Mum’s Knitted Hats

For as long as I can remember, my mother, Mary Mavor, was always knitting. In her lifetime she produced hundreds of hats, sweaters and blankets, offering them like warm hugs to her friends and family. She was most prolific with the hats, which had side flaps and a pompom on top. She started making them in the 50’s, when we were kids. The hats were not just for children, but for her adult friends, too. She’d find out what colors they liked and measure their heads, frequently testing the hat size  half way through the knitting process. Just yesterday, I saw one of my mother’s good friends walking up Water St. in Woods Hole, wearing one of her hats. It’s such a cheerful reminder of her spirit.

My sons Peter and Ian in their grandmother’s hats, 1991

my son Peter in 1984, machine applique by Salley

Mum knitting, with Dad on the right, 1951

My sister, Anne Mavor, wrote a piece about our mother and her knitted hats for Interweave Knits Magazine’s Holiday issue in 2006.

Anne’s article in Interweave Knits Magazine, Holiday 2006

Here’s a sample from the article:

“Even though Mum never taught me how to knit this hat, I watched her knit hundreds of them. I know the click of the small double-pointed needles as she followed the pattern round and round. I know the curve of her hands as they lifted up a strand of blue yarn, wound it around the needle and then picked up the white. I can close my eyes and still see her hands moving, reading glasses balanced on the end of her nose, tongue working in her cheek.”

Anne with her husband Dennis and their son Rowan, 1990

Anne and Mum in 1952

Anne describes how after our mother died, she found Mum’s zipped knitting needle pouch and decides to learn how to knit the same hat with no pattern, just a sample hat to work from. She eventually figures out how to knit the hat and writes directions, which are included with the article. She writes this at the end:

“The night before Mum died, I sat beside her bed listening to her labored breathing. She and I were suddenly not mother and daughter anymore. We were two women sitting in a nursing home bed-room, one dying, the other living for a while more. Two lives with intersecting circles that included a pouch of knitting needles and a particular three-colored hat with earflaps.”

12 thoughts on “Mum’s Knitted Hats

  1. O, you made me get all teary for a moment! (In a good way, ‘tho!) These are the things that linger in our hearts, and connect us to someone we loved who we can’t reach over to give or receive a hug anymore. It is the physical manifestation of crossing the boundaries of death. I feel that way when I can fruit, or put the Christmas lights on the house – things I did with my grandmother and dad…Thank you for sharing…

  2. Beautiful. I made a variation on the hat with ear flaps for my son and his girlfriend this Christmas, lined with fleece for extra coziness during 5:00am dog walks. Love the overlapping circles bit in your sister’s essay. Beautiful.

  3. What a wonderful post, thanks for sharing these special moments with us.
    I have a lot of my grandmothers hand sewn items and craft things and feel that she is with me always.

  4. Thank you! My mother too was an avid knitter…always making some project or another. She tried for years to get me to knit and I always resisted. Then of course after she passed the knitting bug hit me, I went right to her roll of knitting needles and felt that she was guiding my hands as I knit those first beginner stitches. I could see her hands flying through the stitches. I now am a fast and good knitter as she was. Even in her later years as she was bed ridden she would pick up her needles and knit blankets for children at the local Ronald McDonald house. What a gift it is to be able to carry on her creativity. I only hope I am able to pass the lesson on to the girls and women in my life as well. Happy New Year!

  5. Thanks for such a thoughtful and sweet post. Those hats are not just hats. They’re about love and creativity and passion and family. Your post and your sister’s article really capture that.
    I really like your posts Salley. They make me think and feel!

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