Making Something Special One Stitch at a Time.
Confession time — this is not the first time I have written about knitting, but it is my first Medium article on the topic. I love knitting, and yarn, and the needles, and the process.
I decided to learn to knit when I was pregnant with my son, Sam. I took a free class at one of the local libraries. However, learning it was more like remembering how to do it, because I have a vague memory of being taught to knit when I was 7 years old. I think that a neighbor, a mother of a friend had taught me, but that’s about all I can recall. I don’t actually remember learning it. It is more like a ghostly, foggy memory of a hallway, or a room and that I picked up knitting quickly enough. Also, the way I knit and the way I cast the stitches on the needle are Continental, rather than English or American style. The difference is similar to different ways of lacing and tying your shoes — similar, but different enough to make someone say, “That’s not how I learned it.” This is my way of doing it, and I went on to teach this particular method to my friends.
Still, I was relearning a skill from over thirty years ago, which is pretty much learning it anew. At first, I was a tight knitter, as most new knitters are, my shoulders high, hovering around my ears, as I tried to fit the needle into the yarn, muttering, “New yoga my ass!” My fingers would cramp up, and I would take turns stretching and shaking them out. For the first few lessons, I was using the needles provided by the teacher in class, metal ones. Then, I went to Michael’s and bought myself wooden ones, which to me just felt right. I still prefer the feel of warm wood, although metal is something that people swear knits up faster.
But I muddled through the finger cramps, and mistakes, and losing count of stitches, and soon, I was able to make a few pretty good potholder-sized squares.
My primary motivation was wanting to make a blanket for my baby. Because I wanted to create something different than a one-piece blanket, I decided to knit a bunch of colorful, soft squares, and then sew them together, making it look intentionally roughly hewn with black thread. I found perfect yarns, as bright as jewels, thick and satiny. The brand was called, appropriately enough, Touch Me Yarn. It was stupid expensive, but, to me, worth every penny. I have recently found a few remains of those yarn balls, and was reminded yet again how lovely it was. The colors were really ridiculously pretty, from the shiniest silver grey to ruby-reds and the silky soft and warm feel of the yarn made them a pleasure to knit with. (I swear, I am not peddling this yarn, but even back then it was something like $15 per skein, and I loved the stuffing out of it!)
I began to knit the little squares, always casting on the same number of stitches, then measuring each square by using the size of my hand. OK, so I wasn’t great at it. But it wasn’t the matter of perfection. It was the labor of love. One stitch at a time, I was making something special, and about one month before I gave birth, the blanket was done — imperfectly perfect.
And I slowly became addicted to knitting and everything that comes with it. At a specialized yarn store, a person can get absolutely gorgeous needles. From brilliant colors to unusual tops, to lighted ones so you can knit in the dark, to needles that are not actually round, a knitter can lose his mind on needles alone. And the profusion of yarn, of different thickness (called “weight” in yarn-speak), colors, and softness for different purposes. Yarn can begin to pile up, and fill baskets, and bins, and that entire closet downstairs! Well, it can be downright expensive to become a knitter.
When I said “a knitter can lose his mind,” I wasn’t just trying to be politically correct. The first knitters were actually Norwegian men.
Back to knitting — I love the sound, the light clicking the wood makes as the needles kiss each other gently. Besides, knitting provides the perfect excuse for me to watch TV. “I am not just sitting here on my ass! I am doing something productive!”
Circular needles allow the knitter to cast on a great many stitches, and to knit a baby blanket, or a large Afghan, or say, when you get bored (or lazy) half way through, a lap-ghan.
A braver knitter could learn measurements, figure out button holes, make sweaters, vests, purses, etc. But making more complex items requires math, and I think I have mentioned before that I was an English major. I am a cowardly knitter. I do scarves and blankets, no measuring required, and have gotten only adventurous enough to do a beanie hat or two.
Beyond creating something pretty and useful, knitting is also the perfect meditation. I stumbled upon an excellent article in Medium by Christina Care called Activities for Mindfulness: Crochet. Crocheting creates beautiful things using only one needle instead of two. The article brings the reader’s attention to doing one thing, and focusing on it exclusively, and finding it renewing, refreshing, simple, or social. The same thing could be said for knitting. The repetitive motion is comforting, the feel of soft yarn and the clicking of needles can become downright hypnotic. It can be your alone time, or you can form your own Stitch ‘n Bitch group (I am referring to the popular series of books from which the name came from) with friends, meet up at yarn stores or coffee or even wine places, although most people don’t recommend knitting and drinking alcohol (you wind up doing a great deal of undoing of knitting you’ve done the night before). A more altruistic friend has convinced me and others to knit Hats for Haiti, and I have knitted blankets for other charities.
My last two projects were a scarf, given as a birthday gift to a long-time friend, and a baby blanket, given to another friend as another type of birthday gift. Each one makes me happy. Whether you are a bold and brave knitter, English or Continental, social or recluse, knitting just makes life a little better.