Nov 07

So I CAN Knit

For all the years I spent doing textile arts, I never did learn to knit. I tried to in junior high — got a pair of big chunky wooden knitting needles and some kind of god-awful acrylic yarn and tried to learn. It was a mess. I thought about trying to learn several times after that. I had plenty of friends who knit and who would offer to teach me, but I never really got the motivation. I just kept saying, to myself and to them, “oh, I can’t knit. I tried but it was a failure.” I could never seem to juggle the two needles and the yarn without dropping things or catching one needle on something or poking bystanders with a wayward needle or just, in general, feeling insanely clumsy.

The trouble is, I quit weaving but was left with all this wonderful handspun yarn that I’d created over the years. I gave away most of the commercial weaving yarn with no regrets, but I wasn’t going to just let handspun wool and silk and alpaca go. Besides, there was always the idea of handspun socks. THOSE I wanted to be able to make, special socks out of my special yarn, made by me from fiber to finished product.

I studied. I researched. I read and observed. I found out that you could knit with circular needles, even if you were knitting flat — no more dropped or poking needles. I discovered that you didn’t have to hold your yarn in your right hand and “throw” it around the needle. Instead, there was Continental knitting, where you held the yarn the same way I was accustomed to holding it when crocheting and you didn’t have to let go of a needle to throw the yarn. Maybe, just maybe, it might be possible.

So I got some commercial sock yarn and two circular needles and got Andrea to show me what to do. It still didn’t work, but I was getting closer. What I needed to do was start simpler, just do a few practice pieces, calling them scarves (you can call any long skinny flat piece a scarf, after all), and drilling the stitch motions the same way I drill bellydance moves, over and over until it becomes ingrained.

Larger yarn, a larger needle — two and a half skeins later, I do believe I have the knit stitch down. When I finish this skein, I have one more to use if I wish. Then it will be on to the next skeins and mastering purl stitch itself, plus switching back and forth between knit & purl like you have to for ribbing and other stuff. I may never go so far as to knit a sweater, for me or anyone else. At least, however. by this time next year I can hope to have my toes caressed by the little luxury that is handknit, handspun, one-of-a-kind socks, knit by ME and breaking the “I can’t knit” curse after all these years.

1 comment

    • Gary on November 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    We can be our own biggest obstacle.

    I had the same problem for years in school. “This is too hard. I’ll never learn this @#, er, stuff.”

    One day my father told me his approach. Unfortunately, it was long after my academic career was over, but it’s helped me just the same. He said his approach in school was, “I can learn this, if you’ll show me how.”

    He probably said it to me when I needed it, but I was either parent-deaf or was more likely drowning it out with my mental, “But I caaaaaaaaaann’t.”

    The most important words we ever hear are the ones we tell ourselves when we’re by ourselves.

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