed her the letter. She had never seen it before, so she was soon in a puddle too.

    I like to think that our mothers meant for us to find these treasures at this time.

  46. Take your time. I still have some of my husband’s drawers to go through and I can’t do it yet – because sorting them is so final and it means he really isn’t coming back. I have kept his handknit socks and there are days when I just need to wear a pair. The jumper you knit is part of your knitting history- please keep it. x

    • “isn’t coming back”. I’m sitting here at work trying not to cry, because that’s the whole of it, isn’t it? Putting the finality on that event, marking the period at the end of that sentence with heartbreaking solidity. This is why I can’t bring myself to clear out my parents’ stuff. It’s underneath mine, still. I live in their house, moved in after Dad’s death and Mother’s diagnosis, and I cannot do this. They passed in 2006.

  47. I had knit by her request some mittens for my dear mother-in-law. They were too big for her, but she wore them anyway during her last year of life. I rescued them from the cleaning out process, but then kept them in my closet and stared at them often. Then one day, my daughter-in-law informed me that the hat I had made for my son had finally become unrecoverable and would I make another one. I took those mittens and made a hat for him from them and let him know that he was wearing his Grammie’s mittens on his head now.

  48. I made some embarrassing stuff when I first started knitting, and I would not want any of it to end up being saved by my family and thought of as an heirloom, because I’ve since made many other items that are true heirlooms and represent my real skill. I’m with the people who have suggested making the sweater into a pillow. It’s a good way to remember your mother and to give it a cringe-free purpose. It might look really cute in Elliott’s room!

  49. Within 3 days of my father’s death my mother had gone through all the closets and gotten rid of all his stuff. I was quite appalled but she thought it was better to rip off the band-aid. Or something. I’m kind of angry at her some times. These things aren’t very easy; it’s a process, and it happens because we love people.

  50. Reading this took me back. My mum didn’t like to hang on to ‘stuff’ but kept things she used for years. One of the things I held onto is a bread board she had had forever and it’s in use every day, which is so lovely to me. Also an acrylic waistcoat I remember her knitting and wearing for many years – I keep that in my wardrobe! Much love xx

  51. Definitely keep that sweater. It’s gorgeous and will bring back so many memories. It’s also typical of that era. I also have a ‘sheep’ thing going on – not sure why, but we mums are strange people sometimes.
    Keep and wear the socks as well. Your mum would like to think that she was keeping your feet warm.
    We cleared out my mum’s stuff a few years ago and I still regret throwing out so much in the first haze of grief. Two items which I did keep, thank goodness, are her wedding and engagement ring which I’ve recently had made into one ring which I wear every day. They were so worn, thin and fragile before that I didn’t dare! I like to think she would be pleased and now she’s close to me always.
    Good luck with everything and deffo hang on to that sheep jumper – it’s gorgeous and so much love woven into every stitch! xx

  52. After my mom passed, and we were cleaning out her house, I took back the things I had knit her. One sweater I wear. And the hand knit socks. But, one scarf I’ve washed and blocked and it is still so awful that I don’t wear it, but she loved it and wore it a lot so I will keep it. A few things are in limbo – I haven’t worn, but cannot imagine giving away. It’s all a nice connection to my mom for now.

  53. I love the sweater! I bet Elliot will love it, too. It has double grandma love in it. Does he have a bear who could wear it?

  54. I like the sweater, I have some 1980s work still out there that I have to look at with embarrassment but at least you have nothing to be ashamed of. If I’d known I’d be still looking at my mistakes after all these years I would have fixed them.

    It was my husband’s socks that did for me. I shut the wardrobe door and walked away. He wore them day in, day out. They are slightly too big for me, I could take a bit out of the length or just wear them as they are but I will wear them, just not today.

  55. Oh Steph, it is so hard doing the house!
    I am an only child; my mother lived 250 miles away and the house had to be cleared pronto as my stepfather had left half of it to a group of charities who wanted their cash. For a year I travelled down and worked on it one week per month. My mother tended to keep things, and there was 43 years’ worth of stuff there – including heirlooms from my great-grandparents and grandparents, and things that had belonged to my stepfather. It was a year of tears, laughter, guilt, discovery, and an awful lot of talking and apologizing both to my mother and the house itself. A poem that she’d written about me that I found early on reduced me to floods of tears – I carry it round in my wallet now. Did I make all the right choices? Probably not. I did keep the things I knitted for her, and when I wear them I feel she is embracing me. Lots of soap in the drawers too – I took it all and thought of her when using it. And I do derive comfort from using her things – she feels a tiny bit closer, and I know she would have approved.
    All in all though, it was an unbelievably painful year, and finally emptying and selling my childhood home felt like another bereavement. I wish you much strength, and if possible, don’t do too much of it on your own.

  56. Keep that sweater, even if you never wear it. Don’t worry about its shortcomings. What it represents is your mother’s love for you. It’s irrelevant whether she really loved the sweater — she loved that you made it for her.

  57. Your term “emotional bombs” hit it right on the head. It explains a lot about how I tend to handle room/house sorting, and why I have such an aversion to it.

    There are lots of things you could do with that sweater, other than giving it away. Some people would frame it. Since you love it because of who wore it and how she made you feel, perhaps, your family could enjoy more hugs from that sweater if you form it into a pet bed, where cats and even grandbabies can snuggle. This is a link to a simple YouTube tutorial.
    If this does end up being the sweater’s destiny, you’ll even be glad you made it out of acrylic! Good luck in your house sorting, from one member of the “bomb squad” to another.

  58. There are already a lot of great ideas for the sweater here. Put it away for now, with the socks. Maybe with a bar of soap. I found some soap in my mom’s things, but mostly peppermints. In pockets, in drawers. I also treasure the photos I have of my mom wearing her knits, and of her knitting them. I am trying to gather them into one place. (BTW Check ALL pockets and nooks and crannies. You’d be surprised what you might find, more than a hankie or a peppermint.)

  59. I get it. I’ve been there. I closed my eyes and passed on a lot of stuff when my mom passed 19 years ago. No regrets. But the funny thing is I was knitting her a cotton intarsia very detailed sweater. I hate intarsia and cotton so it was a true work of love. I still have the front and back. Why? Every once in a while I look at it and think pillow but it’s never happened.

  60. I think that sweater is lovely, acrylic, drop shoulder, wonky seams, and all. I is 100% acrylic but it is more love than acrylic. Here’s my suggestion. Keep it. Put it in a drawer with soap. When you are sick with a fever, put it on if you can, or drape it over you if you can’t. Either way, it’ll feel like a hug from your Mum when you feel lousy.

  61. Most of the knitting I did for my Mom went to her sisters and good friends. They all seemed happy to have something of hers and something that I made. I kept the last pair of socks I made her and when I put them on to wear them, I always have a happy thought about how much she loved them. Hugs

  62. My grandmother has drawers with random bars of soap in them (those small “hotel” bars), too. I’m sure it’s a pest preventer. She has so many things tied with cotton string, too.

  63. I’ve done this. It is hard, but theraputic. My mother taught me to knit when I was very young so young that i dont remember it. It was such a surprise when i was emptying her bedroom drawers, to find one of my dolls still dressed in the simple skirt and sweater I had knitted 60 years ago. But you cry, then you smile, then you say goodbye, then you go on. Btw, that sweater has a home with me!

  64. Hugs to you. That isn’t a crappy acrylic sweater, it’s the love that tied you together in art form. Practical art, but still art. <3

  65. That sweater is lovely, and strangely similar to one a relative by marriage knit me as a child, down to the placement of the sheep and the colours. Hang onto it. It truly is beautiful.
    BTW, is the title a reference to the Band of Horses song?

  66. It’s a lovely sweater, and she clearly treasured everything you knit for her. It must be so hard to go through all of this stuff, but the feeling I’ve come away with after reading this post is that I want to knit more things for my parents while they’re still around to enjoy them 🙂

    Good luck with all of the sorting. My grandparents (on my mum’s side) died over a decade ago, and my mum and uncle are not yet done with sorting through all of the stuff. Some stuff is just hard to decide what to do with… I’m sure you’ll get there though.

  67. Losing one’s parents is hard and having to clean out their home after is even harder. Even when all is said and done something will come along later – even years later and have you in tears. My Mom loved pansies, in all forms. I had ordered her a sweater with pansies on it which she loved. Several years after she passed, a catalog came from that company with a pansy sweater on the cover and I cried puddles of tears. I inherited my Mom’s grandmother clock that Dad gave her on his last Christmas. So every 15 minutes I listen to a melodic reminder of them. I have tucked away doilies and antimacassars from Mom and my Nana, along with some sweaters my Mom knit myself and my daughters. Hugs – time does help heal!

  68. Wear the socks, remember your mum when you do – have happy thoughts when wearing them. Also why not turn the sweater into a cushion, something hugable. xxx

  69. I had a couple acrylic sweaters that my Mom knit when I was a teen. Neither of us will wear them any more (out of style and …acrylic). but like you, I couldn’t bear to give them to goodwill. She’d put so much work into them. So I turned them into pillows! Now they get lots of love!

  70. I inherited some of my mother’s *unfinished* knitting. The scarf-in-progress at least had instructions, so I still have it (still unfinished), but the pieces of lace sweater were going to have to be frogged (no idea of where she was going with it, and none of us were of a size with her) – I gave them to a niece who also knits.
    Somewhere in her stuff, packed away at my brother’s, there’s my Christmas stocking that she knit when we were young. With Santa Claus in intarsia, and my name knit in the border.

  71. I’m in the process of going through Dad’s stuff, just the same, finding treasures, that I can’t part with but realistically, can’t keep forever. I’m keeping the Harris Tweed hat, but can’t keep a storage unit full of books and generic donation does not appeal. We’ve set up a ‘giving library’ at our church, (lots of religion and philosophy so that’s appropriate)

    This may be a Karma opportunity for you and your family. “Socks with Love” by SMcP Figure out shipping for socks to Canada or US. $50 to the Rally and whatever shipping is to you via your sales avenue. I’m sure they’ll all find very wonderful homes.

  72. I’ll meet your best before date of 14 months and raise it by 40 or so years. When my grandmother died, my parents packed and moved everything in her house to theirs. … including the freezer contents. Well, there was a roast that was approximately 40 years old. (Older than I was at the time.) My parents not only ate it, but invited my brother to dinner, as he lived in the same city.

    I was pretty sure I would be the only surviving member of the family, but no one died. I called it their dino-roast meal.

    Good luck with the cleaning out.

    • Just to prove his contrarian point, My dad ate some rice cakes that were old enough to vote. The next Christmas I gave him a food gift basket with instructions to leave it under his bed for at least five years before consuming.

  73. My daughters (now 28 and 26) are both artists, and even though I proudly display more current art they’ve created, I still have the ceramic pieces they made in elementary school (a plate of spaghetti and a penguin) on the kitchen window sill. These are precious reminders to me of the little girls they once were and how far they’ve come.

    My mom passed away almost 20 years ago, and I kept an 80’s style big cardigan that was hers. I’ll probably never wear it out in public, but it’s most definitely a hug from her when I wrap up in it at home.

    Stuff — it’s just stuff except when it’s so much more.

  74. Cleaning out the house is the worst. Much love aimed at you and your sister as you take on that Herculean task. For a laugh, a friend of mine’s mother saved plastic bags, plastic lids without matching containers, and extra material from recovering a sofa they hadn’t had in 20 years.

  75. I would make the sheep sweater into a pillow so you can use it and remember your mom going forward. Since it is acrylic it should live on into the future.

  76. Oh dear–I do that bar of soap thing too! All the drawers have multiple bars of soap to scent the items…despite my being allergic to most scents. It just seems to keep clothing and linens fresh.

  77. There will come a day when putting that sweater on will be just the thing you need – like a hug from you to your mom and back to you. It was made with love, and worn with love. Keep it. <3

  78. When my mother died, I had the same problem. The sweaters I’d knitted and embroidered (duplicate stitch was big in the ’80s) for her wouldn’t fit me, and eventually I sent them to a friend and asked her not to tell me whether she kept them or gave them to someone else. The scarf I knitted her for Christmas was still in its box – she died in mid-January – and although I use it now, I had to keep it for ten years before I was ready. Just put them aside and wait – eventually you’ll know what to do with them. Perhaps one of her grandchildren or great-grandchildren could eventually wear the acrylic sweater.

  79. As a slow knitter, who is known to put things off for years, I can only boast two full sized garments. The sleeveless jumper I knit Dad (took 16 years to completion but that’s another story!) was his favoured top which he wore constantly. We chose to have Dad buried with it – I know I would have struggled to bring it home, but equally I could never have got rid of it.
    My second knit – a very chunky sweater with a complicated (for me) pattern on it – was made for my hubby many years ago – when it was outgrown it I found a large cushion to fit inside it, and just tucked in the sleeve and sewed up the openings! – It might now have been the best knit structurally, bu it is very cuddly 🙂

  80. I have a similar sweater that my grandma knit for herself – navy blue with embroidered sheep (french knot fleece!). It’s “not me” in any way and I can’t bring myself to do anything other than keep it in the box with other sweaters, to set them a good example or something? It’s not going anywhere.

  81. “Socks are such an intimate thing”
    This is exactly why I kept every pair of socks I knit for my daughter Clara. Even though her 13-year old feet were smaller than mine and I’ll never wear them. I keep them tucked into my sock drawer, right next to my own. It breaks my heart a little every time I look at them, but couldn’t bear the alternative. Knitting is love and memories. xo

  82. I’d think every knitter has an interesting early acrylic sweater that they’re attached too. I think we should start an instagram #can’tletgoknits. I have a sweater, I have the last 2 pair of mittens my Mother made me that I refuse to wear lest I lose/damage them (she died over 20 years ago)
    I think you did a fine job for the time/experience and she wouldn’t have worn it as much as you say she did if she didn’t love it. PS I cried over my Mothers shoes and I still have her purse

  83. I can only imagine how difficult this is for you so thank you for sharing. My mother-in-law passed away last April and I helped with the cleaning out of her apartment. So many memories held in inanimate objects it boggles the mind. Hugs to you and your family.

  84. I have nothing to add that many others haven’t already said. Keep the sweater, whether you display it in a frame, as a cushion, give it to a daughter, or just keep it folded in the bottom of your drawer to encounter now and then. Have rainbow days with Erin cleaning out the house, laughing and crying. It’s a way to honor your Mum’s memory and part of the process even when it’s not easy. We’ll all either be there someday, or have already done it, and are happy to lend a shoulder.

  85. How do you even begin to do this task? How do you do it, alone? This is my quandary. Mine passed four months apart in 2006. They’d lived in the house they’d built for 46 years. I’d moved in to help Mother after Dad passed, and after her diagnosis. She left us more quickly than we’d hoped–within six weeks of my uprooting my entire house, putting it into storage, and starting over back at home.

    I had to let the storage unit go, so the house is now filled with two households’ worth of things, because even after the step-sibling and nieces took away what they’d inherited, there was still so much left, and so my stuff is sort of on top of theirs.

    It’s chaos. It looks like I’m a hoarder. I’m not, I just need to unpile, sort and redistribute, but I cannot bring myself to do it. Just thinking about it makes me want to nap. And being single, with the other part of the family living six hours away, the task (just like taking care of Mother did) falls to me.

    In August, it will be 12 years. Where do I even begin? I’m glad, Stephanie, that you have someone to share the chore, the laughter and the tears. There is no one part harder than the other; it is all simply just HARD.

    • Do you have a close friend who lives nearby? Sometimes it’s easier if there is someone there to sit with you, even though you still have to make the decisions.

      • And reminisce about the items as they are sorted. Share the memories and it might take some of the “difficult” out of the task.

    • I sat with a friend as she dealt with her husband’s things after his death. It helped her a lot. Think of everyone you know and one of them will (or more) will pop out as a person who can do this.

  86. I love the sweater, the way it looks but for mostly for more important things. When you made it you paid money you really couldn’t spare to buy the yarn and you also gave your time to plan out a sweater she would love. You also gave your time also to knit and embroider it when time was also dear since you had a six month old daughter. It was a gift of pure love and it still is. And she recognized that. She kept it and wore it and protected it with soap. I hope you keep the sweater and when you need to, take it out and wear it or just hold it. BTW, the photo of Meg as a baby bears a striking resemblance to Elliot.

  87. Over 40 years ago, I knit my mother a sweater; it had intarsia reindeer and slip stitch colorwork. After a while I didn’t see it but I was busy growing up and moving on so I didn’t quite notice. Then one day about 18 years ago my then-3-year-old daughter came home from a day at Granny’s house wearing that same sweater. My mother (somewhat infamous for shrinking things in the wash) had shrunk/semi-felted that sweater and then held on to it for decades.

  88. My great-grandmother lost her mother and father in her twenties, before she had even married. Her mother had come from wealth (though her father spent most of it) and my great-grandmother was left the sole heir of a large and fashionable Gilded Age household’s worth of stuff. That was quite an era for accumulating stuff! So many different kinds of spoons. Some truly regrettable lamps. I don’t know how she felt about it (most likely: overwhelmed), but she had it all packed away, the valuable with the trivial, and there it sat, in a barn (long story), waiting.

    My great-grandmother died tragically when her only daughter, my grandmother, was nineteen. In his grief, my grandmother’s father immediately took a posting overseas, and two years later remarried. My grandmother inherited all of her mother’s things, and the barn-full of belongings of the grandparents she never knew. She inherited her mother’s postponed grieving task, added to her own devastation. It was too much.

    My grandmother left her grandparents’ things in the barn, and had her mother’s things packed away, unreviewed, the irreplaceable with the junk. A few years later, when her father was back from overseas with his new wife and she had married and built a home of her own, her mother’s things came to live in her basement. And there they sat, waiting.

    My mother was my grandmother’s only daughter. My mother was in her early 50s when both of her parents died, and she inherited it all. The barn. The basement. Her own parents’ house full of the accumulated stuff of 50 years living in the same place. Three generations of deferred grieving. It took her two solid years to get through it all. I think it was the hardest thing she ever did. It was just like you describe, an emotional minefield yanking her back in time unexpectedly. And the weight of decision making, so many many deferred choices, was grinding.

    What you are doing is so very hard, but it so very much needs to be done, as I expect you know. My mother’s advice is that you can only take it one day, one room, one drawer at a time. Sometimes you’ll speed ahead, sometimes you’ll lose an entire afternoon to the emotional wallop of one discovery. You’ll get through it, though, and it will be better after it’s done.

  89. I have 2 bins in the attic (well, 3, but I swear that the 3rd one is going to my daughter’s house this summer because she has her own attic).
    Anyway, I have bins in the attic for my kids “treasures”. Included in them are the beautiful quilts that were made for them when they were born, sweaters I’ve made that they loved and outgrew, and some toys they couldn’t let go. I went to put one of my youngests sweaters in his bin and realized that the moths had gotten it. He was pretty upset, it was his “favorite” and he wore it until he couldn’t squish into it anymore.

    So I felted it and made him a pillow out of it, and it’s now on his bed.
    Maybe that would work with your moms sweater? I get that you can’t felt it, but maybe make a pillow?

  90. My mother lost several toes on her right foot when she was a child. The doctors told her mother she’d walk with a limp, but since nobody told HER she walked just fine. She was always fussing with store-bought socks. They’d fit one foot but not the other, and oh did the seams drive her absolutely MAD rubbing on the scar tissue. When I started knitting I learned that hand-knit socks had no seams, so of course I cranked them out for her at a good clip. They were custom foot-specific socks, with the right one 2 inches shorter than the other. I brought home at least 12 pair after she passed. They smell like sandalwood soap, and like my childhood. I love having them.

  91. Your strength and ability to laugh is important. Last summer after loosing my Dad, my Mom wanted to go thru his closet. She had knit him many a sweater and she still had his Norwegian sweater knit by an exchange student. My son stopped by on his bike and had to call me to pick him up. I fit into all the sweaters and could not carry them on the bike It makes her and me smile everytime he wears one.

  92. Oh, Steph! My mother passed away in 2009. And yet, I still have the boxes of things that I brought back from her apartment that I cannot keep, cannot unpack, and cannot let go. I have an ugly store-bought sweater that she wore a few days before her death. It still smell like her. I have the first afghan that I ever crocheted for her sitting in a plastic bag in the closet. I don’t know what to do with it. I wanted because it always sat on her bed. And it troubles me that perhaps I should have wrapped her in it before she was cremated to keep her wrapped in my in my heart. In the end, they are just things. Her memory is etched into everything about me- my very DNA is half hers. How could I forget anything? She is in the jokes that we laugh about from Good Night Moon (the quiet old lady whispering “Hush” is forever “hush, hush eat your mush!” My yet to be conceived grandchildren will know that one.). She is in my love for “get lost” rides in the car, in making gingerbread houses at Christmas, in the love or hatred of certain shades of green, in putting milk out in the garden for the fairies. Clearing out the house is so hard, because it does seem like clearing out the person. Keep your eyes open for the little things that warm your heart. When I was very young, Mom and I did a wonky cross stitch sampler of the Irish “May the road rise up to meet you” prayer as a gift from my grandma. When clearing her apartment, I kept finding copies of that poem all over- in a dog eared page of a catalog, on a post card that fell out a book, an old calendar on her desk, typed on greeting card stuffed in the back of a pile of boxes, and written out in her own handwriting. I take them as a message from her that we are all all right, until we meet again.

    PS. I think that sweater would be a delightful pillow, and then you wouldn’t need to concerned about the shoulder seams…which are perfectly ok

  93. Cleaning out a relative’s house is definitely a group project, and actually, is catharsis when done with the right group (and my deepest apologies to those of you who suffered through family squabbling while doing this). As you can see, many of us have/had /are going through this process.

    My Mom put off doing my Grandmother’s house for over a year. It took us over a day to go through her closet and dressers alone…but what great stories! I’d almost suggest that you and Erin keep a tape recorder with you and record some of yours (I wish we had).

    My son might be a little disappointed about what artwork I kept…a tissue paper butterfly, a worksheet in which he imagined me sitting in front of the computer…bits and pieces that I could keep at work. Almost everyone does it. Is any of this inspiring you on purging things out of your household??? Probably not.

    When death was more of a home affair, people had pictures taken of the dead (well, they were the only ones who could still that long) and made pictures with their hair. It sounds strange to us now…but we all want to hold onto loved ones that have passed on.

    Bless you and Erin on this final journey with your Mum.

  94. My grandma did he thing with the soap. She was a rug hooker, and I found dozens and dozens of little slivers of soap folded into her hooking wool when I took it home. She swore it kept moths away, and you know, she may have been right, because I found no signs of moths in the dozen or more bushel apple boxes she had packed the wool in. Must have been a northern thing. ❤️

  95. Oh. I love that sheepie sweater. It reminds me of the pink gansey sweater that my Gran (the Knitter) wore daily that I got after she passed. I kept it for a few years. Then, I decided to give it away. I took 30 photos of it – every angle was covered. Soon after I gave it away, my cousin announced that they were having a baby girl. They were going to name her ‘Millie’ after Gran. Since I am the Knitter now, I made a pink blanket with Gran’s gansey sweater pattern. Gran was with me with every stitch. And I know she is with little Millie every day she uses that blanket. Love to you. :)K

  96. I don’t know if anyone has suggested this but talk about an opportunity for some cosmic balancing! Perhaps choose a few items or as many as you could bear and post them on your website to be exchanged for a donation to your bicycle event. I imagine there are a lot of people out there, myself included, who would see this opportunity as a triple dose of karma. Just a thought, might be weird but then again, might be awesome. Best wishes and looking forward to seeing you at Madrona.

  97. My dad always wore plaid flannel shirts until they were faded and soft and nearly threadbare in some places. My sister is a quilter, and when he died last April, she collected all the flannel shirts and is making them into patchwork lap-size blankets for us. Making something out of the sweater she loved and you knit for her is such a lovely idea, be it a pillow or something else. Not just a connection to her, but a connection between you and her. And it is really fun to have something like that which has a story behind it, to remember and laugh about and tell people. I have my grandmother’s wedding and anniversary rings in part because of the funny story when she was waiting in front of a hotel for my grandpa to bring the car around and a man tried to pick her up… he bought her the anniversary ring because clearly the wedding ring was too small for a man to notice that she was already married (he couldn’t afford anything bigger back then). Things that carry a story are so precious.

  98. A lifetime of memories flood back these days….these days of sorting through the belongings of your mother. I remember it all too well. The Grade 2 project that was crayons ironed between tissue paper, the hand-made cards from childhood…..all saved….and I could not bear to throw them out. It takes years to gradually let go of some things – things we cannot let go right now but in time you will wonder why you were hanging onto them. This lovely sweater is a keeper though. I’m still wearing some of my mom’s nightgowns that I bought for her the Christmas prior to her passing….and I’m wearing the handmade socks I made her too. She would be proud of the thriftiness. My friend gave me the best book to read “What My Mother Gave Me” by Elizabeth Benedict. It is an excellent read of how mother’s contribute to our lives…it is very healing and comforting and helps with the grieving.

  99. I can only imagine… actually, I don’t want to imagine. But – thanks so much for the link to the pictures of your mom and Tupper. I feel like I knew them both, and it’s fun to see them together. ((hugs))

  100. I too have reviewed and dispatched all of my mothers worldly goods (including every check she’d ever written going back to 1962). It’s a process and a ritual, like mourning and memorials that brings iterative wave of remembrance and laughter and tears. I hope your journey together with your sister lands more on the side of memory and peace.

  101. Your project using yarn from Mary Maxim is so unbelievably more magnificent than my first project using acrylicfrom Mary Maxim!
    My only practical thought: a year ago, we cleaned out my parents’ house of 50+ years. (My mother is still living but not in the house. ) Way too much stuff came home with me, but I have been able to return to it since and winnow. Clearly, the winnowing will take repeated tries and many months, but this is a process that requires its own time.

  102. Oh, how familiar this all is! How wonderful, in a sad way, to read these comment-stories about our losses, our sadness, and objects we’ve kept ‘in memoriam’. It’s such an individual thing, this business of making decisions to keep or give away objects; there’s no right or wrong to it at all. You can put off deciding what to do with specific items; an item may lose its hold on you over time, and you can decide its future then. I’m not a band-aid ripper-offer in general, but either may be appropriate; there’s no rigid rule. And bars of soap do harden, so when they’re finally used for washing, last longer than fresh stuff. My mum kept some of her mum’s things, plus some of grandma’s sisters’ things; I am so very grateful for the reminders of two gens of old lovely familiar objects — and I wear mum’s socks, which I can even darn with her old darning egg. We do miss our loved ones……

  103. I haven’t read any of the comments yet, but here is my two cents worth: I think the sweater is beautiful, and I think you should wear it if it brings you comfort. It may have little imperfections but that doesn’t matter. My mom passed in 2015 and I have her little Singer portable sewing machine that she purchased to make her wedding dress in 1950. it’s. It’s one of the few things I have that was hers, and I’m keeping it until someone else in the family who sews needs a machine. Blessings to you and your sister as you go through the hard task of sorting.

  104. I never knit for my mom — at least, I don’t recall doing so. I made her a throw quilt that she loved and use — and I was 50 by that time. After she died, I took it home; I too love it and use it. I think of her every time I am under it on the sofa with my knitting or hand-stitching.

    Mom taught me to knit, and I knit for my kids and for friends and for my late DH and sometimes even for me (socks) but not for her. No. She refused to let me. She said, “You knit for your kids. You’re *my* kid; I’ll knit for you.” And she did — until she could no longer see to do it (macular degeneration).

    She gave me the yarn (Really Good stuff, like Rowan or Debbie Bliss or something — she’d splurged on a kit from Canadian Living or Chatelaine or something)…but I’ve never done it. Never knit that sweater. I couldn’t do it. It was her project, and I just never did it for me. I still have the yarn.

    I grew out of the acrylic one she knit me when I was in Girl Guides (age 12) and wore to camp and got it full of campfire smoke. It still smelled of smoke when I gave it up (where? I dunno) in my thirties.

    I wore out one done in denim (another Chatelaine kit), and recently bought some new yarn (cotton in denim blue) to make it over again. “Recently” = about 5 years ago. We’ll see.

    Two from the eighties with glitz and eyelashes and BIG shoulders…I gave away. Their recipients were happy, and I was too.

    Mom died at 87, fourteen years ago last month…but at 65, I see her in my hands, and my smile my daughter’s smile and my son’s eyes.

    Maybe one of your girls will wear that funky sweater. Or not. Whatever happens, remember the love in every stitch — love put there by the maker and infused by the wearer.


  105. My mother died in 2009 and for various reasons, we did not have a lot of time to clean out her home. My dad died in 1983 and Mom did not have any of us three children help her sort out his things. Nor did she give us anything, not even the sweater I had knitted for him.

    My brother had already passed away when Mom died, so my sister, sister-in-law and our two husbands and I went through everything in somewhat of a hurry.

    I am extremely practical and probably approach this issue differently than many of you. Mom was a saver and kept everything for later for for her version that it was too special or good to use.

    We all got some furniture, dishes and household items. I started using them every single day and still nearly 9 years later, I whisper to her that I love using them. She had an entire set of beautiful dishes she would not use even though she loved them. We use them every single day. One plate broke. Mom would have been devastated because the set was no longer perfect — a downfall of hers that made her life more difficult.

    I had given up sewing by that point so my sister got her special nearly new sewing machine, which ultimately went to one of her daughters, and all her sewing supplies. Mom had a supply of beautiful delicately tatted edged and embroidered handkerchiefs (never used of course) from her mother. My sister made all of us a lovely lavender-filled sachet with those handkerchiefs. I keep it in an underwear drawer of course!

    My sister was too small to wear anything of Mom’s. I took only a few things. My sister-in-law took a few. She had a tattered gray warm fleece jacket she wore around the house to keep warm. I took that and wore it to complete exhaustion and enjoyed wearing it in the same spirit.

    I am a believer in using and wearing everything. Saving for “good enough” is nowhere in my vocabulary or for very few things. Use them, wear them, and keep the memories.

    I am also a believer in giving things to our children or whomever while we are still alive.

    Mom was a difficult woman and I brought home all the things I had knitted for her. They were basically untouched. She even complained, without trying them, that hand knit dishcloths did not work because forks got caught in them. Funny that never happened to me.

    Well, Steph, you and all you posters sent me down memory lane too, both good and irritating memories.

    Love and peace to you and your family. You are a treasure.

  106. I’m so sorry. My mother is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and we have fewer than four months left. Or so they tell us. I have knit her things that have disappeared and now I think I’m glad they have.

    I am so sorry for your loss.

  107. First, so sorry for your lost.

    I would gift the sweater to your daughter with the picture of your mom and her. She might not wear it now but I bet later on she will.
    Or wear it yourself. I would. It might not be the prettiest or coolest sweater but each stitch is about your mom, and that’s what counts.

  108. I’ll be 62 next week and both my parents are still alive and compose mentis. I call them regularly, just to chat, not because I have anything important to say. My Dad wears the sox and scarf that I knitted for him, my Mum has a scarf or two. I am just grateful that they are still here (my mother-in-law is another story).

  109. You got the yarn from Mary Maxim, but you designed and charted the sheep yourself. That makes the sweater an original design, and since the design of sheep, clouds, etc could be used on another item, it is under copyright. I think the design is lovely, and the sheep are more interesting than designs I’ve seen elsewhere. Perhaps you could offer those design, named after your mother, to others? You could have payments donated to the charity of your choice if you don’t want to profit from it.

  110. It took me a long time to decide what to do with the socks I had knit for Mom after she died. They stayed in the drawer in their bedroom for several years. Every so often, my Dad would ask me about them, but he only gently reminded. Last year, I took them out and now wear them.

    Keep the socks and the memories.

  111. The soap thing is something I do…because my mom and grabbed did it. The soap helps absorb moisture in humid climates, which we had in Texas.. so bars of hotel soap, leftover slivers (once they dried) and fancy gift soap all went into linen closet..between guest towels and sheets and sweaters.. I knit a soap sack to use all my slivers up in the shower, but I do put Yardley lavender soap in between my sweaters and sheets.

  112. I clicked on the link for her silk t shirt, and I love what you wrote about her on her birthday, back in 2005. I’m glad she — and you — knew what a special, precious mother she was to you.

  113. That is a perfect sweater. (It’s pretty darn cute, too, and the clouds are great.) Keep it, even wear it once in a while. You know it won’t wear out, because Canadiana. Keep it, and think of her when you see it on a shelf, and smile because she loved it, and loved that her daughter made it for her. That’s what makes it perfect.

  114. I LOVE the sheep sweater. Keep. It. Pull it on, close your eyes and feel your mother’s love wrap around you. My mother had a hummingbird pin, not an expensive one, but lovely nonetheless. When I pin it on a blouse or sweater, I feel like she’s sitting on my shoulder.

  115. My grandma (a mother figure in my life) died just under ten years ago. I have just a couple items of hers in my closet that I never wear…but I like them there, and I smile every time I see them.

  116. Your sheep are just beautiful, and, being acrylic they will last forever. This sweater is a lovely family heirloom. Embrace them and the love they represent. Enjoy.

  117. I came to comment helpful ideas and thoughts on dealing with the houses full of stuff we inherit, the things we made our loved ones, the loss in general. But instead I read comment after comment of inspiring thoughts from all the others. I kept all the things I had made, tucked away for a later time, when I could think clearly. Only have so much space, so the contents of homes was eventually disposed of, even used the same estate auction company to empty my own home. Lots of good advice from your followers here, and more than a few tears, I read every comment. You are loved, hugs.

  118. Steph, this story saved my sister and my sanity during our first wave of family cleaning. I don’t remember how I found it, I just think it came to me at exactly the right time. I hope it’s helpful in any way during this strange time for you- this juxtaposition of the mundane, the surreal, the profound, the heartbreaking, and the utterly hilarious that is the sorting of our parents stuff.

  119. Keep it — just fold it up in a pretty presentation box and keep it. Don’t wear it, don’t cut it up, just keep it in its current state, take it out every now and then and think warm thoughts of your mom. 🙂 And make sure it’s bequeathed.

  120. Stephanie,
    We are on a very similar path. I lost my Dad in November. We are cleaning out his condo. It is pretty tough duty clearing out the leftovers of a life well lived.

  121. When my mom died, I got all the handknits back. The scarves, the shawls, the hat, the socks. There wasn’t much because their house had burned down 4 or 5 years earlier and my dad died a few months after, but I’d been slowly reknitting things. The socks were the first of the new batch, a pair for each of them. Within a month I had my dad’s back and exactly 4 years later I had everything else, too. And every time I need an extra hug I put their socks on. My dad’s are the only pair I’ve ever knit that have had to be darned. And I will keep darning them until I die, because I will never not need hugs from my parents.

  122. Oh, how tough to go through a loved one’s possessions. Glad you had your sister with you for moral support.

    I’d turn the sweater into something for Elliot – a pillow for his room, or a teddy bear (as others have suggested).

    Burra Bears in Shetland makes bears out of people’s old sweaters. They usually use Fair Isle ones, but I bet they could do it with yours, too.

  123. I think the sweater could turn into cute nursery pillows (I’m assuming you’ll have more than one grandchild eventually). I feel for you, my dear, having gone through this process myself. I did get a chuckle over the 14 month old yogurt though.

  124. Reading your posts brings back so many emotions from my dad’s passing 4 years ago. Take your time on the house. We had to rush through my parents’ house after he passed because we couldn’t afford to keep the house and needed it on the market and I have so many regrets. I have a small house and couldn’t keep much. I wish I had taken more time and really thought hard about what I wanted but I was deep in grief and in a hurry and some part of me just wanted to toss or donate everything because I couldn’t handle the emotions of looking at the stuff (my mom had died 13 years earlier and all of her stuff wasn’t still pretty much where she left it unbelievably). Take your time and don’t feel bad if you keep things simply because they remind you of her. Hugs!

    • I know what my sister would do. She would make that sweater famous. She would take pictures and use them to print fancy post cards. She would make up a legend. No, even better, she would make a picture book, especially to give to a daughter or grand-daughter. And it would be about making a gift for your mother, and what it is to receive a gift from your child that they planned and put their hand to. And connecting with that truth. And it would have a chart for a pillow cover, and a simple hat design in many sizes. And a picture of your family with each wearing their own hat of said design.

      And it would have a place for the mom or grandma gifting the book to share a memory of a Gift they gave, that came back to them.

      And I’d be glad to be a test knitter for it.


  125. Still sorting box after box of “treasures” from extended family members stored for years, I wish someone had included notes about the people, relationships, when/why items were saved. Those stories are lost as memories slip away.

  126. My mum complained of cold feet so I made some cashmere mix socks and sent them to her for Christmas. She never acknowledged them, so eventually I asked if she liked them. ‘Oh, those things, I sent them to the charity shop.’

  127. My dad just moved to a nursing home and I had to start going through his things a little bit. I found a file folder with my name on it, and one for my sister, and Dad had saved all the letters I wrote to him, plus newspaper clippings that mentioned me. Like most men of his generation he doesn’t say much, but that file pretty much filled in any gaps.

    Get a pretty box and put that sweater and those socks in it and tuck it where you can find it if you need it. Make those decisions when you can stand it. There’s no statute of limitations on grief.

  128. I have an apron of my mom’s, because she wore it every single day. And I have the stunning aqua satin tunic she wore to my wedding because she made it herself from the most gloriously embroidered piece of fabric she found at our local department store back in England, many many years ago. Other than that, I don’t have anything of hers. My brother and sister descended on the house after she passed and took anything that they wanted; and what they didn’t take, my niece and nephew took. I live out of town so I wasn’t on site to be consulted or even to go in and help with the cleanup. But I don’t actually regret that. I have trunks full of wonderful warm memories that don’t involve “things” at all. And that apron? Sums up my mom completely, as no one was ever allowed to go hungry or thirsty under her roof.

  129. Stuff the sweater with fiberfill. Stitch the sleeves, bottom and neck together. Wrap it around yourself when you need a “Mom” hug.

  130. When clearing out the house, it’s helpful to have good friends who can not have the emotional link to each and everything they pick up. Trust me, I’ve been that friend. To help identify what to keep, what to donate. Call friends who may want a keepsake. For God’s sake, keep the socks..every time you wear them you’ll know they were wrapped around her feet too…

  131. My Dad passed away January 28th. We just received his death certificates and this all so very close right now. Sending you love and light from Alaska.

  132. I need to do this with my mother’s clothes and things, but it’s only been about 6 weeks. My dad is getting antsy that stuff is not going away, and yet he tries to get rid of things like photo albums, but wants to repair a cheap busted chest of drawers. I keep telling him that he is worrying about the wrong things. I am so very tired.

    • It’s hard but yes, you need to do it. My dad (see comment below) did not want anything touched and I had to fight with him as I knew I couldn’t face the sight of mummys things in the house after she died. He was 260 miles away so I filled the car over several trips and most of it went to charity shops after laundering. However I missed a dressing gown on the back of the bathroom door and it was still there when the house burned down nearly 16 years later, sigh! Take a friend or 2, you will laugh and cry, it’s inevitable but it’s one of those things. Wishing you peace and comfort in your grief, you will find a way.

    • if you have the space, pack up the clothes (getting rid of the EASY ones) put them in the basement, closet and tell yourself you will go through them later.

      Take the photos and all the other stuff like that and put them in a box out of your dads way. In six months, a year or two both of your priorities will change. It will be easier to know what you want to keep once the clouds of grief lighten a bit.

      I am so sorry for your loss. I know it is so hard to balance your grief and care for your dad.

  133. My dad died in a house fire just over a year ago so my sister and I, who’d knitted, darned and mended many things for him since our mum died had a different problem- everything had gone up in flames. I think you’ll come to treasure that sweater, it will make you laugh, cry and yes, cringe but it’s there as a tangible reminder of your wonderful mum and how you loved her enough to design and make a garment which was of its’ time. Well done Stephanie for facing this and sharing with us.

  134. Oh, my heart is with you. I remember that. I still have a few things packed away in the basement which have only been through once. This year was the first time I could get out the most sentimental Christmas decoration and my mother has been gone for 8 years.

    So don’t rush yourself (more than practical considerations force you to.) I am mentally sending you all the love, and gentleness I can. It does get easier. Your mom sounds like she was a great mom.

  135. I ask this with all due respect, having been in your sad situation.

    Would you consider, at some future date when your pain is not so sharp, making the chart to your sheep sweater available to your legion of fans?

    With sympathy and respect.

  136. Here’s what I did your situation: I threw out things I had no feelings about. Then boxed up and put away important things. Anything that it bothered me to get rid of (sentimental things that I couldn’t make myself throw out)
    I boxed up, put a date on box and calendar and vowed to go thru again in 6 months. This way you have the option of keeping or not again when you go through it again, and you don’t make hasty decisions and have regrets.
    Hope this helps
    Bless you.

  137. So difficult, people’s possessions! i had one of my dad’s sweatshirts that I kept, and I did wear it occasionally, The rest of his clothes I took to work (I worked on an elderly care ward) and they were used for male patients who didn’t have clothes, It felt odd but nice to see people wearing my Dad’s clothes.
    Take care, Steph
    Lots of love

  138. I have, and now at 71 I wear, the sweater my mother was knitting for me as she died, when I was 19. It was partly knit, stitches uneven as she weakened from cancer. Sometime after, I finished it. I saved it for decades, rarely wearing it, not wanting to wear it out. After our gloomy election, I decided to start wearing it on days I felt the need for a hug of reassurance. It is folded neatly, and I wear it on good days and hard days both. The wool is still sturdy, and it comforts me like my childhood quilt (which I still have and use at times)

  139. Dear Steph,
    re: the socks, I suggest using them as bed socks. Minimal wear so they’ll last for years and it won’t matter if they’re not as snug as everyday ones. And surely you and the Ladies have shoe sizes similar to your mom’s?

  140. So many emotions came up when reading this latest post. It’s been almost 18 years since my mom passed but I still remember cleaning out her things. It’s so hard to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Even with something that’s practically falling apart it’s like “but this was hers.” Then I got to the part about the bars of soap and started cry-laughing. My mom did that too. There were bars of lavender soap in all her drawers and even between the sofa cushions. Someone would come for a visit and sit on our couch, and then after several minutes of trying to find a comfortable position, pull out the bar of soap that had been digging into the small of their back. She said it was cheaper than air-fresheners and lasted longer. Now every time I smell lavender I think of her and laugh.

  141. The first time my aunt went through chemo, I was in college and just learned to knit, so I made her a shawl for her treatments. I think it was out of Red Heart. After she beat it, and I got better, I made her better things. Her last bout, I made her a bamboo/silk shawl, lace, everything. After she passed, my mom gave me back the two shawls. She said Meg took them both with her, every day. Wore the new one, but always had the old one. I framed them both with pictures of her.
    I couldn’t bear to wear the second. And if she was proud of the first, so was I.

  142. I know exactly what you’re going through since my sweet Mommy passed away on 9/11/15. All of it is SO hard. I took back a few of the things I’d made for her and once in a while I just go hug them. Even though the pain lessens, there will always be a hole in our hearts. BTW, I think your sheep sweater is beautiful and I love your writing too. Sending hugs your way.

  143. When you originally wrote about losing your mom I felt so sad for you and what you were going through. Since then my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly on January 7th and my father died fifteen days later. Now when I read your posts it’s as if I could have written parts of them myself. Mom saved everything I ever knit her and each time I come across a pair of socks or a scarf in her things as I’m going through their belongings I’m off on another crying jag. I’m going to donate all the knitted gifts I made for her to charity and hope that someone who can use them will receive them. Having the items around is just too painful. Take good care of yourself Steph. I hope that better times are ahead.

  144. Please accept my very tearful condolences. You expressed so well the feelings I — and anyone else who has lost a loved one (especially a parent) — have had, continue to have, because the feeling of loss doesn’t really ever go away.

    Wear the socks. It will help.

  145. I’ve always thought that the ultimate sign of love, is if when I die, people would wear the knitted gifts I made them. There is so much love that goes in to those garments … we all know where we were when we selected the yarn, how we chose the pattern to match the gift recipients preferences or personality, how we thought about them as we knit, and friends who would see me knitting (at church, at kids sporting events) would ask about what I was making and for whom (lets face it, I rarely knit for myself) so the items might be recognized by others. The ultimate tribute for a knitter – to have the garment loved and appreciated, not just for what it is, but for what went into it.

  146. I’m so sorry for your loss. I also lost my
    mom three years ago. I just, finally, went through the last of her clothes. She loved her clothes. I think that’s what made it so difficult. The day after she passed, I started going through her clothes trying to find something for her to wear — her last outfit. This was a daunting task knowing how she was about her clothing. It had to be just so. In all the time she was sick, through all the conversations we had about so many things, we never discussed this. I got through her bedroom closet, and nothing seemed appropriate. So I started checking the other closets. My mom did like to throw anything away — particularly clothes. So when she would come to my house to help me clean out a closet or room, we would often have little arguments about clothes I wanted to get rid of but she thought I should keep. I usually won these arguments, or so I thought. In the last closet I looked through, at the very back, I saw something still in dry cleaning plastic. I was beginning to feel a little desperate because just nothing seemed appropriate. So I said a little prayer and pulled the hanger from the back of the closet. In that probably ten year old plastic was a pantsuit that we argued over getting rid of at my house. It was mine. She must have sneaked it out of my house and into her car when I wasn’t looking. I sat down on the floor in front of the closet and began laughing which evolved into a good cry. That was Mom. So that was he outfit I chose. I hope she was laughing about it too.

  147. I have a pair of wool socks knit by my Great Grandmohter for my Dad. My dad is 73 years old. Thieve socks mean the world to me . When I am sad or not feeling the best I haul them out and put them on. I feel better ! Knits made with love ….

  148. I have most of the things that I knit for my mom, and some other clothing pieces, too. I’d intended to wear one or two of them, but I just can’t… it’s comforting to run across them now and then in my closet, though.

  149. You must absolutely keep it! If you can bear to cut into it, turn it into a cushion/pillow for snuggling on the couch. Elliot will surely love it as well.

  150. Rather far behind in reading articles in my reader. I have not read through all of the comments here. I think the sweater is adorable! Could you turn it into a large pillow? I think it would be great in a child’s nursery/room, craft room, or wherever. I do not envy you the cleaning out of the house but doing it with a sister is a great way to go. A lot of work but the memories it brings back and the stories you get to tell are definitely worth it.

  151. I didn’t read through the other comments to see if anyone suggested this already, but what about turning it into a pillow for your baby’s room? Then grandma is a little closer all the time. I was thinking you could even shape the pillow a bit like a cloud at the top with scallops. Kind of like a long bolster.
    Best Wishes.

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