About ten years ago, I tried to learn to knit.
I was working as a newspaper reporter in Palm Springs, and one of my editors suggested that a fun feature for the education beat would be a story about the newfound popularity of knitting among kids and young adults. That sounded kind of fun, so I reached out to a couple of local schools that started knitting clubs and dropped by a local yarn store to inquire about interviewing one of their knitting instructors.
The knitting store woman was pleased that I wanted to write an article about knitting, and she was happy to talk to me about it. “But only under one condition,” she said. “You have to let me teach you how to do it yourself. You can’t write about it unless you can do it.”
Well, I’d written about lots of things without actually being able to do them–cancer surgery, anyone?–that’s a journalist’s job. But I knew what she meant. So I agreed. How hard could it be, I reasoned.
A couple of weeks later, as I struggled with a pair of unyielding knitting needles and a series of too-tight stitches, my husband remarked that he’d never heard anyone swear so much. You know, my husband, the doctor. In the Navy.
“Oh, shut up,” I grumbled, as I tried awkwardly to stick one needle through a stitch. Backwards? No, wait, it was supposed to go the other way. Why won’t these stitches move? How am I supposed to get them off one needle and onto the other one? Who came up with this and thought it was a good idea?
I wrestled with that pair of size 8 needles and blue yarn for a few more days, then bailed. I still wrote the story, and it even turned out pretty well. Even if I never knitted more than about eight rows of tentative, uneven stitches.
Fast forward to…March of this year. William and I were wandering around Michael’s, looking for Rainbow Loom refills. William spotted a loom that supposedly made it easy to “knit” scarves. “Hey, we could do that!” he suggested brightly. He’s so optimistic, my elder child.
Hmmm. We were coming up on Spring Break…a very long two-week Spring Break, and it was going to be cold and wet. Maybe it’d be nice to have a project we could work on. I bought the loom (Knit Quick, in case you’re curious) and two skeins of charcoal gray yarn, and we headed home.
At home, I dumped everything onto the kitchen table and ostentatiously unfolded the set of directions. “William, we always read the directions when we are trying something new,” I pontificated. I’m trying to set a good example, see. And to make my point, I even read the entire set of directions before picking up the loom. This is progress for me, I might add. After a few failed starts, I started to get the hang of wrapping the yarn around the posts of the loom, then using a crochet hook to lift one set of loops over the pegs to create a row of “stitches.”
I had to stop at one point and start over, but I quickly got back into it. Wrap, wrap, wrap, loop, loop, loop. A few nights later, I had an actual scarf. That I made! With my own hands! William began agitating for me to make him one, so we dashed back to Michael’s, where he picked out some yarn. I worked on that one for a few days, and William even got into the act and did a few rows. And a couple of days later, we had yet another handmade scarf.
So this all led me to consider trying the real deal once again. One of my favorite Bible verses is from Isaiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” And why not try a new (or mostly new) thing? Maybe it will be easier this time. If I’m trying to live by that advice in my ecclesiastical life, I probably should at least give it a shot in my regular life, too.
Here’s the funny thing. It was.
It helped that I was able to find some good beginning-knitting videos on the Internet. I watched, watched and watched again, as I held a freshly purchased pair of size 8 bamboo needles (I’d long since lost that original pair) and some coral yarn. In this way, I figured out how to cast on. I casted on a dozen stitches, took them off, casted on 15, took them off, and kept doing it ’til I felt like I’d gotten the hang of it. Then I worked on the knit stitch. Same routine, more or less. Watch, attempt, watch, reattempt. But it worked. I even figured out how to bind off, using this method. God bless the Interwebs.
I’m now working on mastering the purl stitch. I also am nearly finished knitting a dark pink scarf. I started knitting it on a larger set of needles that I bought after I developed some confidence. It’s not fancy. But I’m making it, and I’m proud of that. I can hold it, touch it, loop it around my neck. As a writer, I work with words. And these days, I write so much for online publications that I rarely even have a printed version of my work to hold in my hands. Somehow, is so satisfying to make something tangible and tactile, to have something that I made that I can hold and touch.