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Hung with care: A family's homemade heirlooms
Molly Brown's relatives cherish keepsake stockings stitched by matriarch
Molly Brown of Commerce has been knitting Christmas stockings for her friends and family for the last 50 years. Around 10 years ago, she decided to add a personal label to each one. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

In most families, everyone has their designated role.

Some people are the family peacekeeper, while others have dubbed themselves the family historian.

With a spool of yarn by her side, Molly Brown has knitted her way into becoming her family's memory-maker.

For the last 50 years Brown has been making Christmas stockings for each of the members of her family — and some lucky friends.

"A friend of mine had a set of (knit) stockings for her children, that her friend in Pennsylvania made for her," said Brown, a Commerce resident.

"I fell in love with them, so her friend sent me the stocking pattern."

It wasn't long before she "wore out" that first one. Now her repertoire includes 20 to 25 different patterns.

From fully decorated Christmas trees to Santa Claus' complete with a fuzzy, white beard — there's not much that Brown can't do.

"Everyone has their favorite," Brown said.

For half a century, she's followed the same knitting schedule.

"My grandchildren always say, ‘Grandmommy, why do you always start after Christmas with after Christmas things.' I have to, to keep up,'" Brown said.

"I start in January and knit all year. I've already gotten several orders from my daughter that are due (next year)."

Although she's a steady assembly line of one, Brown doesn't sacrifice quality for quantity.

"My oldest son is in his 50s and he still has his original stocking with Santa on the front," Brown said.

"I haven't had to replace but two of my stockings in 50 years. And the only reason I replaced those was because I wanted to use a bigger pattern."

Brown's creations are probably more well traveled than some people.

"I have a large family — my great nieces and nephews are all over the place," Brown said.

"That's why I have so many stockings, in so many places all over the country."

Besides being shipped all over Georgia, her stockings have been hung by fireplaces with care in places as far away as California, Minnesota and Maryland.

"Her stockings are in at least 12 different states that we know of. It's become a family tradition — she made one for each of my children when they were born," said Brad Brown, North Hall Middle School principal and Brown's son.

"It's really cool to see how she takes (materials) and turns them into something so beautiful."

Kay Kemp, Brown's niece, can account for around 50 of the stockings.

"My aunt has made around 25 for my family. She's made stockings for me, my husband, our four sons and all of their families," said Kemp, a Gainesville resident.

"And my sister, (Madge Harper of Gainesville) has 21. Everyone of them brings us so much joy. She's one of the kindest, and most talented people that I know."

"She's spread her joy to all of us."

After making stockings for each of her four children, 11 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren and countless other relatives and family friends, her family estimates that Brown has made around 2,000 Christmas stockings.

On average, Brown says it takes her around 18-20 hours to complete one.

If you're interested in doing the math — that's around 38,000 hours of work. Or around 1,583 days, or around 4 and a half years of her life spent knitting.

"I can't tell you how many times I've said ‘Let me just finish this one row,' to my family over the years," Brown said.

"I don't like to stop in the middle of a row."

Although a lot of labor goes into creating each stocking — all of which bear the owner's name knitted across the front - Brown says it doesn't feel like work.

"I really enjoy making them," Brown said.

"If I have my way, I'll knit until I'm 100."