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Friday, November 2, 2012

Ah, knitting

I have always been a crafts nut. Over the course of my life I’ve done sewing, quilting, decoupage, embroidery, decorative chocolates, oil painting, tole painting, needlepoint, T-shirt decorating, beading, jewelry making, lapidary, ceramics, mosaics, glass painting, doll-making, picture framing, model making, latch-hook and punch rugs. I built a doll house and furniture for it.

While I still dabble in a few of these, the one that I’ve always gone back to is knitting. It’s only in recent years that I’ve branched out into more adventurous knitting. In the past I’ve always knitted plain things so I could do it while I watched television.

I learned how to knit at the age of eight. My Mother and her Mother were both crocheters, and tried many times to teach me. I could not get the hang of it. Then my Mom’s church group took on the project of knitting bandages for a leper colony. (This was around 1962. They still had leper colonies.) These had to be done about two inches wide and as long as possible, out of special thread, on thin needles in garter stitch. I was fascinated. Mom, on the other hand, hated knitting. She told me she could show me how to knit, purl, cast on, and bind off, and that was it. Anything else I’d have to learn on my own.

I wound up knitting half her quota.

Mom took me shopping, and we bought a little booklet of beginner patterns, some Red Heart acrylic yarn in luscious colors (for me, the fiber content has always played second fiddle to the colors), and a pair of 14 inch size 7 straight aluminum needles colored a frightful chartreuse. I still have them.

For the next few years, everyone I knew got garter-stitch scarves for Christmas. I think my Dad was the only one who ever wore his.

I didn’t learn much else for many years. I tried out many more crafts, and even had a part-time job in a crafts store after college. During college, I embroidered more than anything, even doing a tablecloth and matching napkins for my Mom for Christmas one year. I still embroider a bit – it’s my second favorite craft. For the first time in my life, I ran into other girls who knitted. And they did sweaters.

The thing that kept me from trying more complicated knitting was always the patterns. They’re so hard to read! I did my first sweater in the 1980s, a T-shirt type. That broke the ice, and I started knitting sweaters. I began to find and buy knitting books. Mind you, this was long before all those lovely how-to-knit videos on the internet – even before the internet! I didn’t know a soul who knitted, and if there were any yarn shops in the area that gave classes, I never heard of them. I bought my supplies at fabric stores or the precursors to Wal-Mart. Red Heart was the only yarn I ever saw, and only in worsted weight except for the baby-pastel sport yarns. In my life I have never taken a single knitting class.

Just in the last decade, I’ve started to attempt more complicated knitting. I learned to knit mittens and socks in the round on double-pointed needles. I attempted simple lace. I designed a few basic sweaters.

Then for a program at the library I used to work at, I started a knitting group. People, find yourself a group! Hang out in yarn stores! I learned more from those ladies in six months than I learned in my entire life up to then. Magic loop. Kitchener stitch. How to read a knitting pattern CHART – so much clearer than knitting code! Having someone show you is so much easier than getting it from a book. I’m now adept at cables, and getting there in complicated lace. What I’d give to have learned all this in my 20s! Life isn’t long enough for all I want to try. Endless patterns! Endless colors and color combinations! There’s no way to get bored with knitting. No one could ever learn everything.

The grim reaper will arrive, and I’ll probably give him the interrupted knitter’s mantra: “Just let me finish this row.”

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