Saturday, March 24, 2007

the beginning

I'm often asked how or when I learned to knit. The true answer is: I don't really know! I know that it was when I was in elementary school, since I have memories of knitting in those years, but I'm not really sure when, or who exactly taught me. I assume that it was my mom and her mom, but I don't have any memory of learning.

I do remember occasionally getting the urge to make something and turning to my mom's knitting stash. I would root through her knitting bag and find a pair of needles that I found interesting (they were colored nylon mostly). Then I would dig around in her yarn stash (99% acrylic) and find a color that I liked. Then I would sit down with her worn copy of Mon Tricot Knitting Dictionary and try out different stitch patterns. I would imagine some amazing thing that would be created out of the stitch I chose and sit down to figure it out. I believe that this is how I learned to read pattern instructions, using the glossary of abreviations in the book.

These compulsive knitting experiences never really produced much in the way of finished objects. Maybe a doll blanket or a coaster, but mostly I would end up undoing everything when I got bored of it, or when I ran into the limitations of not actually knowing how to make anything other than a rectangle.

This sporadic, compulsive knitting behavior went on from time to time but I don't remember ever making any completed objects. It wasn't until I was in college that I completed something to wear.

I was procrastinating wanting to do something creative while studying and went to Lewiscraft in the mall. I suddenly really wanted to make myself a toque so I picked out some yarn I thought would be warm and that would fit with the mental picture I had and a pattern book with toques in it. I picked out a pair of needles that the pattern book said to use. I was excited.

I worked hard on that toque, re-teaching myself how to knit and learning how to make something that wasn't rectangular. This was before the days of the knit-blogs, knit-forums etc. so I didn't have anyone to talk me through it. I just wanted to do it and I did.

It was wool, I had never used wool for knitting before. My mom only had acrylic and cotton in her stash because her skin is extremely sensitive to wool. (Although, she did make me a wool sweater once. What a sacrifice that was for her to work with all that wool!) I loved it. I felt accomplished as I completed my new toque. It was warm, it fit, it was extremely dense...

I had never learned anything about gauge or needle size or weight of yarn. The yarn I had chosen for this toque was Alafoss Lopi a chunky weight yarn (suggested needle size US10/6mm). The pattern I chose called for a DK weight. I had purchased US6/4mm needles to make my toque.

Yes. I knit the entire thing on needles that were 2 whole milimeters too small and I loved the whole experience. As I mentioned, I had never knit with wool before so I thought maybe the tight knitting was part of it. It wasn't until YEARS later that I realized what, exactly, I had done!

I don't have that toque anymore, and it would be a few years before I really started getting obsessive becoming a capital K Knitter, but that experience reintroduced me to a hobby that I loved and taught me to make my own choices in knitting.

A few years later, in 2000/2001, I was working in Pakistan at a school for ex-pat kids. I came across a box of knit and crocheted squares and some random yarn that had been abandoned by a former staff member. I was told that I could make something of the squares if I wanted or I could use the yarn. I chose to undo all the randomly shaped/sized squares. I found some needles in the home-ec room and started knitting. I knit a toque out of the fugliest fuzzy pink yarn and gave it to one of the girls in my care. She loved it. I was hooked. I started unravelling abandoned sweaters or sweaters that were unwearable b/c of laundry disasters or silverfish bites. I found a shop in a bazaar in Abbotabad that sold yarn. I knit as much as I could with the limited means at my disposal.

That fall (2001) we were forced to "evacuate" from Pakistan after 9/11. I arrived home in Canada the day my nephew Talon was born. 5 days after I arrived home I was taking my parents to the airport so that my dad could go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to hopefully get a better diagnosis than the ALS he had been diagnosed with locally. It was a very stressful time.

It was also the first time I instinctively cocooned myself with yarn and needles to work through the stress. I stopped at a Walmart on my way home from the airport and bought supplies to make a sweater for my brand new nephew. I holed up in my parents' house, watching "Pride and Prejudice" (the A&E version with Colin Firth) and knitting. The repetitive motions of the stocking stitch sweater and the comfort of the yarn worked wonders for my stress.

I was even more hooked than ever before.

And that, my friends, is why there is more yarn than anything else in my apartment.

1 comment:

  1. Knitting. P&P w/ Colin. Sigh...


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