This is a Valentine's Day story written by my mother-in-law and published in the 1980 issue of Knitters World. It is a story of love.
A Valentine Surprise
By Mrs. M.H. Batchelder
There are a lot of ways to say "I love you". My friend's husband says whenever she bakes hot muffins for him on a dark and dreary day, he gets the message! My valentine surprise was a little different.
My mother taught my sisters and me to knit. I started around the junior high school years and dragged my knitting along where ever I went. The first real project I finished was a navy blue wool pullover for myself, knit on small needles. It was worn with a pair of old riding breeches. After this, I knit a dainty pink short sleeved job that unfortunately had such a small opening at the neck I could not get my head through it! That was soon remedied by more experienced hands.
The years went by and knitting continued...a wine colored pullover for Dad, a soft blue cardigan for Mother, then sweaters for a very special man in my life who later became my husband. He spent a good portion of his courting time sitting in our living room, holding skeins of yarn while I rolled it into balls. "Our song" was k2, p2.
After this came baby things for nieces and nephews followed by the seemingly endless chain of baby garments for our own children...tiny bootees, soft blankets, bright sweaters and caps. Soon I was making lots of mittens, scarves, hats, bigger sweaters, some with patterns of reindeer, stars, hearts, snowflakes and pine trees. I also made many pairs of argyle socks. Living in snow country, this is the way of life, dressing up to keep warm.
While the family kept growing and we needed more things, we looked for ways to earn extra money. One year, I knit ski caps (called "Fast Caps") for a ski lodge shop. These caps had ear flaps knit on and tied under the chin, with a swinging tassel on the top. I made the caps in every color of the rainbow and they sold as fast as I could get them done.
One other year, my husband gathered Christmas greens and made beautiful wreaths decorated with cones and red bows. He sold the wreaths to stores and inns. Meanwhile I knit many pairs of pastel bootees, packaged them in small plastic bags and sold them in lots to a large department store. That was a thrill!
The year of my valentine surprise, our family had grown to 13 children! We had a happy home, full of love and laughter with a lot of cooking and cleaning and every day tasks that made the days hurry by.
We had a friend who was a one woman knitting machine! This gal made dresses, coats, capes, skirts--you name it, she could knit it! She had an office job but knit during her free moments there and as soon as she got home. She would knit until meal time and continue late into the evening. She belonged to a knitting club and tried every new pattern and idea.
My husband asked this lady to knit me a sweater as a surprise. On Valentine's Day, she arrived at our house with the gift box under her arm. I assumed it was for the children. "No, this is a gift for you from your husband", she said, while he sat there with a big grin on his face. I opened the box, to find a beautiful scarlet cardigan sweater with a pretty collar and little white flowers embroidered all over it. Here it was, hot off the needles. I am sure our friend finished it just in time!
I really was surprised! I love that sweater (sure, I still have it). It is warm and bright and the romance of that lovely, snowy Valentines's Day is still warming my heart. For, when someone you love says "I love you", that is the best thing in the world.
Two years ago when my mother-in-law died, we found this sweater in her closet. It was the only hand knitted item she had, though she knit her whole life. At the time, I didn't know the story behind the sweater, but I could tell it was something special. It was well cared for, having been mended in a few places with a slightly different shade of red yarn and lost buttons replaced with as close as possible matches. Later I learned the history of this sweater and realized she had saved it for over thiry years. It was more than a sweater to wear for warmth, it was a gift of love for a knitter who rarely knit for herself and a remembrance of a Valentine's Day long ago.