On Knitting

I’m relatively new to the knitting world.

For decades, I didn’t give knitting a second thought, and then one day it took over my consciousness. I realized that not only was there a knitting world, there was a whole knitting universe. And I, who had been unaware of it, wanted in.

My awakening may have had to do with the knitted cowls everyone seemed to be wearing. Not to mention the knitted caps and fingerless gloves. I wanted a knitted cowl, preferably made of thick, white wool. I wanted fingerless gloves knit from cashmere — not only wanted them, but wanted to knit them myself.

I circled the knitting universe for some time, put off by memories of failed attempts at sewing and embroidery. I was sure that all that knitting had to offer me was more disappointment.

Yet, at the library, browsing the shelves, I’d find myself pulled toward the knitting section. I lugged home too many pattern books, read about various cast on methods, and studied charts as if they were maps to unexplored territory.

I registered on Ravelry and drooled over yarn porn on Instagram.

One day during a conversation at work, I realized I was the lone reed in a group of women who all knit. I was an outsider.

I went to a library marketing workshop and instead of listening to the presenter, I spent the morning mesmerized by an attendee who spent her morning effortlessly concocting a hat out of alpaca yarn and shiny needles. She not only followed the presentation, but also participated in discussion. She barely looked at her knitting. It was magical.

I found ways to work knitting into conversations with friends, and one offered to teach me. But the image of the paisley Frankenstein of a dress I had sewn in 7th grade reared its head, and I waved her away.

So, she bought me a knitting book, yarn, and needles, cast on some stitches for me, and taught me the knit stitch. She’s a good friend.

And just like that, I was a knitter. Sort of.

Since then, I’ve knit in fits and starts. When something perplexes me about the craft, I study YouTube videos and read more knitting books. Then I practice until I get it almost right.

I know enough to know that I’ll rarely get anything perfectly right, and that I shouldn’t let perfectionism hold me up. (Besides, those mistakes prove it’s handmade – right?)

For now, I knit in private, mostly because of my technique, which would make other knitters cringe. No one else in the universe knits quite like me, and I imagine that if I were to knit in public, someone would run up to me, rip the needles out of my hands and scream THAT’S NOT HOW YOU DO IT. So, I knit at home and tell myself that on my next project, I’ll practice my technique until I get it right.

I’ve thought a lot about why I enjoy knitting so much, even though I’m so slow that millennia pass before I finish a project. I came up with many good reasons:

  • Knitting is creative.
  • You get do overs. Just frog your knitting and start again.
  • It’s portable.
  • It matches your mood: it can be challenging or easy, depending on what you want at the time.
  • Knitting accepts as much of a commitment as you’re willing to give it and doesn’t ask for more. You can put it down and pick it up at any time and knitting doesn’t snap where the hell have you been?
  • It’s tactile. A nice yarn is a pleasure to hold and knit.
  • You can learn on your own if you’re the type of person who likes to do that (but your technique will probably be bad — very, very bad).
  • You can knit things for yourself — cowls, fingerless gloves — for less money than it would cost you to buy them (unless you fall in love with imported, hand-dyed yarn).
  • Best of all, you can make gifts for friends and family, who will pretend that you’re the best knitter ever and will say that they love, love, love your gift and will wear it night and day, even in the heat of summer.
  • It’s non-digital. At the end of a workday, if you don’t want to spend any more time looking at a screen you don’t have to, unless it’s to watch a British WWII mystery on Netflix while you knit.

Past forays into handicrafts, like sewing, taught me that I was an impatient person, but sewing was wrong. I was just that person when sewing a paisley Frankenstein of a dress.

I’ve amazed by how calm I feel even when I have to cast a new piece multiple times. Or when I pull a nascent scarf apart because I realize I’ve knit the last few rows completely wrong.

Sometimes this makes me weary, but never does it make me angry. There is no war in knitting, at least for me.

Months after I took up knitting, I had a revelation. I looked at my knitting and realized I could FINALLY discern a knit stitch from a purl. The heavens opened and light shone forth and the angels sang. My husband was the only one around when this happened, and I babbled my joy. Like all non-knitters, he didn’t understand.

But I knew I had gained further entry into the universe of knitting and this only made me want to know more.

Read this: Knitting Yarns by Ann Hood. Hood, and the other writers featured in this “writers on knitting” anthology are much more eloquent on the subject than I. Borrow it from your library or buy it from your favorite bookstore (but try the library first).

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One Reply to “On Knitting”

  1. I gave up knitting years ago because I could never make anything that fit correctly. But I would enjoy reading Knitting Yarns.

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