A New Family Tradition: My Daughter’s Ballet Cardigan

When I was a little girl, I took ballet. My mum and her mum, my Granma, used to knit me those cute little cardigans that cross over at the front and tie at the back. They were always in a beautiful pale pink, and the wool was always really itchy.

I’m pretty sure that the itching wool was not a contributing factor to my stopping the ballet classes and embarking on a life of clumsiness rather than grace. But I didn’t really give them that much more thought until my daughter started the classes last year.

In the hormonal aftermath of giving birth, I wept over the baby pink clothes Edith had been bought, railed against all ideas of the stereotypical girl child and vowed that my little girl would play football and do maths and be obsessed with Lego and diggers. She had other ideas. Edith loves pink. She loves playing with dolls and in her model kitchen. She likes to sit quietly and read books. She couldn’t give a shit about diggers.

At our first babyballet classes, I opened the door to herd of shouting toddlers, all awash in baby pink satin and tulle, tiny leather ballet shoes on tiny toddler toes. I looked down at Edith; she looked up at me and smiled, her little hand tugging at mine.

It took me an unusually long time to succumb to the spendthrift voice in my head to buy her the branded ballet uniform. Now my Saturday mornings involve rushing to a ballet class and then wrangling her into something more suitable for going down the slide.

The other girls, and they are all girls in this class, had beautiful pale pink cardigans knitted, I assume by grandmothers or even great-grandmothers. I had an idea: I would make a cardigan for Edith to wear to class. I eventually sourced a pattern – no mean feat as this sort of thing seems to be a sadly dying tradition – and some nice pink yarn (not itchy) and set to work.

I love creating. I love turning a raw material into something functional or beautiful. But what I loved most about this project was that I was participating in something that had, by virtue of me doing it, become a family tradition: mothers knitting their clumsy daughters ballet cardigans. I’ve never been that close to my mum, through no fault of hers I might add, but with each stitch and every row, I felt a little closer to her, and to Edith now that I am a mum of a girl, like my mum and her mum before her. That cardigan may look like it just keeps her little shoulders warm in a cold church hall, but it’s generations of creativity, a new family tradition, a signal of a new generation: that nothing and everything changes.

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