When I was little, I had a red and white blanket that I loved. My great-aunt Linda, who lived two houses down and across the street, made it for me when I was a baby. I cuddled under that blanket when I was sick, while I watched Saturday morning cartoons, while I read, and countless other times over the years, until the blanket was worn and shredding.
I loved our trips to Linda's house. My grandma and I would walk to her house at least once a week, usually much more. I was always fascinated by her house. I loved the wall of bookshelves in her living room and the basket of knitting she kept by her chair. She often sent me home with dusty books books to read, books her own children had read when they were young. I sometimes wondered if I could learn to knit, too. But Linda's health declined over the years, and she died when I was twelve. I never asked her to teach me.
As an adult, I tried to learn a couple of times, but I never got beyond a knit stitch. I couldn't even figure out how to purl. Last year, a couple of writing friends, both around my age, started knitting. Their projects started popping up in my Facebook and Instagram feeds. I was fascinated. They were making beautiful projects - scarves, socks, boot cuffs, dishcloths, and more.
Knitting was on my mind in September, when my family met my sister-in-law and her family for vacation at a condo in Orange Beach, Alabama. My sweet sister-in-law Vanessa bought a copy of a Friday Night Knitter's Club novel for me. I started reading by the pool, stretched out in the warm Alabama sunshine. Reading about knitting, how it brought friends together, and the joy of creating something beautiful was the push I needed.
When we got home, I found some free beginner dishcloth patterns and printable knittning instructions. I picked up a set of size 8 needles at Walmart for less than $3 and dug out a ball of yarn, discarded in my closet from a previous attempt to learn. Sitting in my car on a long lunch break, I cast on some stitches and started knitting swatches.
Starting my first real pattern was scary. I'm a perfectionist. What if I messed up? What if it looked awful? I decided to use scrap yarn and make a "practice" pattern first. I did mess up...this was supposed to be a striped pattern. Not sure how I turned it into a chevron. Still, I finished, and it gave me confidence.
My first "real" project, a simple basketweave pattern, turned out much better. I made more dishcloths. I turned to YouTube to learn techniques that didn't make sense written out on paper - the long-tail cast on, yarn overs, slipping stitches and passing stitches over.
I made even more dishcloths. My family asked if I was ever going to make something besides dishcloths. So I made a boot cuff. Which didn't fit. (I have really big calves. It's even hard to find tall boots that fit over them.)
I have a growing queue of projects filed away for this year - scarves, bigger boot cuffs, blankets, socks (although that's pretty intimidating - that may have to wait). I'm addicted.
People ask me often what made me decide to learn. My memories of my great-aunt Linda were probably the main reason. I wish I could tell her that I finally learned to knit because she inspired me. One day I'll get the chance. I also started to realize that making things by hand is a lost art. In a world where everything is instant and disposable, I love the idea of making something by hand, something with a story a memories behind it - like Linda's blanket. Finally, it's just so relaxing. Knitting is so soothing - the steady rhythm of working the needles calms me down after a stressful day.
Are there any other knitters out there? I'd love to connect with you on Instagram! That's where I share most of my knitting projects and mishaps.