This one's for Nan. Thank you for every little piece of myself that you gave me. This is my goodbye and though I wish it were a little more eloquent, it could not be more heartfelt.

A stitch in time…

I can still hear your words in my head, every time I pick up the needles. Your ever patient voice always makes me smile, and makes this sometimes arduous task into a joy. It's when I feel closest to you, when I can really feel that once you were there, beside me on the sofa. I have few happy memories from when I was that young but this one little snippet of a recollection makes up for all the bad ones.

It was Christmas - well, a few days afterwards when the novelty of all those new toys had worn off – and you sat with a half finished glove hanging between your knitting needles. Mum and Dad were out trawling the January Sales and David was pushing a toy car in between Grandad's feet as he slept. An American Tale was on Television for the first time.

I clambered up onto the sofa and sat beside you, watching those needles twitch as your hands fed them a continuous length of yarn. I could only have been watching you for five minutes before you reached down to the flower-patterned bag at your side and pulled out two little pink needles and some wonderfully garish turquoise wool. In what seemed like half a minute you had cast on and pulled me into your lap. You held my hands as I made my first stitch and quietly recited instructions to me for each one which followed. Even when I knit now, all these years later, I still hear those slow, loving words.

Over the following two weeks I must have dropped as many stitches as I made but you found all of them somewhere in the mess of what I would later declare was Grandad's Motorbike scarf. It barely fit around his neck but I'd run out of turquoise wool and so you cast off for me and we presented it to him both of us proud of what we'd done.

It was only the other day, coming back from the service, that I realised little had changed in all those years. In my mind, you still sit beside me in case I drop yet another stitch – and I know I will always hear your serene instructions. I wondered though whose careful directions you followed as gloves, hats, shawls and tea cosies alike fell from your needles. Was it your mother, or hers? Had Grandad's mum, the magnificently named Flora McGregor-Fleming, taught you how to knit one purl one, as you taught your daughter in law?

And who had taught them? Did each of them hold these little treasured memories of learning to knit? And who were all these other women? I know of you, Evelyn – your mother – and the Annie's – your Nan's. But then, who came before them?

Realisation dawned as I finished a row in the tasteful blue scarf that I'm making for the man who will hopefully be Grandad when I am Nan. All that is left of these women who came before me are their stitches. And as suddenly as realisation had just come so did a happy little laugh – with each stitch I make I am closer to you, and you your teacher, and she hers right back to the first person who sat down with two sticks and thought Somehow, I've got to make a cloth from this because I can't afford a loom.

A stitch in time saves more than nine, it saves all the billions which came before it.