Knitting, Organization

Preparing a Space to Create: When You Inherit Projects

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Hi friends. This weekend I tackled a particularly challenging part of organizing my crafting space: going through the yarn stash that was left to me by my Grandmother.

This fall my beloved Grandmother passed away at the age of 95. She was an amazing woman. She was the person who taught me how to knit when I was just 6 years old. A homemaker extraordinaire, she tailored her own clothes, knit sweaters for her family, and embroidered with such perfection that you would swear her work had been done on a machine.

On my last visit home, my Grandfather asked me if I would like to take all of her knitting projects home with me. No one else in the family knits, and he reckoned I would be able to use, enjoy, and finish projects she had been working on.

I had been putting off sorting my yarn because it was too emotional to look at what projects she had started but never had the chance to finish. Every pattern, every yarn, was something I had seen her working on at some time or another, and it was now up to me to decide how to use, repurpose, or donate what she had. Yet it had to be dealt with, because the bags of yarn were literally covering my entire craft room floor, and it just couldn’t stay that way anymore.

The easiest items (for now) to decide upon were the sweaters that she had partially knit. They will never fit me or anyone else in the family, so I know that I’ll someday frog them (aka unravel them) and use the yarn to make something else. For the time being, I put them on a shelf next to my stash so that they are there when I am ready. As much as I’d love to honor her by completing what she started, it simply wouldn’t make sense for my time or resources. I’ll honor her by making them into something beautiful that will be cherished by those she loved.

A little more challenging were the projects that she had started multiple times. By the end she was struggling with dementia, and my heart broke all over again as I found the baby blanket she started knitting for my oldest son…three times. Each time was knit with precision, but I knew from talking with her that she was never quite sure that she was remembering to knit it right. I’m saving one to finish. The others will be made into something else down the line.

Then came the random balls of yarn left over from projects of old. My Grandmother loved to save every little scrap to use it up later, usually in hats she would donate to the poor. I pulled out some special leftovers and bagged the rest to donate to others who will do the same. As much as I would love to continue that legacy, it isn’t my calling in this season.

Near the end, I had a bucket full of knitting notions. Needles, stitch markers, gauges, rulers…I’m saving them all for now. They fit nicely in a bin that I had, and over time I can use them to bless others who are starting their knitting journey. Some are antiques that I will find a way to display. Most are just so ‘her’ that they are dear to me, even though there is nothing special about them.

Finally came her patterns. Peppered with notes in her handwriting, these were the hardest for me to deal with. In fact, don’t judge, because I ultimately put them in a basket to go through at a later time. I know logically that they are things I’ll never knit. The styles are for times gone by; special pieces for her generation but not for mine. Yet it is hard to release the physical items of those we love, isn’t it? I’m trusting that, with time, I’ll be able to part with the ordinary ones and keep a few special pieces to treasure. But I’m just not there yet.

As hard as this process was (I’ll openly admit – there were tears before, during, and after), I feel comfortable with the decisions I made and feel freer having that space back. I’m excited about the potential of what I kept and glad for the memories that bless me when I get to see and work with her stash.

Have you ever had to handle inheriting the work of your loved ones and deciding what to do with the projects that they left? How did you begin to make those decisions?

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3 Comments

  1. Jess

    Beautifully written! Sounds like you’ve made wise decisions 🙂 I love the idea of displaying some of the special pieces and repurposing others. Maybe some things can be used to make donation pieces for a local group? Our knitting group has enjoyed passing along our knitted items to local homeless groups, hospitals, and congregation members in tough times.. There is something extra special about giving someone a hat or a shawl, not just purchased at a store, but especially made for a purpose. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to see where this story goes next!

  2. I am currently in the process of clearing out my dad’s stuff and thinking about what we leave behind. The memories wrapped up in our stuff are something to treasure but what to do with all the physical objects is tough. I like your approach and I hope you will consider writing down the stories as you go along too. Love reading your posts.

    1. Erin

      That is such a perfect way to say it – we treasure the memories but having all of the physical stuff can be tough. One idea my family had for the items that we cannot keep or will pass to others in the family is to take a photo and use it in a photo book. On one page include the picture, and on the opposite page write out the story that goes with it. It isn’t a perfect solution, but that has helped us find peace with some of the decisions we have had to make as well.

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