So, this one is about love.
Also, crochet, if you bear with me.
First shout is to this guy, who was foolish enough to ask me to marry him 23.5 years ago. I know how lucky I am that we’ve grown in parallel and not apart across those years, and that he’s still the person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. I don’t take it for granted, and I’m so happy that he’s always got my back.
The second shout is for Lisa – my best friend, bridesmaid and (incredibly) the fabulous sewist who agreed to make my wedding dress for me back in the late nineties. In my defence, I had no clue then what kind of favour I was asking – in my mind, she had a superpower and it would therefore be easy for her. Now I have a better understanding of quite how stressful, time consuming and outrageous this request was – and have expressed my abject apologies. Once again, I’m just lucky to have a friend who when I said “would you?” was the kind of person who immediately said “hell yes”.
What I wanted for my wedding dress was something absolutely not traditional. We were marrying in church because that was important to my husband, but as a confirmed atheist and feminist, I wasn’t interested in a big white frock and everything that represents. I wanted something that was me – and that drew on my Indian heritage. I’d had an idea about a wrap in the shape of a sari, and Lisa and I worked on the design – for a piece that we called a Chamumdar (a combination of our surnames). We “researched” fabric samples in fabulous shops in Southall, sustained by regular thali lunches. Very happy times.
The Chamumdar is made with layers of beautiful blue and green silks, that went over the top of my green wedding dress. As I said, not traditional but for me, it was perfect and just beautifully made. For the record, Lisa is a fabulously generous and talented artist, and I’m very lucky to have her as my friend.
The Chamumdar then – made for me by the love of a friend, to celebrate my wedding – is the back story to the main event of this post.
In August this year, I had the idea of creating a blanket inspired by my Chamumdar, and I knew that I was going to make it for the person from whom every other good thing in my life flows: my mum.
Mum is hard to describe, but everyone who knows her, knows how brilliant she is. She has taught me everything important – about love, about parenting, about kindness, about the arts, about laughter, about music and about living life to the full. She’s adored by her children, husband, grandchildren, friends, extended family and even casual acquaintances. My children laugh at her potty mouth, ask her advice on cocktails and prefer her above any other shopping companion. Her suppers are always delicious, generous and entertaining.
For the last 18 months, mum has been living with ovarian cancer – a crappy illness by any reckoning, and less fun still during a global pandemic. She has handled the indignities, pain and fatigue with her normal smiling determination. Her consultant clearly loves telling his (many) anecdotes to someone with her brain and wit.
And today – today is her birthday and I have spent three months, and over a hundred hours crocheting my blanket of love – in stripes of blue and green, just like my Chamumdar. My family have been cheerleaders, my friend Vanessa my crochet consultant, and my husband in charge of patiently massaging my elbow when it got to overload (crocheter’s elbow – I swear it must be a thing). It’s truly been a team effort, but the stitches were all by me.
This is the second blanket I’ve crocheted – and in truth this one is probably still more homemade than handmade. It’s not quite as wonky as my first effort, but you’d struggle to find a right angle. The wools are all quite different- some softer and some actually quite rough. Stitches have been added and dropped with a lack of precision that should make me embarrassed.
Still – and it feels a bit braggy to say it but – I love it. I love the colours, I love the imperfections, I love the effort – and most of all I love the love that it represents. Because that is truly the only important thing.
So, here’s to you. Happy birthday to my brilliant mum. I hope that you love it too.