Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How I Came to Knit

For Valentine's Day I gave my husband knitting lessons. He didn't really want them, and has now sworn to never knit again. (Well, once he finishes the scarf he's knitting for my mother.) Normally I would be distraught over the fact that a present of mine was a colossal failure, but instead I'm feeling pretty good.

My mother is an amazing knitter. She learned to knit from my grandmother (her mother-in-law) on a trip to Israel. Mom and Dad hadn't been married overly long when they set out to go and visit his parents. I believe it was 1979, we'll say 1979, because it's a good year. They flew over and had lot of adventures dodging bees, military personnel, and a Frenchman with a bad attitude regarding eggs. While there, my left handed mother attempted to learn to knit from my right handed grandmother. At the end of their time there, my grandmother sent Mom off with a pair of needles, a ball of yarn, and no idea how to bind off. Mom spent the hours flying knitting, knitting, and knitting until she would run out of yarn. Then she'd frog, frog, frog, and wind, wind, wind and start all over again.

When Mom came back to the US, she had someone teach her how to bind off, and basically hasn't looked back since. I cannot remember a time when my Mom didn't have some sort of knitting going on. For a long time, I don't remember her actually finishing anything. (Not that she didn't, I just wasn't all that observant.) I do remember on driving trips, Mom would take a ball of yarn and knit, knit, knit and then frog, frog, frog and wind wind wind all over again. Just to keep her hands busy. Mom always has to have her hands busy, which has led her to be quite accomplished in a lot of different areas. When you're always doing something, you have a lot of time to get good at things. She is known literally world wide for her: conceptual sculpture, cooking, knitting, sewing, and recently soap making skills. She's notorious in three states for her needlepoint, weaving, and and soon knife making. I've watched her fix phones lines with a Swiss army knife, teach her spouse and child the finer points of hospital corners on the sheets, and create the sweetest bunnies for infants.

I think my Mom can do anything. I know all children, while still young, feel their parents know everything. I never grew out of that stage. Of course, having a mother who can put Martha to shame, while welding a sink stand, tends to make you really believe it's true. My whole life I've stood in awe of my mother. In the past decade or so, I've set out to at least match her in certain areas. I've vastly improved my cooking skills. (I'm no Julia Child mind you, but I've fooled ALL my in-laws into thinking I'm a master home chef.) I have also tried to find some sort of needle art at which I can excel. I've been a cross-stitcher for years, and to be honest, I'm pretty good. That said I like to work on tiny things, and I just don't have the light for it to be fun.

So, I moved from stitching to quilting. That lasted about 2 months. I did try and make the transition while I was also planning my wedding. It didn't go well at all. My husband and I live in 600 square feet of apartment hell. Quilting takes up ROOM. Lots and lots of room. You have to have room to create those perfect cuts. You have to have room to lay everything out, you have to have room to piece. Most importantly, you have to have room to store all that damn fabric.

We have no room. I also like to take my projects with me. I've taught my nieces how to cross stitch. We're working on embroidery as well. They became interested when I would bring things over to work on while we visited. If you've ever tried to travel with cross stitch, you'll know that it's a freaking safari. You need your pattern, your scissors, your needles, your threads, your frame, the project itself and something to hold the whole thing together. And that if you're travelling light.

After the wedding, I just couldn't get started with anything. I didn't want to stitch. I sure as hell wasn't going to quilt. I needed something I didn't really have to focus on while I was doing it. I just didn't know what to do. The weekend after Christmas, my long suffering (at this point we'd been married for 3 months, but had been together for 4 years) husband and I went to visit my parents in Houston, TX. While we were there, my mother showed me needlepoint. Oh, it was LOVE at first sight! I went to a class with her at her LNS, and just loved everything about it. Also while we were there, I watched Mom teach Daniel (my husband) how to knit. As much as I love needlepoint, and boy do I LOVE needlepoint, that set my toes to tapping.

We came home and while I worked on my needlepoint (a very sweet Valentine's heart), Daniel worked on his knitting. Mom had shown him how to cast on, knit, and purl. No bind off. She'd also sent him home with a pair of needles, and a ball of purple yarn. I finished my needlepoint, and drove down to Houston. Mom and I went to another class, I turned in my heart to be finished, and I selected a new project. I was glowing when I came home. Needlepoint is just such a beautiful thing! I chose another heart, and this time had 4 new stitches to work with.

I came home and promptly became TOTALLY stuck. Apparently the leaf stitch is NOT something that I can do. I kept trying to go to my LNS, but the only time I can get there is on Saturdays, and they're just too busy to sit down and try and teach a stitch to me. If I could get there at any other time, I know that they would LOVE to help me, but I just can't seem to make it. (The horrors of a full time job.)

So, I was back at square one. I couldn't move forward with my needlepoint, it hurts my eyes/head to cross stitch, and my hands were idle. All the while, I was looking at my husband with what was starting to feel like jealousy. (Me, jealous of knitting? As if, I didn't even want to learn!)

Valentine's was coming up, and I watched my husband struggle with the purl stitch. Plus, he didn't know how to bind off. He needed to learn so that he could show my youngest niece how to use a knitting kit she had received as a Christmas present. He was frustrated, so I started looking online for knitting classes in our area. I found a LYS called The Knitting Nook. It wasn't overly out of the way, so I dragged my sister-in-law with me to check them out and purchase the Beginner's Knitting Class. It was a series of 3 Saturday afternoon classes, each two hours. The ladies at the Nook were very kind, and mentioned that last month there had been another man in the B.K.C., so I felt more at ease. I bought the class, green cotton yarn, and a pair of needles.

One weekend later, on February 13th, I was set to drop my husband off at knitting school. I was at loose ends that day, and planned to just go home and nap or something until he was done. My husband hates for me to be a loose ends. [Each weekend, if he's off working on his true love (a 1971 roadrunner), he drops me off with his sister. I adore my sister-in-law, but sometimes I wonder if he trusts me on my own. (It's probably that he knows that I would end up spending the afternoon shopping if left to myself that makes him take such measures.) ] Instead of turning my purse and I loose, he asked if I would like knitting classes for my Valentine's present. Well, it certainly sounded more interesting than window shopping for things I wasn't supposed to buy, so I said 'Sure.' We walked in and asked if there was room for one more. There wasn't really room, but the teacher, let's call her Rose , said that she could accommodate us. I purchased coral yarn and some size 9 needles, and sat down to learn. By the end of two hours, I was casting on (using the knit on cast on), knitting and purling. To my surprise, I was kind of not terrible. No one in the class was hopeless, and I wasn't even the worst. (Daniel was the best, but I was trying NOT to compete.)

All was bliss for three weeks. Daniel and I would come home from work in the evenings and knit. We would practice our new skills we were learning in class, and we each made several dishcloths. We learned the long tail cast on, and we both started playing around with making ribbed swatches. I even made a basketweave dishcloth for my mother. It didn't turn out square, but she seems to like it.

I restrained myself, and only made two yarn purchases. I bought some sock yarn that was on DEEP discount, and 4 skeins of superwash merino (worsted weight) to make a doll blanket for my niece. All of our knitting supplies are in one basket, one that was already hanging out in our living room, so there's no fighting for space. (I knew that if I actually brought in anything that didn't fit in the basket, we'd have the there-is-no-room-for-anything fight again. I always lose that fight, so I try and avoid it.)

Then, all of a sudden my husband refused to continue knitting! WHAT?! I though you liked knitting? You're the one who got us into this, and now you're just going to quit? What about all that grief you gave me about quitting quilting? You bought white yarn for a specific project, are you just going to waste it? I asked and asked and asked, why are you quitting? After a few days of stupid answers, he finally coughed up the real one. "Squishy, you love knitting more than anything. You're always knitting, and you're really good at it. I want people to think of you as "the knitter" in the family."

Other than that being the DUMBEST reason on earth to quit something, I have to say it was an awakening. He was right, I love to knit. I don't mind that I'm not perfect, which is usually an issue with me. (I have to be perfect on my first try, or I won't try it again.) With knitting however, dropped stitches are just funny, and extra stitches can be simply fixed with a k2tog. (At least until I get to something that requires fit.) Knitting is compact, so I can take it anywhere. I just need two needles and a ball of yarn. I don't have to focus on it, so I can watch TV while working on it. It doesn't make my eyes hurt. I'm totally relaxed about the whole thing. Amazing....

All that said, my husband really should knit as well. I liked the fact that there was something that we could do together that didn't involve me having to try and understand car speak, and him coming home smelling like transmission fluid. He seems to be a natural knitter. He's pretty quick considering he's a novice, and he has great tension control. His stitches are all nice and evenly spaced. Also, for some strange reason I don't feel the need to compete with him over knitting. He has his strengths, and I have mine. (Mainly that I have more time to knit, so I look like I'm getting a lot more done.) I had a moment where I saw us knitting together, making sock and scarf sets for Christmas presents. I was really looking forward to some knitted goods for our anniversary. I have to think of a plan to get him knitting again.

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