I’ve always been fascinated by handcrafts. Crocheting. Knitting. Tatting. At one time or another, I’ve known how to do all of these things, at least in a very basic way.
My maternal grandmother shared her love of crocheting by teaching me to create circles and squares with a hook and yarn. My paternal grandmother taught me to knit and to tat. The tatting shuttle took a great deal of patience to operate. Her pillowcases and handkerchiefs were trimmed in lace created by her shuttle. I remember that she had an ivory shuttle that once been her mothers, my great-grandmother.
I wish I could recapture those moments spent with my grandmothers, their arms around my shoulders and bent fingers touching mine as they guided. I still smell peppermints and lilac scented perfume when I think of them. Perhaps it is this nostalgia that draws me back to these pastimes.
My mother in law taught both of my daughters to knit and crochet. One of the girls is reminding me how to knit and the other has promised to help resurrect my crocheting skills.
So my knitting daughter cast on for me and demonstrated knit and purl, then I repeated her actions to the best of my ability. After a few rows, I could barely push my knitting needles through the stitch.
“Oh, these are much too tight” She smiled and took the needles from my hand. Clickety clack, she finished the row. She is relaxed and confident young woman. I, on the other hand, have insides that are sometimes twisted in knots like tangled yarn. Which is, after all, largely why I’m interested in the relaxing practice of knitting in the first place.
“You should start on larger needles,” she suggested, looking at me with kind concern. It’s an interesting turn of events when your child advises, in tender tones, that you might want to consider something tantamount to training wheels for a bicycle.
So off I went, to purchase a larger pair of needles from Kniterary, a quaint shop in my hometown. The woman behind the counter quickly ascertained my skill level.
“What would you like to make?” she asked.
“Well, I’m just a beginner …”
“Do you know how to knit and purl?”
I nodded. The language of knitting is mostly reassuring, although casting on and off has me in a bit of a dither. It sounds like a boating metaphor and I get seasick at the mere thought of pitching over the waves.
The shopkeeper reached for two small balls of cotton yarn and a set of thicker needles. “You could start off knitting – dishcloths.”
Not a sexy beginning I admit, but I must walk before I can run. My dreams of knitting infinity scarves and Irish cable knit sweaters will have to wait.
Practiced knitters don’t need to watch their needles as they work. That must be nice. I’m like a new driver. I over think every move until my shoulders have raised to my ear lobes and my elbows are crowding my armpits. But I’m an optimist. I know I’ll get there.
Knitting is hard. Writing is hard. They are both hard in different ways.
Writing is an affair with a fickle lover. Some days the affection of words can be drawn out more easily, and some days they turn their back on me. “Not tonight,” they say, “I have a headache”. But if I stay with it long enough, the words will eventually give in and begin to flow from my mind then through my finger. I can arrange and rearrange them on the page with the tap on the keyboard. The more I think, the more I am rewarded.
Knitting, not so much. My brain tells my fingers what to do, but my fingers and thumbs betray me. The more I tell myself to create a looser stitch, the tighter each stitch becomes. It’s like bowling. The worse I play, the harder I try, then the worse I play, then the harder I try until finally, I want nothing more than to return my bowling shoes and march to the car. Suffice it to say, I’m at the practice stage of things. I do a lot of knitting and unraveling.
To my knowledge, no one in my family knows how to tat. In the near future, I’ll be resurrecting that art and make my contribution to the family knowledge pool. But for now, I remain a grateful student.
March 6, 2016 at 7:42 am
Oh, thanks for taking me back to visit with my long gone mother and grandmother. Mom taught me to sew like my life wouldn’t be complete without it and grandma to bake love in a date filled oatmeal cookie. Learned to quilt from a lovely group of ladies, the oldest, Nellie, so nimble she crawled under the quilt frame and popped up to start on the far side of my king-size quilt top which we’d mounted on the frames in my basement. I did a square on the corner with the quilters’ names in the corner so I’d remember them. BTW Nellie was about 87 at the time. Memories are knit one moment after another into a skein that lasts a lifetime. Enjoy your journey, Gwen!
March 7, 2016 at 7:28 pm
Elaine, there are so many jewels in this reply! Sewing with your mother and baking with your grandmother. Such a shame that so much distance separates most families these days, mine included. I only hope I’m remembered so fondly by my own grandchildren (when they arrive someday). I hope you will blog about these memories and about Nellie too. Your description conjures quite a picture:) Thanks for dropping by Elaine. We really must connect.
March 9, 2016 at 1:55 pm
I did it, Gwen! You spurred me on and today’s Wednesday blog post is the result over on On Becoming a Wordsmith. Thanks for the idea!
March 9, 2016 at 11:17 pm
Oh Elaine, I just visited your blog. Wonderful nostalgia!
March 6, 2016 at 2:06 pm
Great memories of crafting Gwen. I’m afraid I was never any good at knitting – I just don’t have the patience for it! One of the crafts that was done in this area was ‘proggy mats’, basically pulling scraps of fabric through hessian to create rugs – and often done communally.
March 7, 2016 at 7:31 pm
Hi Andrea! Thanks for introducing me to something new. Proggy mats! Even the name makes me smile. I hadn’t heard of those before so I headed to Google for a look. The effect is very homespun. I like it:)
March 7, 2016 at 5:35 am
I never learned how to knit or crochet though I did like cross stitch. My one attempt to make a skirt in home economics is still hysterically famous: hideously wrong material, hemmed inside out. I love how you defined writing as ‘an affair with a fickle lover. Some days the affection of words can be drawn out more easily, and some days they turn their back on me. “Not tonight,” they say, “I have a headache”.’ Yes, and we have to court them carefully!
March 7, 2016 at 7:35 pm
Hi Cryssa. Thanks for reminding me about home ec class. I actually still have a pencil case that I made in grade 9 or 10. I can sew some basic items, but nothing too fancy. Even pattern cutting requires a knack. That is where the difficulty begins for me. I’ll stick to knitting for now.