Her full maiden name was Freda Beatrice Ethel Ireland (i don't think she was ever particularly fond of her name, but i love it! I would be honored to pass on any of her names to any future daughters that i may have.) She built spitfires in WWII and married my grandfather after a courtship consisting only of love letters through the war when he was overseas fighting. To me this is the most romantic thing i think i could ever imagine! Although My Granny was sadly widowed very young they still managed to have 9 children! Yes that's right my granny had A LOT of children! She always joked that God had played a joke on her because she hadn't wanted children and that My granddad only had to hang his trousers on the bed post and she was pregnant again! It wasn't easy for her though, as not only did she lose my granddad with a family to raise she also knew the pain of losing a child. One of her babies was stillborn after dying during childbirth and her second eldest son (my Uncle Edward) died suddenly from a heart attack in 1991. Yet she handled everything with utter grace and strength, which is more than i think i would be able to. She was one of the most loving people i have ever met, but she was also the strongest! She never wanted anybody's pity and worked hard to make the best of every situation.
She was also incredibly talented, because she was the best knitter in the whole world!!! I have never met anybody who could whip up beautiful hand knitted garments over a couple of days to a professional finish, very often without a pattern! She could knit like lightening & was fondly known as granny knitting. We never had shop bought jumpers or cardigans for school, instead wore Freda originals knitted in beautiful red lace patterns. We each had beautifully hand knitted baby shawls & the family christening gown was knitted by her fair hand! She literally knitted our family history! My my tells stories of wearing something hand knitted to school in the 70s when big collared cardigans & big long scarves were all the fashion & having people begging for my Gran to knit them the same thing........and she did! Nothing was ever too much trouble for her when it came to her children and grandchildren! Don't get me wrong she was no pushover & you didn't want to get on the wrong side of her, because she wouldn't think twice about putting you in your place if you were pushing your luck, but that was all part of her charm! She was loving, but she still had fire in her belly! :)
As one of 12 grandchildren you'd think that she would struggle to spend to time with all of us, but this was never the case! She would have most of us over at her house for most of the school holidays, and we loved it! We's play together in the garden building 'Dens' together, but she would also teach us to bake cakes (another of her talents that never required scales or recipes.....she always just 'knew' the right amount needed!) and for me most importantly, she spent hours teaching us all to knit! I have been knitting since she first taught me when i was 4 years old. Under her watchful gaze & using some blue plastic knitting needles with pineapples on the end I knitted a yellow and orange mohair striped scarf.....yes that's right, yellow and orange mohair.....you totally wish you had one right?! ;) Now we didn't all carry on knitting, but i did and it is a big part of who i am now. Right up until she died i would be going to her for knitting advice when i was stuck on a pattern or was unsure how to do a complicated stitch, and even now whenever i am doing something new on a knitted project i feel wish she was around to talk it through with. She believed that homemade was best & I hope to offer my family the same things that she did. Food and clothes handmade with love especially for them!
After she died i wasn't left jewellery like many of my cousins were, but i received something which to me is invaluable; i am now the owner of all of her well used knitting needles and her fast knitting book collection! I use her needles when i knit all of the time, and i love to think that many of the things that i have knitted Henry were knitted on the same needles that she knitted things for her children & grandchildren on. It fills me with sadness that she never got to cuddle Henry because i know that she would have been totally head over heals in love with his cheeky face, but i also like to think that she would be so proud that he often sports hand knitted clothes that without her patience and guidance i would never have been able to create.
I really hope she is proud and that i manage to pass on all of the wonderful things that she taught me so that other people have the same joy that she always did, and i do now from creating something beautiful and special from nothing! The women in my family knit through good times and bad times which means no matter what you are going through something beautiful can still be made at the time!