The latest news from these parts: I’ve finished my novel and I am now officially a knitting addict. Yes, that’s right, I sent my novel off to a few agents this week (huzzah!), and although I have a few other projects going on at the moment, I suddenly have WAY more time than I used to, and knitting is filling that gap quite nicely. Quite nicely, indeed.
I learned how to knit as a kid from my mom, who is a very accomplished knitter, and who learned at the feet of a Knitter Extraordinaire, my grandmother. My grandmother is seriously the best knitter in the world, you guys. I think part of it is being Irish – it’s in their blood to cook a mean potato and knit a mean sweater – but she’s also just talented. She knits little clothes for teddy bears and tiny little Christmas stocking earrings, she felts purses, and she can knit up a cardigan while drinking a cup of tea, doing a crossword puzzle, having a conversation, and watching TV. I aspire to this, but I am not there yet. For now, I can knit while watching — okay, listening to — TV, and sometimes while having a conversation, but if the pattern gets complicated, I have to stop and stare really hard at the pattern and then stare really hard at the knitting, and swear a little bit, and this tends to derail the conversation. Luckily, Al doesn’t mind.
My motivation for picking up knitting again was that I needed something to do that was creative but not creative in the same way that writing is. With knitting, you are creating something with your hands, in the sense that you are bringing something into being, but you’re not inventing the pattern (at least, I’m not!) so it’s not taxing in the same way that writing is. When I write, I have to dredge things up from the depths of my brain, examine them, perhaps throw them back, dredge again, put the remains on paper, and then shape and perfect them until they are presentable. When I knit, I just have to follow a pattern and try not to eff it up.
I decided to relearn the knitting basics by doing a lot of sample swatches out of a book called Fearless Knitting Workbook. I highly recommend the book for the patterns but not necessarily for its instruction; I think the author has a super confusing way of explaining the basics. For clear instructions on technique, I recommend Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book (unbeatable) and the excellent Stitch ‘n bitch, The Knitter’s Handbook. Anyway, I worked my way through some of the swatch projects in Fearless Knitting to refresh myself on some techniques (stitches, decreases, increases, reading a pattern, binding off, etc.). I also relied on YouTube, which is a veritable smorgasbord of knitting videos. Overall, I was pretty happy with my learning curve.
In the photo above, the swatch in the upper right was my first effort, and it was, as one would expect, meh. The one in the upper left was my second attempt, which was better. The one in the bottom left was my third swatch – a proud Canadian maple leaf with some mistakes, but the pattern was crazy, give me a break – and the one on the bottom right is a dishtowel I made by knitting on the diagonal, if that makes sense. After doing these four swatches, I felt ready for the big time, so I decided to start on a pattern for a cowl. This is what my project looks like so far:
First of all, let’s all agree right now that this yarn is the bomb. It’s from Japan, it’s called Noro, and I’m so obsessed with it, I want to marry it. Second of all, the cowl is going well – I learned how to slip stitches and do a cable cast-on, as well as some other schmancy techniques, but guess what? Turns out as I was knitting away on my circular needles, feeling like a boss, my cowl was becoming twisted on the needles and I didn’t notice. So when it’s done, it’s going to be what Al refers to as a “mobius scarf.” Sigh. Oh, well. This is all for the sake of learning, you see.
My next projects will be a beret for me and a cool knit beanie for Al. I can hardly wait to go to my local knitting store tomorrow. It’s called Arthur Bales and it’s adorable. Here’s a picture I took of the outside:
Precious! I also love that all of the employees are grandmas who know their way around a ball of yarn. It’s everything I want a knitting store to be: a little bit old-fashioned, a little bit disorganized, and filled with old ladies and yarn. What more do you want?
Anyway, if you can’t tell, I am Jessie-Spano-levels-of-jazzed about knitting these days. I look forward to it, it brings me joy, and I think it’s something I am going to be doing for the rest of my life. Beware friends and family: you are all receiving things made out of yarn this year for Christmas.
Pingback: On sewing, knitting, and the impulse to make things | Stephanie Early Green
Well said. Thanks for the shout out