How Gimp = Grandmother

The flat-weave gimp bracelet still sits on Ziggy today, 26 years or so after it was made.

Over 25 years ago, I had pneumonia. I recall very little about the actual illness except two things: I didn’t feel sick (so why was I away from my parents and in the hospital?) and I had no idea what phlegm was, let alone be able to spit it in to a container.

My parents visited me almost daily. They bought me Wrinkles and Pound Puppies, talked to me, and, I’m sure, worried about me. If I recall, the illness wasn’t healing itself as quickly as the doctor had hoped and I even had to stay longer than originally thought.

I wasn’t sure what to feel: I felt lonely and cool at the same time. Lonely because I wasn’t home, cool because I finally got to stay in the hospital during a time when many of my classmates slept over at the hospital to have their tonsils removed and eat lots of ice cream. Now I got to stay in the hospital. I was finally one of the crowd.

One constant over those ten days was a woman I believe was in charge of making kids feel happier. I don’t remember all of her visits, but I do remember the one (or ones) where she taught me the square style gimp bracelets. I got to make my own jewelry! Each one took me ages to complete, but I believe I finished three during my hospital stay. After all, I had the time.

That craft kept me occupied at times when my family wasn’t able to visit. Moreover, it also gave me a stronger connection to one of my grandmothers:

During the summer, my dad’s family would babysit us at their home while my parents worked. I frequently had some kind of craft or craft book with me.

My grandmother often bought me gimp at Lewiscraft, a now defunct arts-and-crafts store. One day, she returned with a new gimp pattern for me an employee had taught her. She showed me this tiny stump of a grey-and-pink flat weave and how to make it. I could complete it much faster than the square and twisty styles! Instead of trying my patience spending countless days making one bracelet, I could now make this flatter pattern in just a few hours.

I eventually learned the zipper pattern from some friends, and rode the gimp bracelet wave until it crashed on to shore and disappeared. But what came out of a potentially dangerous illness brought me closer to my grandmother and fuelled my passion for creating.

2 thoughts on “How Gimp = Grandmother

  1. I made those bracelets, too, but I never got beyond the round and square ones. I associate my grandmothers with two crafty things: embroidery and crochet. One grandmother taught me how to do cross stitch and I decorated pillow cases for her. My other grandmother taught me how to crochet. I was awful at it because she only used fine crochet cotton and creating anything with such fine tools was beyond me. When granny squares became the fashion, though, I didn’t put a crochet hook down for a year!

  2. My older son (who’s not that old) has my attempt at a granny-square blanket. I should put a picture of it up some time. It’s about 1/4 of the way done and he absolutely loves it 🙂

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