|There was usually a cat tucked in there somewhere…|
Although it’s been over 50 years since my grandma taught me how to knit, I can still feel her presence every time I pick up my needles. I’m right back on her scratchy, bumpy couch, tucked in tightly under her arm while she’d guide me through the process of moving the yarn from one red plastic needle to the other. It was magic to me; long pieces of yarn growing into something I could hold in my hands and maybe even wear on my head. Grandma was left-handed and I was right-handed so the whole learning process was backwards and terribly confusing until I gave up on trying to learn right-handed from a left-handed teacher and simply learned the way my Grandma taught me. Left-handed.
Last year I wrote a blog post about hands and how they are the keepers of so much of our history. Knitting is the ultimate in hand thinking. In their callouses, scars and imperfections lie the very rich history of creating, which only becomes richer with experience. Grandma’s arthritic fingers moved my young hands through a process that has become refined over many years with a lot of trial and error with things I’ve created and am very proud of and a host of projects that went the other direction and are still shoved into the back of the closet waiting for me to fix them.
It wasn’t always cool to be a knitter and the patterns available were proof as most of the end products were nothing you’d ever want to wear. Thankfully, it has become hip and yarn stores and pattern choices are much more readily available. Much to my surprise, there is a knit in public day in April, or KIP for those in the know, a knitting awareness week in October and a national knitting night in November as well as societies for right handed knitters, left handed knitters and a day set aside for those who love yarn. Yea, I know… and no, I’m not a member, of any, but you’ve got to love a serious knitter.
My knitting skills started off with long strips that were made into headbands and graduated over the years to a constant stream of sweaters for my babies and toddlers. After sitting out for several years, when I did pick up my needles again in my late twenties, I re-taught myself to knit right handed, which was much easier and far less complicated when trying to follow right handed instructions.
It has always been nurturing for me and maybe that’s because of who taught me more than what she taught me. Seriously, I would have learned algebra at age 8 if it meant getting to be squished together on a scratchy couch with my grandma leading the lesson. Although the hopeful outcome of a wearable woolen is what gets me to the yarn store in the first place, it truly is more of a process than product situation for me. I’ve ended up with a lot of almost finished projects that were either way off on size or simply didn’t end up to be the project I had in my mind. The only exception were the many baby and kid sweaters I knitted, which always ended up being the right size, at one point or another because my kids did grow and if it started out too small, there was a younger one waiting in the wings. When my oldest was 4 or 5 he asked me when he could stop wearing the sweaters I knitted and start wearing sweatshirts like all the other kids. And that was the end of that. All energies then went to the daughter, who hung in there a long time with my hand knitted sweaters for her.
Everyone who knits has a story and usually those stories are about projects, both the success and the failures. Sadly, my story is one about how my own knitting caused me tremendous public embarrassment and taught me the lesson on the importance of keeping your knitting supplies, ie yarn, a bit more organized. I know when you drag toilet paper on your shoe when you come out of a bathroom it’s called a tile comet, but what’s it called when you unknowingly drag yarn from a knitting project from your car, all the way down the sidewalk, about 3 feet high, unknowingly setting up a makeshift boundary line that’s not crossable? And to add to the fun, there was a sidewalk sale going on so cautious shoppers were mindful of the boundary that I unknowingly put into place while I went into a bakery to get a sandwich. Of course I, also, was being respectful of the “roped off area” as I returned to my car, until I realized it was coming from my car…and this was no short piece of yarn. Unfortunately, the yarn boundary ran the better part of the south side of Corinth shopping center. I’m a messy knitter who learned her lesson through embarrassment.
This meditative movement of slipping stitches made of yarn from one needle to another, hopefully yielding something wearable, is far more about the history that connected me to it in the first place than anything else and that was my Grandma, and the many hours spent next to her learning. I didn’t care if what we were knitting was wearable or not as in my 8 year-old eyes, we were knitting love. Plain and simple.