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