This is my grandmother Dorothy. When I decided to do my first Blog Week post about her and my knitting beginnings, I was surprised and a little sad that I could not find a photo of her with yarn in her hands. She was seldom without it. She has been gone nearly 15 years now, but her impact on my life was enormous.
Except that I don’t think she ever really knew it.
She did not knit. She was a crocheter. And a really good one. From the youngest of ages I would admire what she could create with some string and a funny-looking hook. When I was about 7 years old I was a little bored one day so I asked her to show me how to do what she was doing. I wish I could say that I took to it like a fish to water, but it wasn’t like that. I have dexterity limitations, and no matter how I tried that day, I could not make the hook “go.” So she said, “You know what? We don’t need a hook today,” and tossed it aside over her shoulder with a flourish, to make me laugh. She then showed me how to make a yarn “snake” using my fingers. (Little did I know that I was, in fact, making the chain stitch.) I probably made a 6-foot snake that afternoon. Step one: complete.
Over time I did try and try again with the hook, and eventually I got it. I was always asking her for her “spare” yarn to make something with, and, well, as an avid crocheter, there was no end to the ball ends and yarn bits to keep me going.
She even helped me choose the most expensive yarn I’d ever bought at the time for a college boyfriend, and helped me pick a pattern that was just perfect. I worked on it for months and she proclaimed it a true crochet triumph. Sadly no one had yet told me about the “boyfriend curse” in 1985, and the boy, and the afghan, were soon long gone. Undaunted and a glutton for punishment, I then crocheted an afghan for my next serious boyfriend, again choosing a yarn and a stunning design with her help. She did keep asking, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes,” I replied, because by now working with yarn was such a part of me that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Luckily, that boyfriend truly appreciated the gift and its maker, and by now we’ve been married for more than 17 years.
My husband and I married in 1992. In the summer of 1995 I gleefully announced that I was expecting our first child. I asked my grandmother if she would crochet the christening gown for my baby to wear. She of course said yes, and started right away. But soon she had some news of her own… she had ovarian cancer, but vowed to stay well… “because I’ve got to meet that great-grandbaby that’s coming,” she said.
Sadly, it was not to be. My grandmother died exactly one month before my daughter was born, leaving the christening gown unfinished. One of my aunts did finish it, and my daughter was baptized in it when she was three months old.
So, what does all of this have to do with my knitting? Let me explain. I crocheted regularly in my life until about 2003, when I made a baby afghan for my new niece. It was the last time I ever picked up a crochet hook with completing a project in mind. When I was done with that beauty, which contained crocheted bobbles and all sorts of other fancy stitches, my hands HURT. A lot. I was in pain for months and came to the sad realization that the twisting motion required for crochet was really hurting my hands.
But the love of yarn had been so ingrained in me, thanks to my grandmother, that it was only a matter of 9 months or so before I decided that I could not tolerate my yarn-less lifestyle, and I became determined to learn to knit.
I had done a little bit of knitting with the Bond Sweater Machine, so at least I understood the concept of knitting, but where I fell flat was with the two metal needles and acrylic yarn thing. It turns out that for the most part I cannot knit with two sticks. Because of the way I hold my yarn, again because of my dexterity disability, I was constantly dropping the needles out of my stitches and they would clatter to the floor, out of my reach.
But, I loved yarn too much, and continued researching. I finally discovered the concept of circular needles, and sticky wool. These things, my friends, were the answer to me being a successful beginning knitter. Armed with a book called Knitting For Dummies, I was on my way. I read the book cover to cover, and learned as I went.
Those first days of knitting were fun and exciting. It was a matter of days before I started my first project–what turned out to be a wonky scarf for a friend. That first project pre-dates my blog by only a few months, and sadly, there are no photos to document its lop-sided existence. However, I am very proud of the second-ever project that I made.
For a second project, I was pretty impressed with myself. I came up with the design myself. The hat was knit in the round, using Magic Loop (my favorite technique), and consists of 5 rounds of knit stitches followed by 2 rounds of purl stitches. The top of the hat is relatively flat, and the scarf, knit flat, uses the same repeat of knit and purl rows. Simple, but cute! My daughter has so outgrown pink by now, else she’d probably still be wearing it. It’s in great shape to this day.
Now? It’s 6 years later and there’s not a day that goes by when I”m knitting away that I don’t think of my grandmother and her love of yarn that she shared with me. I’m currently working on what will be my very first sweater. I’ve always been a little afraid to knit things that actually have to fit. But, my friends, that is the subject of another post. Stay tuned….