Friday, January 22, 2010

Becoming a Knitter

An amazing thing happened last weekend--I became a Knitter.

I didn't learn a new stitch, or accomplish any great feat like knitting a sweater or an afghan.

I'm still the same-old beginner/intermediate knitter that I've been for a dozen years or more, but know I am a Knitter.

I taught myself how to knit 14 years ago, out of a book when I was in the AmeriCorps NCCC on Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado. (My mom, an expert knitter, tried teaching me on a few different occasions before that, but it never clicked). I first knitted up a swatch out of some old red RedHeart acrylic yarn, practicing all of the different combinations of knits and purls that I could come up with, and from there started a scarf for C (who was back in Maine), out of some lovely soft maroon marino wool, in a lovely seed stitch (no boring old garter stitch for me!). I knit half of it sitting in my crazy creek by the fire on spike in the forest below the peak of La Plata Mountain, but didn't finish it until the following winter, giving it to C on the occasion of our first Valentine's Day in the same state.

The next winter I knit him a hat (moving directly to five needles) in a nice deep blue wool I had picked up at the Common Ground Fair. My mom sent me a photocopy of a pattern for a double-knit cap and some graph paper with a few designs drawn in pencil. I knitted a row of partridge feet in maroon leftover from the scarf, but I didn't know how to carry the color I was using properly, and the hat lost its stretch, and I lost my knitting momentum.

A year or so later, I took an "Instant Gratification" knitting class and started a pair of felted mittens in luscious lime green mohair and purple wool. Each mitten only took a week to knit, but it took me a year to pick up the second mitten after finishing the first.

The winter I was pregnant with M, I fell in love with the color orange and bought two soft skeins in a pumpkin color and started a scarf for myself (still on the needles nine years later). C went to Florida for a week that winter and I knit myself a purple cloche hat while he was gone (still wear it to this day).

When M was a baby I knitted him an eggplant hat and a few years later knitted him a gnome doll and very slowly and painfully knitted my way through a pair of mittens for him that caused me nothing but trouble (and which he lost almost immediately). I bought a skein of orange cotton when I was pregnant with the twins, planning on knitting a pumpkin to go with the eggplant, but it never happened.

A couple of years ago I was browsing through a knitting book I have and noticed in the introduction that the author had only been knitting for two years when she wrote the book! At that point I had been knitting for a dozen years and had produced fewer than a dozen knitted items. I set about correcting that. I knit myself a pair of wrist warmers (there are two kinds of people in this world--those who love fingerless gloves and those who just don't get it. I am one of the former) and hats for E and Z last Christmas. I made my spiral hat this fall (and discovered stitch markers!) and for Christams I made gnome hats for E, Z and C and a Hill Country Hat for M (which knits from the top down, stretching my skills further).

After Christmas I picked up the shawl I had started last fall. I knitted a few rows at knitting group last Thursday, and a few more while C and I watched a movie Friday night. Saturday I itched to knit all day, and took it with me and knitted while we drove to dinner with C's father and his wife. I knitted along as we drove to Wiscasset and suddenly it came over me, this realization, "I am a Knitter." I took my knitting into the restaurant and knitted while we waited for our food, and after dinner while we waited for our check. I knitted again after we got home, in front of the TV. Sunday I somehow ate my lunch while I cooked everyone else's, so I knit while they ate. I knit another row while I monitored the boys in the bathtub.

Becoming a Knitter had nothing to do with skill level or expertise. It had to do with feeling driven to knit. Wanting to do it anytime my hands were idle (and even wishing I could do it when they aren't). I think this may be why I haven't been able to call myself a Writer. Not because I don't write well or often or for money (though I don't), but because it hasn't yet become that itch I must scratch. Sometimes I will become overcome with an urge to write about something, that nearly drives me to distraction. More often than not I ignore that urge in favor of dealing with more urgent or more visible issues (laundry, work, sleep). Granted, it's easier to pick up a piece of knitting and put in a few rows, or even just a few stitches and put it down again than to pick up a notebook and write a few words or sentences in the interstices of my day. It would be difficult to write in the car while driving to dinner, and downright rude to try and write while at dinner with other people. And trying to write while the kids are in the tub? The paper would get wet, certainly, but I might come up with some amusing descriptions of our twice-weekly ritual...maybe I'll try it next time.


  1. I remain amazed at the breadth of your skills.

  2. The journey of a knitter is always an interesting one. The feel of the wool, and desire to knit whenever possible. I just think that it is such a beautiful way to spend our time, and to create. you really put all of this beautifully. Thank you for sharing


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