Crafting Journey: The Bedspread That Crossed the Country

In our new series of stories that tell us the personal journeys we experience when creating with our hands, TSB Managing Director Martha Cook shares the history behind the handmade lace bedspread that was knit on a road trip in the early 1960s. 

My father was a piano technician who for years was both tuner and travel companion to pianist Rudolf Serkin in the 1950s and 1960s.

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My father Oscar Ekberg (left) and Rudolf Serkin.

How does this have anything remotely to do with knitting you ask? In 1962, my mother, newly married, set off with my father across the United States transporting Serkin’s Steinway grand piano for a national concert tour. It would be their working honeymoon.

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My parents, Oscar and Ruth, on their wedding day.

The trip began in Brattleboro, Vermont, on November 25. My mom knew she would spend many hours in the box truck traveling state to state and at concert venues. She wanted to have a project that would occupy the long hours of sitting. As an avid knitter, she chose an ambitious pattern that would last the whole trip: a lace-knitted bedspread. Armed with the pattern, needles, and loads of off-white cotton yarn—and the piano, of course—off they went.

The finished double-bed-sized spread would be comprised of dozens of 10-inch squares.

one square

One of the finished squares.

This seemed practical to Mom since she would knit them one-by-one and not be encumbered by a huge cotton “blanket” as the states passed by.

From Vermont, to New York City, and on to Chicago, they drove, and Mom knitted. Besides being Dad’s travel companion, she was also his assistant for which she was paid $10.00/day. She took care of the accommodation plans and the bookkeeping. I’m lucky to have the little three-ring notebook in which she recorded their daily expenses.

notebook

Their daily travel expenses in 1962.

Here are a couple days’ records once they were traveling along the coast of California:

The Flamingo Motel in Berkeley, one night @ $9.00
Breakfast, $1.39
Lunch $1.90
Dinner $1.92

Flamingo Motel

Now closed, this vintage photo of the Flamingo Motel from about the same time period, judging by the cars in the lot.

 A few days later in Santa Barbara, where things were a bit more “expensive”…
 
The El Prado Motor Inn, one night @ $12.00
Breakfast, $2.81
Lunch, $2.50
Coffee, 42₵
Dinner, $4.31!

 

El Prado

Long gone, the chic and oh-so-modern El Prado Motor Inn.

By the time Mom and Dad were traveling down the California coast, there were many finished knitted squares for the bedspread. The panel truck that carried them across the country was left in Los Angeles, where my dad’s brother and his wife flew from New England to drive it back to the East Coast. My parents and the bag full of knitted squares flew to Hartford, Connecticut, and then made their way back to Brattleboro, Vermont.
 
Once home, my grandmother helped Mom assemble the bedspread. It was made for the cannonball double bed that I have in my home today.

 

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I do not have photos of my mom knitting during the trip, but here she is at 96 holding the spread and telling me about the journey that happened over 50 years ago.

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My mother, Ruth, holding the hand knit bedspread she made in the early sixties.

I’m sorry that I do not have the pattern my mother used on her journey. When I saw the bedspread featured in our newly published book LACE KNITTING by Denise Samson, I was struck by the similarities.

 

LaceKnitting-trafalgarbooks

The bedspread pattern from the book LACE KNITTING by Denise Samson.

If you are interested in this pattern, or in other openwork patterns, LACE KNITTING is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

And do YOU have a crafting journey to share? We’d love to feature your story on our blog! Contact rdidier@trafalgarbooks.com.

Trafalgar Square Books, publisher of fine equestrian and craft books, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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