January 16, 2008

Knit One, Purl One

Over the last month or so, I’ve finally become serious about a needlecraft habit that I’ve been meaning to form for quite some time now: knitting. It all started when I uncovered some old pink knitting needles I found in a disorganized closet. I thought they were charming, and I wanted to use them. I went to the bookstore and picked out the best looking learn-to-knit-it’s-easy-as-pie book I could find. Then I went home and went to work. Unfortunately, pie just isn’t as easy as it used to be, it seems. I starred at the little pictures and tried to decipher the directions: “Pull the yarn this way and that, under the needle and over.” Nice. Needless to say, my creation didn’t look a thing like the beautiful finished project in the picture. After several arduous and frustrating tries, I promptly gave up. Who really needs to learn how to knit these days anyway?

Today, we’ve got high powered contraptions with perfectly calibrated machine brains whirring away, spitting out sweater after sweater, after sock, after scarf. In the old days, specifically 14th century England, people knitted out of dire necessity. They had no other variety besides tube sock before the inventive knitting needle miracle occurred. Then a surge of interest took place in the 60s, sending housewives and young hippies alike to the craft store yarn section. Interest later hit a plateau but swung yet again. Knitting has recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, hence my inclination. Perhaps women all over the nation have discovered their grandmother’s knitting needles gathering dust in the closet as I have.

Then, one day over lunch, my coworker took out a knitting project and started knitting away with great dexterity, and it gave me some hope that I still might have a chance. She was even doing a cable in it—amazing. She promised to teach me how. When I brought her one of my “samples” from my book-learning days, she looked at it puzzled as she flipped it back and forth, narrowing her eyes, “Wow, I’ve never seen a stitch quite like this.” Right, I invented it. It’s called the I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing stitch, and just to save you the trouble of asking, it has no pattern. But, she kindly showed me the correct way to knit like a pro, and I’ve been happily knitting ever since, in my spare time of course.

I got a knitting calendar for Christmas a couple years ago (about the time I’d declared I was soon to become a knitter), and I pulled it out to look through the patterns. Most were too complicated for me at my beginner status, but I found one that looked easy and interesting enough to keep my attention. Unfortunately, my big pink needles were not the right size, and I didn’t have the right kind of yarn lying around, but I decided to go for it anyway. Like the first scarf I knit would be wearable anyway, right?! I’m halfway through, and I have to say . . . I surprise even myself. I don’t think I’ll be that embarrassed to wear it when I’m done. Still embarrassed, but not mortified.

It gives me a sense of Jane Austen-y joy to participate in needlework. I feel like sitting up a little straighter with my legs crossed at the ankle. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I like the idea of using used needles. I like to think I’m participating in something that connects the generations of women in my family. I wonder what sort of things were made with the old pink needles before I received them. And hopefully, who ever gets them next will wonder the same thing.

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