by Frances Prowse
My Nana Ordie was an expert knitter. I was fascinated with the process growing up. I think watching her knit inspired me to start myself. She knitted by hand, on the machine and later spun wool herself. We worked on some projects together when I was a young adult. She would spin for me to knit.
Ordie and her husband John McComb raised 5 children in North Yorkshire in the 1940’s to 1970’s. North Yorkshire is bitterly cold in the winter and Ordie always had something on the knitting needles and a queue of people wanting to be next to have something made. Her knitting was really beautiful. She made heaps of jumpers, and no doubt all the other accessories as well – back in England.
In 1977 Ordie and John and the two youngest teenage sons (my uncles) emigrated to Auckland, New Zealand. My parents and me, had arrived here in 1972. Other family members had also followed. I was at primary school at the time and was so glad to have my grandparents, and extended family in my life, all living a short walk from our house. I was also fascinated by all the cake decorating, baking and knitting. My aunty Penny was also a keen knitter.
My mum taught me the basics of hand knitting but didn’t enjoy it herself- being left handed it was awkward. Mum said thankfully there was less knitting needed in Auckland as the weather was warm most of the time. I made my first scarf at about 10 year old in a vermillon colour. It was terrible but I was so proud of it. No Pattern, stocking stitch and the edges curled, a few little holes with dropped stitches along the way and was narrower at the top, but I guess we all have to start somewhere.
When we went visiting, Nana would give me the job of winding the wool from balls on the wool winder so it could go onto the knitting machine from the centre of the ball easily. I really enjoyed doing the winding and handling the yarn. Nana later gave me the knitting machine and showed me how to use it. I never really mastered it and passed in on to another aunt. I preferred the hand knitting. I also found the knitting really helpful to keep my hands busy when I gave up smoking.
Here are a couple of Nana’s tips that helped me a lot:
Twisted rib – When knitting a ribbed band do the knit stitches into the back of the stitch. (purl stitches don’t need to go into the back of the stitch) This makes a more stretchy band that springs back better. Here is a video of the twisted rib.
When knitting sleeves, for a neater more edge add the increase stitches two or three stitches in from the edge. The edge is straighter and easier to sew up. You can see some great sleeve tips here, including what I mean on this one. https://happystitches.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/finishing-tips-making-and-counting-sleeve-increases/
Some other tips I have picked up along the way
Audrey (our founding member) gave me a solution for shoulder pain caused by too much knitting. All it takes is a switch to circular needles (going back and forth, or in a circle) and there was such an improvement. I have really enjoyed being able to knit for longer.
Take time to sew up garments carefully. I think it’s the most fun and enjoy the challenge of making the seam almost invisible. Although I hear a lot of people dislike the making up part the most!
All the best with your knitting during the lock-down.
I’m interested to hear your tips. Please note in the comments.
Here she is, my Nana Ordie, and the baby in her arms is me.