Confessions of a Knitwit

My daughter Sabrina in the unfortunate sweater I knit her.  Her brother Will is enjoying her misery.

My daughter Sabrina in the unfortunate sweater I knit her. Her brother Will is enjoying her misery.

I’m a knitter.  I come by it honestly.  My mother was an Über knitter.  She taught scores of people to knit, myself included.   Once I visited her in the hospital after a major operation. When I entered her room, I found her trying to talk the nurse into letting her teach her how to knit.  “It’s easy,” she assured her. “I can show you!”   I knew then that she was going to be OK.

My grandmother excelled at fancy needlework – embroidery and lace-making, crocheting and cut work – but nothing so plain as knitting.  So Mom asked my grandfather to teach her to knit; this was in the days before video tutorials and Knitting for Dummies.  Grand Daddy hadn’t a clue, but he had watched his mother knit and he was a problem solver.  Two straightened-out wire coat hangers, a ball of twine and a few false starts later, he had figured it out. There was no stopping Mom after that.

I love knitting.  I can spend hours poring over pattern porn on websites like www.patternfish.com or www.ravelry.com.     I delight in pondering new projects.  I revel in wool.  If you asked me to describe one moment in my life when I was perfectly happy, I would have to say it was sitting on the deck of a cruise ship sailing around a Greek island while knitting, listening to the audio version of Margaux Fragoso’s gripping memoir, Tiger Tiger and sipping on a bottomless gin and tonic.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

My passion for knitting does not, however, mean that I am a good knitter or even a competent one.  Au contraire. Once I was sitting next to a stewardess on a plane from LAX to Hawaii.  She saw that I was knitting, pulled out a piece she was working on – a complicated lace pattern — and asked me to fix a teensy mistake for her.  I then proceeded to completely and irrevocably (there is no other word for it) f-k up her entire project. The worse thing: I had to sit next to her for the next four hours.

Sometimes people say to me, “You’ll have to knit a sweater for me!” As if that would give me great delight.  It would not, but not for the reason you might think.  Chances are any sweater I knit for you would turn out to be oddly misshapen and then you would have to hide your disappointment.  You would most certainly never wear it and how could I blame you?  I remember the sweater I knit for my daughter Sabrina, which was elephantine, or the one I knit for my mother in law — if she was a large dachshund, it might have suited her, but, alas, she is not.

If, however, I knit that same peculiar sweater for myself, I can always unravel it and knit something else out of it, which I can then unravel and so forth.  My husband can attest to the fact that I spend a great deal of time unraveling sweaters.  He appreciates the cost savings; good yarn is expensive.   Recently a woman approached me at the Green Roof Diner here in Port Stanley and asked if I would knit a layette for a grandchild she’s expecting.  “I will pay you,” she said.  “Oh, no,” I hastily demurred.  “I couldn’t deal with the guilt.”

After Mom passed away, we hauled four large garbage bags of yarn down to the Thrift Shop – this was the yarn I didn’t take for myself.  For the next seven years, every time I visited my father, I would find additional bags of yarn and knitting projects in various stages of completion stashed here and there in cupboards and at the back of closets and under beds.  Like a squirrel, Mom cached yarn about her territory lest some unforeseen catastrophe befall her and she find herself without.  As it turned out, catastrophe did befall her — she died — and, as it also turns out, yarn is one of those things you can’t take with you.  I felt bad throwing out those semi-completed projects —  that dangling cowl neck, that half of a sock.  She had such big plans for them and they came to naught.  Like so much in life.

Ah, well.

It’s five o’clock, which means: time to fix myself a Bloody Caesar and break out the needles.

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