My dad's oldest sister, my aunt Laura, taught me how to knit when I was young. I do not remember the year or how old I was, but I was probably around 9ish. She taught me to knit on a bench at the seminary near my grandparent's house. She taught me the easy way of casting on and stockinette stitch. I remember sitting at the bench as my younger siblings and cousins played on the playground. Amazingly I was in no rush to join them. We went to my grandparents house almost on a weekly basis, and almost always made a trip to the seminary. Here we would play on the playground at the nursery or play "Mother May I" and "Red LIght Green Light". During the fourth of July we would occasionally set off fireworks. I remember going there with my friend Erin where we would visit the different prayer stations, located among the pine trees, where people would write their prayers and leave them at the base of the tree/saint statue. We would read them (please note we were 9 years old and obsessed with Nancy Drew. We were hoping for some mystery)
It was an easy walk from my grandparents house. It was also one that we would make by ourselves. The fact that our parents and grandparents would let us roam freely in the neighborhood surprises me, as there is so much over protectiveness now it seems. I remember going off by myself to the pharmacy (on a busy road, gasp!), to the seminary or to the magic shop that was far from the house (we had to cross a busy street. shock!).
But it was here, one of my big childhood memories, that I learned to knit. I don't remember it being overly hard for me. That is until we got to the purl stitch. I could not get it. Sadly, my Aunt Laura lives in Washington state and left before teaching me how to bind off (well she might have but I do not remember). It was 10 years before I picked up knitting needles again.
I re-started knitting thanks to The Gap. No they did not finish my lessons, but they did inspire me. While shopping at McCain Mall in North LIttle Rock with my friend Amanda we were wandering through Gap. It was winter time so they had the scarves and gloves out. They were selling the scarves for $30. I looked at one and said "I can make that way cheaper." Amanda just kind of rolled her eyes at me and we left to go watch a soccer game.
After my grandmother died lots of her belongings were given to my father to store until his sisters could come and sort out who would get what. My grandmother was a knitter. She made us beautiful outfits that, even now, my mother still laments that we did not really want to wear (apparently we were nudists when we were little). Among her belongings were her knitting supplies. I helped myself and borrowed (kept) a pair of needles (which I still use) and some scraps of yarn. I was going to make a scarf. So at the age of 19, in between studying, sleeping and partying, I sat in my dorm room and knitted. It was not a complicated thing I was knitting, just a long rectangle. I finished it, a multicolor scarf. Problem was I never learned to bind off, I improvised. It would be another 6 years before I learned the correct way.
I loved that scarf. It was not something you would ever see at The Gap, Hollister or J. Crew, but I loved it. I remember I brought it home one Christmas and then never saw it again until I saw a picture of my sister. She was wearing it, now I am not accusing her of stealing it. She probably just saw it lying around and needed a scarf. I never said anything, if she enjoyed better for me.
The next six years saw a lot of scarves, and one failed attempt at a hat. I was not branching out or exploring other options. But I did make a lot of scarves. I also unmade a lot. I would often start a project with an idea but realize half-way through it was not working. This got me through grad school. Coming home at 11 PM each weekday night after a 12 hour day on campus and/or internship I was restless. So as my dog, Pig, would sleep on my feet I would watch TV and knit.
After I moved to NYC, the agency that had offered me a position soon closed that position. I had, at this point, just moved to NYC without a job, without an apartment and two bags of clothes. I quickly found a job at Virgin Megastore and found a free apartment through a hostel in exchange for work. The first couple of months were chaotic, to say the least, but are still some of my most enjoyable. While I continued to look for a "real" job, I was able to explore the city. Hell, I even lived across the street from Central Park. Each night I would come home to my cramped apartment that I shared with 8 other people and watch movies. All the while I knitted.
Now in college I had friends and colleagues who asked if I smoked pot because I never seemed to get anxious or worried. No, I didn't smoke pot I informed them, instead I would use my anxiety and stress to knit (and play with my doggie). Knitting allowed me to work away my stress and concentrate on something that did not involve family theories, the DSM-IV TR and my thesis. I move up to NYC and suddenly I had an excess of energy. I can not sit still. My remedy? Knitting. I knit when watching TV, on the train and even at movies. My roommates would often comment on the fact that they never saw me just sitting there, I was always knitting, cleaning or writing.
I have progressed past the stockinette stitch (thanks to inspiration from Aunt Laura and Grandmother and help from Stitch N' Bitch). I can now purl like a pro and bind off expertly. Thanks to a little old Asian woman who approached me on the subway and missed her stop in order to teach me a better way to hold the needles, I can now knit without really looking at what I am doing. I can now knit by feel. Not that I don't occasionally need to see what I am doing, but I can tell if I missed a stitch by feel now.
Knitting has become my massage. If I am feeling restless, anxious or bored, I pick up knitting needles and just start casting on. I may not have a plan, I might change the plan and I might never finish the plan, but it gives me something to do. It calms me and relaxes me. There are only two stitches in knitting, but you can use those to stitches in different ways to make patterns. Patterns clear my mind, I have to focus on what I am doing, even when I am able to do it while watching TV. Counting stitches. Increase. Decrease, Purl. Knit. These are tangible things. Things that I can control. If my mind is feeling out of control, I pick up knitting needles and suddenly there is order.
A couple of things I am planning on bring to Kenya: knitting needles and yarn. Even if I have to knit something, frog it (unravel) and knit something again, this will help me keep my center. Hopefully there will be someone who wants to learn to knit. Someone who will see what knitting can do for the heart, the body and the mind.
Also Tuesday was Teets day! It was a glorious day!