My grandmother taught me to crochet the moment my clumsy, chubby fingers could hold a crochet hook. By the time that I was six, she handed me her sewing needles to thread for her because her eyes could no longer see the needle’s eye. When I was eight, my mother spent all of her precious off-work night-time hours making me a spring wardrobe that I can still describe in minute detail, right down to the rick-rack that trimmed the red kerchief that matched the tulip sprigged sleeveless dress. I can recall precisely the colors and patterns of the nightgowns my grandmother sewed for me. My brothers will tell you that they’ve never worn anything so warm and comfortable as Nana’s knitted socks. I even remember the weight of the stocking cap my mother knit to match the checkerboard cardigan – that matched the blue one she knit for my brother.
There is a magic in handmade clothing that transcends the colors, the styles, even the quality of the handiwork. It’s as if every stitch and every knot was imbued with the love of the hands that crafted them. And so it was only right that when I was carrying my first child, I picked up crochet hook and thread and started making the clothing she’d wear home from the hospital.
I didn’t stop there, though. Making clothing for babies is more than a way to save money or create unique clothing styles. It’s a way to surround them with love, to weave your wishes into the fabric as you shape and create each piece.
Over the years, I have sewn, knit and crocheted sweaters, sunsuits, dresses, short sets, blankets, quilts, hats and pants for all five of my children. Beginning with their homecoming outfit, each of them had special clothes that I’d designed and created just for them. I would say that it is perhaps a conceit, a fond wish of my own that my feelings about dressing my babies with my own hands would have transferred themselves to my children – except:
A month ago, I dropped by my daughter’s apartment. The baby girl I dressed in a strawberry printed romper – each stich carefully placed by hand, each with a whispered wish and a blessing for her good fortune – is 22 now, a college graduate with a home of her own. Tossed over a table in the corner is a blanket I crocheted for her when she was three from odds and ends of yarn. On her walls are pictures of herself wearing a sweater I made for her – the same sweater, at 3, at 5, at 7. The same sweater now clothes the teddy bear sitting on her dresser.
My 19 year old son, fully grown and living on his own, still owns the knit baby blanket that wrapped him on his trip home from the hospital. He creates and makes his own clothes – imaginative and unusual – and in the patches on his jeans and his jackets, I find bits and pieces of shirts and shorts and sweaters I made for him over the years.
My 15 year old has tucked away the first party dress I made for her – when she was six months old. She never said a word to me about – I found it in her ‘treasure memory box’. And the two youngest boys? At 10 and 12, they each have their favorite blanket – ones that I knit for them when they were born.
There is magic in your hands when you create clothing for your baby, the magic of a mother’s love that is never, ever completely forgotten.