An Extensive Knitted Layette, and Reflections on a Life Unlived

Last time I shared part of a knitted and sewn layette I made for my cousin’s baby. In this post, I’ll show you the garments I knit and some reflections on creating them – you can check out the other post for the sewn creations (yeh, I got a bit carried away).

My knitted layette is as deliberately co-ordinated as my sewn layette was haphazardly thrown together. It consists of a matching cardigan, hat and booties. You can click on the links under the photos for my Ravelry notes and pattern information. I loved knitting (and crocheting) this layette, and it gave me cause to reflect on the influence my extended family has had on my life.

A green and white handknitted layette: cardigan, hat and booties.

My mother’s large Catholic family hails from Melbourne, and I spent many of my formative years there. My childhood memories are populated with images of the paddocks racing past the car window as we made the four hour trek to the city, visits to Northland with my now-deceased nana, and being force-fed homemade spaghetti bolognaise by my nonno (or as he called it, spaghet). I had no shortage of cousins to play with, and there was always a birthday party to attend, enormous Christmas gatherings with enough food to feed a small army, and just play: carefree, childish games, acted out in my nonno’s tiny corridor or small suburban backyard.

A handknitted green and white baby cardigan.
Free Gidday Baby cardigan pattern. All garments are knitted in Moda Vera Pure Wool Extra Twist from Spotlight, now discontinued (for good reason!)

As a young adult, I still lived for my visits to Melbourne. Though a country girl through and through, there was a part of me that could only be satiated by the city. The long days did not put me off: though the train left the station at 5.30am and arrived home at 10.45pm, I considered it a worthwhile sacrifice for which I was richly rewarded. Day trips to see matinee musicals, week-long visits to my relatives, and cousin’s 21sts were all food for my soul, happily devoured. I even loved just wandering around the city by myself, feeling blissfully alone in the crowds of people.

However, since falling ill seven years ago I’ve effectively been trapped in Warrnambool. My visits to Melbourne were brought to an abrupt halt, and never resumed. I feel like a part of me was left there, and is waiting for me to come home to it. I dream of Melbourne nearly every night: usually set at my nonno’s house in Fawkner, with my family waiting for me to come join them. But I am sick, and cannot.

A handknitted green baby hat.
Poppy Hat pattern – previously free, now available for purchase. Don’t you hate when designers do that?

I still hope to reach it one day, to see the skyscrapers rising up out of the distance, and the Yarra glittering under me as we pass the Westgate bridge. I know it cannot be the same as in my memories. But, when I did somehow manage to make it to Melbourne for one brief day a couple of years ago, in what was probably the best health I’ve ever been in while having ME, it seemed nothing had changed. I forgot I was desperately unwell. I was instead, Siobhan, overjoyed to be drinking champagne with her cousins, making Simpsons references and watching Les Miserables in awe. When we approached the city, a place I thought I would never see again, I had to hide my tears.

Crocheted green baby booties.
Baby’s First Mary Jane Booties, a free crochet pattern.

I don’t expect to ever get back to that state of health, not that I was really “well” anyway – one day trip to Melbourne in seven years counts as naught. I daresay it was the happiest day of my life. Sometimes I fantasise we will move to Melbourne, and I will relive those memories again. It is a fool’s dream. I can barely venture 10 minutes from the house, let alone a 4 hour move, and being chained to a small radius is much less limiting in the country than a sprawled city.

Besides, my cousins have grown up and moved on, with families of their own, leaving me in some kind of timeless stasis, alone and in pain. My nonno is elderly, and will most likely pass before I see him again. I think what I really desire is wellness, and Melbourne represents that: a time when I didn’t know how cruel the world could be, and was blissfully and happily unaware of the pain that was yet to come.

I still love seeing my cousin’s children grow up on Facebook, and I thoroughly enjoyed making this layette. But I would like to make that trip one last time, to hear the pigeons cooing in the trees, to taste my nonno’s spaghet one last time, and to find a piece of myself I thought was lost.

Handknitted green baby booties.

Author: Siobhan S

20 something, living in country Australia. Spoonie profile: ME/CFS, dysautonomia, anxiety. All about sewing, knitting and food. Unapologetic feminist and disability advocate.

15 thoughts on “An Extensive Knitted Layette, and Reflections on a Life Unlived”

  1. These are beautiful Siobhán. Well done. These woollen things are the most treasured things I put by from my girls presents (twins, 18 months). Wool and knitted is more personal, I don’t know why, but it’s true, it just is. Hope you have a really good day, whatever that means for you today. Lots of love from Ireland.

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  2. These are beautiful gifts from the heart. I still have and treasure the knitted booties and sweaters that were given to my babies 20 years ago.

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  3. That hat is so adorable! I have been following your blog for a while and besides admiring your creations I feel like I am learning something new each time you write about living with your illnesses. This post brought tears to my eyes, I am so sorry your health prevents you from visiting your relatives.

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    1. I’m so glad you learnt something new about chronic illness from my blog. They are very misunderstood so it is heartening to know my words make an impact. Thank you for your kind thoughts x

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