Today we have a guest blogger, crochet designer Sandy Walker, shares a bit about her heritage, her family and how she has chosen to assist in this trying time for those in Ukraine.
The recent events in Ukraine inspired me to create two new blanket designs. I wanted to pay tribute to my shared history and have donated them to Father Anton from St. John the Theologian Ukrainian Catholic Church in St. Catharines, Ontario. They will be raffled at an upcoming Folk Festival. Blankets are stitched using TITR (Tunisian in the round) techniques, incorporating iconic motifs such as the trident, wheat sheaves and hearts. The border alternates with “Glory to Ukraine” and “Slava Ukraini!”. They were an absolute joy to design and stitch and my favourite “stitch it forward” projects. Please consider donating to this cause in ways that are meaningful to you.
My grandparents emigrated from Ukraine to Ontario, Canada in the early 1900s. I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about the “what ifs” and whether my family would have existed had they stayed in Ukraine.
William and Dora, my paternal grandparents had 6 children and my father George was the youngest. By all accounts, they were financially stable, Dora was a fashionista and wore fur coats.
George, my maternal grandfather travelled alone, leaving his wife Elena and infant son in Ukraine. Shortly after his arrival, he was in a train accident and lost a leg. The immigrant community raised funds to bring his family to Canada and they went on to have seven children. My mother Alexandra (nicknamed Penny), was their youngest and mostly raised by her sister Rose who was 15 years older.
George eked out a living doing odd jobs and peddling fruit and vegetables using a horse and cart. The horse was apparently treated better than any of the family members. Elena made and sold wine, storing it in a barrel in the kitchen. More than once the home was searched for contraband and she hid the barrel by sitting on it and covering it with her long skirts. This was not a happy household but they managed to buy a house and barn where my uncles started an automotive parts company. A few of my cousins went on to graduate with engineering degrees and manage the successful family business.
I am grateful to Aunt Rose who shared her love of fiber arts with my mom Penny. Penny could knit and crochet with the speed and precision of a finely tuned machine. She patiently taught me the joys of working with yarn, would rip out and correct my mistakes, always taking the project further along so I would not get frustrated. I try to channel her when I am teaching and can still hear “use the hook/needle, it is the tool”.
Penny bought yarn on layaway (so the dye lot matched) at a local department store, picking up yarn when she could afford it. She often worked with very fine yarn and I now realize it was because it provided more hours of enjoyment. I never saw her sit still and most of her projects were necessities like mittens, hats, socks and beautiful sweaters. Her favourite compliment was “it doesn’t look handmade” and it makes me sad to think that handmade was considered inferior to store bought for so many years of her life. She was a master fiber artist and could convert any sweater pattern into seamless, in the round stitching. I seriously underestimated her math skills until I tried to duplicate these efforts.
My husband and I just celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary. My mom crocheted my wedding dress, sewed her own dress, and most of the bridesmaid dresses. I stitched matching shawls for the bridesmaids and my wedding jacket. I sincerely believe it was her proudest moment and she finally received the accolades her skills deserved.
Most of my designs are part of “The Penny Collection” including The Penny Drops, Pennywise, Halfpenny, In for a Penny, Penny’s Ode to Ireland, Worth Every Penny and more. I absolutely know that she is smiling at my modest successes in the world of crochet.
Though I am a few generations removed from living in Ukraine, I feel a kinship with the Ukrainians currently suffering through this unjust war. I decided to put my skills to use in a way that would reflect my heritage, create a keepsake for a local Ukrainian family, and help fundraise for Ukrainians back in the home country.
Finding ways to integrate my heritage into my crochet work gives additional meaning to a craft I love.
—Sandy Walker, designer