was, by all accounts, a rather alarming person. Her grandchildren were a little frightened of her - or so my father says. I also have the distinct impression that he is still very proud of her. She was born in 1858 and migrated from Mey, Scotland to Port Adelaide, South Australia in 1882.
She was already betrothed to my great-grandfather, a ship's pilot and marine cartographer, and married him a week later. They had nine children.
My great-grandmother was a social worker, although it is doubtful that the profession even existed back then. She was however seen as being responsible for the health and welfare of many people in the maritime area in which they lived. She was something of an entrepeneur and managed the household finances so well that there was assistance available to those in need.
My father remembers her as always wearing black and, even just before her death in 1944, she still wore the long, full skirts she wore on her arrival from Scotland.
She also wore an apron at home.It had a large pocket in the front and she kept her knitting in that. My father remembers her knitting socks. He wore some of the socks. So did her male children and her other male grandchildren. The female children and grandchildren were expected to make their own as soon as they were able. Her daughters-in-law were also expected to be skilled in the art of knitting.
Socks were not only the thing knitted of course. There were undergarments and there were ganseys - jerseys or pullovers or (now) jumpers. Hers were always navy. The body was knitted in the round on five needles to the arm hole. There it would be split into back and front with an underarm gusset for a better fit. The upper portion would then be knitted before the stitches were picked up and the sleeves knitted downwards. She kept the sleeves rather short - salt water and wet wool does not do nice things to the skin. Knitting them from the top down also allowed the cuffs to be replaced easily when necessary.
My father still had one of these ganseys when I was small. It was made out of extremely hard wearing wool. I can remember it being darned in a number of places. Later I wore it and then my brother wore it. After that I suspect my mother decided that enough was enough and she no doubt cut it up and used it as a dusting cloth. I rather wish we still had it. It might not be wearable but it was a traditional garment, constructed in the traditional way.
My paternal grandmother taught me to knit this way. I have since knitted other garments in other ways but I am most comfortable designing my own and constructing them in this fashion. For me it may have more to do with the fact that there is little or no finishing off required. You get to the end of the knitting and you have something you can wear. There is no need to sew it together. I do not sew things together. I can manage knitting needles but sewing needles defeat me.
I wonder at my great-grandmother though. She could certainly sew and sew well. It suggests that there was something more than the elegance of design in her method of gansey knitting. It was practical. It is the traditional method for such things. I have some yarn for a garment. It may not be enough. I will start the sleeves from the top down and make them as long as the yarn allows. I can do this because of my great-grandmother passing the skill on and it being passed on to me. It suggests that tradition can still be a good thing.