Mary Beekman is a four-year-old ghost who resides in The Beekman Mansion, and considers Brent and Josh her “imaginary friends.” Follow Mary Beekman’s Diary each week to learn what it’s like to be a young child in early 19th century America

I was awake early this morning.  I was cautious to slip from under the covers without moving them.   It took a long time. Sister was still sleeping so I walked very softly to the window to see what the sky would be telling Father  It was raining very gently and the clouds were hanging low.  It seemed as though I could touch them from the window.  I know it is good for the ground . Mother is going to show me how to begin to knit.  It is important that I learn.  I shall be making mittens.  Someday I will be able to make stockings.  I hope I can make mittens for Josh and for Brent.  They are my dear friends.  They make me smile when I am sad. I am the only one who can see or hear them.

I think I would make mittens for Josh that are the color of oatmeal.  He has larger hands than Brent.  I would make grey mittens for Brent.  We do not have much yarn left this time of the year. Mother told me some of the words of the instructions.  I do not yet know how to make all the loops but I shall learn.  I know that to begin the work, I must lay up enough loops on my wires  in order to make the proper size.  Perhaps I shall make little brother a pair of mittens first because his hands are small.  I hope he does not lose them.  I am good at finding things in my house.

Sister has made mittens for me.  I have not lost them.  She told me it would not be too difficult because it was mostly plain knitting.  It would be necessary to have an idea of the size of the hand.  Mother told me one has to know where to narrow as the fingers rise. Perhaps I shall make a drawing of Josh’s hand and Brent’s hand to be certain.  Sister said it is not difficult to create a right loop but making a wrong loop is a bit more difficult.  I hope I am able to quickly learn. It will be good to practice each day after my lessons and chores.

by Mary Beekman

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Hi Mary,

I am enjoying a book that has been written by one of your playmates, Josh. How lucky they are to have you as a special friend.

I, too, would love you as my friend! We could spend many hours

knitting…and comparing patterns for scarves! Will you be my

friend. JoNana

Lorraine Grammie

Oh Mary, how wonderful for you to learn how to knit. My mother's friend, Anne, taught me how to knit when I was very young and now I am teaching my little grandchildren how to knit. I make them mittens using an old mattern of my mum's. Maybe you can tell Josh and Brett to spin goat wool into yarn. Wouldn't they make nice warm mittens for all of us. Then I can share my mum's mitten pattern with you.


Dear Mary: How wonderful you will be knitting soon!!! I have been knitting for over 50 years and love it, as I am sure you will. A little trick so brother will not lose those mittens, measure from one wrist across his back to the other wrist and cut a piece of yarn that length, then tie each end ot the yarn to the cuff of one mitten. Put the mittens on before he puts his coat on and even if the mitten comes off he will not lose it. Perhaps you will be lucky enough that Josh and Brent will give you some of the yarn from the new black sheep they have on the farm….what a treat that would be!! Happy knitting!!!

Andre Jones

Mary, isn't it wonderful to learn how to knit. It is even more fulfilling when you spin the wool and ply it yourself….maybe with those beautiful black sheep?

Christine Wenrich

Dearest Mary,

What a thoughtful little girl you are! I am sure Josh & Brent will feel so blessed once you surprise them with mittens. I am almost 52 years old Mary and I have never mastered knitting! If you ever want to take a vacation from The Beekman Mansion, feel free to come visit me. I would cherish your visit! Love, Christine


Dear Mary,

What a joy it is to know that you are learning to knit! I agree with the others who recommend patience. Your knitting may not be perfect when you start, but by practicing and having patience it will constantly improve. I am sure that your brother, Josh, and Brent would love anything that you make them – because knitting is a gift of love. Good luck and enjoy your new found knitting skills.

Johanna R

Mary, my mom doesn't believe me either when I tell her about my friends Josh and Brent. Sigh!

Dawn Jones

I was about 8 when I learned to knit. My grandmother bought me pink knitting needles and pink yarn. I learned how to knit a headband. I wasn't too good, but I tried. I got a little tired of making the headband because I was slow, but I did finish it. Then my brother sit down on the couch and broke one of my needles. I was very hurt by that, but he did not do it on purpose. Grandma bought me new needles. I hope your knitting goes well Mary. Dawn Jones


Dear Mary,

I cannot tout the joys of knitting enough. Be careful, it's a gateway drug to other fiber arts. I've since learned to crochet, rug hook (with traditional wool strips – NOT latch hook), locker hook (with wool roving), and needle felt.

One word of advice: There's NO wrong way to knit. As long as you form the stitches correctly and you are enjoying yourself, don't let someone tell you it is wrong. There are many different ways to tension the yarn. Do what's most comfortable.


Dear Mary,

My grandmother taught me how to knit.

She was born in the 1800's way before women had the right to vote.

She crocheted beautiful lace, too. It was called tatting, I believe. You probably have many outfits with tatted lace on them.

I'm sure you are a person with great patience, that's all you need to knit!

I'm sure Josh & Brent would love any mittens you made for them.

Maybe Brent will share some of polkie's wool with you, when he learns how to spin.

Maybe you will also get some home spun black yarn!

Use your index finger to wrap the loops arount the needle. It goes really quickly that way.

Good luck Mary!


I was 6 when my mother taught me to knit. She always believed that mittens were the best thing to make when you learn, since they include ribbing and increasing and decreasing stitches. It was very hard for me to make the second mitten like the first!

Knitting is my favorite pastime. It's very relaxing and it's so much fun to watch a project grow from row to row.

So, pay attention to Mother's instructions and practice when you are alone (it's easier to concentrate that way!) When you learn to make mittens, then I would be happy to help you with socks. I have made about 30 pairs this winter.

I’m hoping Josh and Brent are able to start producing wool from their black sheep. Mary, if you learn to knit, hopefully they will have lots of yarn for you to knit scarves for Beekman 1802. I’m sure they would be a huge hit.

Michele D.


Try to remember that there is almost no wrong way to knit. Whatever is most comfortable for you is the right way. Later on you'll learn to "read" your stitches and correct mistakes, though I believe that every piece of knitting has to have at least one mistake in it; it's like the knitter's signature. Happy knitting!

Sue B


Take your time, watch closely and practice, practice, practice. Washrags are easier than mittens. Work your way up to mittens. Scarves are nice and easy too. Remember to count your stitches as you go to make sure you didn't accidentaly add stitches or drop stitches!!

Sue B.

Sarah Goldfarb

Hello, Mary. Learning to knit is not very hard; just make sure you are not doing the purl stitch, which is when you insert the right needle back to front (towards you) instead of front to back (away from you). The knit stitch is all you have to know in order to make mittens, in addition to "knitting in the round." I made a pair of mittens for my mother for Christmas with little snowflakes on them. It was not very hard.

First, start out with a "practice" set for your brother, who has small hands. Act as though you were knitting a sock: see if you can find a wire with a wooden needle on either end. Or, use 5 small wooden sticks for needles. Then join the two ends of the first row you make by knitting the first and last together. Knit a little tube that will go around the wrist – it will look like the top of a sock. See if it fits your brother's wrist. Then, "increase" the number of stitches you are knitting so that you can make what is called a thumb gusset – a space for the thumb. There are many ways to increase: you might want to ask your mother how to. Knit about 6 rows for the thumb gusset, then put a thread through the increased number of stitches to "hold" them to the side so you can finish knitting the rest of the tube-mitten for the fingers. Continue up until you reach the top of the fingers, then "decrease" for the tops of the fingers. Go back to the thumb gusset, put those stitches back on your wire, and "decrease" again until you pull the thumb together at the top, so there's no hole anymore.

It all sounds very hard, but it's not. Just go step by step.

Maybe one night you could sneak onto Josh or Brent's computer and look at this website. It's like a book inside the computer. And maybe they could leave this page open for you. 🙂

Here it is:

And Brent might like where this one comes from, although it is a little bit harder:

Julie Hinkens

Dear Mary, I am thrilled to hear you're learning to knit. I have often considerd teaching myself. My niece knits hats and scarves, I always admire them. Perhaps the kittens have your lost mittens? Don't forget if you knit Josh and Brent a pair of mittens, that farmer John would love a pair too:)

Sarah Zumbiel

Dear Mary,

Knitting is so fun. I was 37 years old before I learned to knit and I learned from reading a book. Mittens are very ambitious, start off by knitting scarfs and pot holders. That way you can master your stitches. Working on double pointed needles for mittens can be tricky. Good luck….don't give up, it takes A LOT of practice!

Sarah Z.

sue t.

Good Morning Mary, I too was awake early this morning. I went to the kitchen window and opened it a little to feel the cool air and listen to the beautiful cardinal who sings each morning. Even though there is still small amounts of snow in my yard I can happily watch the robin as she gathers things for the nest she is making in the roof over hang. I know for sure from listening and watching the birds that warmer weather will arrive any day now. I am excited to learn that mother is teaching you to knit. My mother tried many times to teach me but I just couldn't master the art. My sister knits all winter and keeps me supplied with beautiful scarfs which I treasurer. I know you will practice and in time each stitch will be perfect. Next winter I will trace my had and send you the print so you can make me a pair of mittens. I will be waiting to hear from you again soon. Thanks for writing and enjoy the day. (if you go out to the barn with Josh be sure to hug the baby goats for me.) Your friend sue t.