My creative process tends to lead me down mysterious paths, presenting me with imagery it designates as Important long before revealing what that imagery means. It’s been no different with what seemed to be a straightforward project--my Day of the Dead knitalong project. I hit on what to make and how to do it weeks before the meaning of the piece emerged from its hiding place and announced its presence.
I wanted to make a doll, but the only things I liked about the doll pattern in Knit.1 were, well, the idea of making a doll and the basic shape. Didn’t like the colors, or the way the embroidery was done, or the rather empty, anonymous feeling they convey. I imagined instead a doll which followed the tradition of DOTD figurines: the body in white (since it’s meant to be a skeleton), and adorned with clothes and other things which give it meaning. I love that the Mexican tradition honors departed loved ones by representing who and what they were in life with specific attributes of their professions or hobbies.
Did I want to honor a particular person, or simply pay tribute to the idea of relatives who have passed on? At the time I bought my yarn, I couldn’t yet answer that question. But today, as I cast on my eight stitches to start the head of the large doll, I knew.
It’s my grandmother I want to honor. No, she wasn’t Mexican, and the clothes I plan to make for this doll will be nothing like what she wore in life. But she would have loved the colors, the attention to detail and the craftsmanship, and my hope is that the doll will carry some of her essence.
My grandmother had considerable artistic talent which, because of the time in which she lived and the circumstances of who she was, she was never able to pursue. I only knew her for a short time since she died when I was three, but I remember her drawing with me, both of us curled up on the sofa and armed with pencils, her charming sketches of people and abstract noodlings joining my scribbly figures on the page. I still have the handmade notebook in which she and I sketched together, and on the wall in my bedroom is a marvelous drawing she made, a stunningly sophisticated work of abstraction for something which came from the pen of an untrained artist.
Unable to even consider art school or a career as a painter, she turned her talents to more traditional women’s crafts: knitting, sewing, quilting and turning out googobs of elaborate crocheted doilies. She had to make things, and I inherited that tendency from her. I wish she’d lived long enough that I could have known her as an adult, and I often wonder if she felt frustrated and what she would have done with her life if given the option.
I see this knitalong as an opportunity for me to think more about who my grandmother was. Much of what I know about her comes from family stories, so she is present in my mind as a knitted-together, distant memory. But I do know this: she loved crafts of any sort, loved working on them herself, loved to see what others were making. She’d be pleased to know that I’m a knitter, and she’d be interested in my progress with my doll.
Whether the doll winds up being remotely like what I’m currently envisioning...we’ll see. I know how my process works, and it’s rarely written in stone. But I’m looking forward to what emerges, to surprising myself, and to putting something out there for my grandmother to see, should her spirit decide to visit.
On to the yarn.
The delightful Amy
and I raided the coffers of Borealis Yarns
in St. Paul and came up with treasure. We both bought Cascade wool, since the manufacturer had somehow brilliantly anticipated the colors we were wanting and sent them to the store just for us. Of course, the wonders of digital photography have reduced their vividness to mush, but here they are: