Knitting and me: Origins

One of my strongest memories of my nanna is her knitting. She was very good and made many a jumper, cardigan, and beanie for my sister and me when we were growing up. I can remember her sitting in her chair by the fireplace and the click-clack-click-clack sound of the needles as she knitted away, often whilst watching TV or having a chat. I distinctly remember thinking she was some kind of wool wizard, to be able to conjure up a jumper AND hold a conversation at the same time (…maybe she was a conversational wizard instead?? #namethatreference).

I’ve tried to harness this so-called magic of knitting myself a few times. Once, when I was about 8, and managed to make a scarf of questionable colours with a (heavy) helping hand from both Nanna and mum. It clearly didn’t sink in though, because I dropped knitting like a hot cross bun soon after. Fast forward more years than I care to admit, to my brief dalliance (oo-er) with crochet just a few years ago. There I was, sitting on the couch next to Mathew, when a flash of inspiration caused me to ask him to teach me the way of the crochet (he is a man of many talents including, but certainly not limited to, crochet and knitting). And so he patiently showed me how to make a granny square, while I swore like a sailor on leave out of sheer frustration. (What the HELL is up with crochet?? What even is a stitch??) Alas, it was not meant to be, crochet and me.

Then, a few weeks ago, in the Christmas break, I asked Mathew if, on the condition that I wouldn’t swear and get aggressive, he’d teach me how to knit. And so I picked up the needles again and gave it a go. There must have been some sort of cosmic alignment or maybe my brain was simply in the right frame of mind, because it just seemed to work this time. I mean, I still struggled at the start and still have some difficulties now, but I found it much easier to ‘get’. I am finally at one with the needles of knit. I’m practically the David Attenborough of knitting.

attenborough_monstrous_crab
Except imagine my latest knitting project instead of a monstrous crab.

In reality though, I’ve no idea what I’m doing or what it is that I’m making here (a wonky pot holder is my best guess), but I’m starting to appreciate the lessons I’m already learning along the way. Hear ye, hear ye:

1. Tension is hard. At first, I was clenching everything – the yarn, the needles, my hands, my buttocks – because I was worried whatever it was that I was making would be all over the joint if I didn’t yank the yarn tight after every. single. stitch. This, unsurprisingly, meant I could barely get the needle point into the next stitch (it took me a concerning amount of time to realise that these two acts might be connected, but I blame the tax that learning to knit placed on my brain). I had to make a conscious effort to be a loosey-goosey and when I did, my knitting improved.

Image result for community annie loosey goosey gif

Knitting is all about letting goooo, relaxing your hands and your shoulders (and buttocks, apparently). But also:

2. Concentrating. Or else you’ll drop a stitch. Or pick up some other random one from a previous row. Or make a new one somehow. I honestly don’t know how I make half the mistakes I make. Which brings me to:

3. Learning to live with the imperfect. Especially when you’re just starting out. As decided earlier, knitting is some kind of magic. You are creating things literally from winding one (or more) long continuous piece of string around two sticks. It is bizarre and wonderful and not necessarily intuitive to everyone, all the time. Some days it will be easy, other days it will be like pushing something really heavy up a really big hill all by yourself (insert appropriate idiom here please). You’re bound to make mistakes. You’re bound to forget how to do things. And that’s okay; that’s what the internet is for! And Mathews.

I’m very grateful that I’ve become privy to the wonders of knitting. I’ve needed something to keep my mind from obsessing/panicking when I should be unwinding, and knitting seems to fit the bill (see #2). Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go sit in a comfy chair with my knitting needles in hand and watch Gilmore Girls in the background. Thanks for the inspiration, Nanna. I can’t promise I’ll ever be able to make a beanie that my grandchildren will wear to the beach every winter, but I hope I can make you proud nonetheless.

tl;dr: Knitting is magic, needles are wands, and I am a wizard!

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Jacquie is a 20-something maker and writer from Melbourne. She enjoys eating virtually anything that is labelled salted caramel and, contrary to popular belief, has forgotten how to ride a bike. She feels ambivalent about writing in the third person but thought it might be fun. It was.

11 comments

  1. DeannaM

    Yay for knitting! My Grandmother has taught me so many times that I have lost count, but I keep forgetting because I never work on it for longer than a week or so. And my gosh! The mistakes!! How do we do it? How can I not count?? I tried to make a baby beret and I couldn’t get the increase or decrease right for anything, it is still sitting there not even 1/4 finished, and now I’ve forgotten how to do it πŸ˜’.

    Haha, Cal can knit and crochet too! (But shhh, he doesn’t advertise it). My Grandmother was showing me (again) one night and he wanted to have a go. He became obsessed with it for a few months and can knit and crochet way better than me, has made a few scarves and these awesome patterned fingerless gloves. Yay for crafty boys!

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    1. Jacquie

      Oh my word, the mistakes are left, right, and centre haha. It’s quite amusing actually, because I can feel like I’m making such good progress as I’m knitting my row and then stop and take a look at the piece as a whole and find that I’ve slowly been making it wider and wider somehow! Ah well, ’tis all part of the fun.

      Man, crafty boys are the BEST. I’m so glad you have one in your life too hehe.

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  2. Isabel

    Jacquie!
    This post makes me happy for so many reasons, but here are three:
    1. You’re blogging again! I love reading your writing.
    2. You’re knitting! Knitting gives me more joy and peace-of-mind than I can tell you. I started with a narrow-wide-narrow scarf, my very first imperfect project which I wore with pride. Now I can make almost anything. Smug, maybe, but you just build up your skills bit by bit and it’s the best. Plus…the internet! How-to videos!
    3. I read your post as I was settling down in my own comfy chair, knitting needles in hand, to *watch* (in the background) SeaChange. Love a background show for knitting. Doesn’t matter if you’ve seen it before…because you’ll mostly just be listening!
    I really feel knitting has important lessons to teach us about life (imperfection, concentration, bit-by-bit mentality etc). Good luck with your project and thrilled that you’re writing again!
    xx Isabel

    Reply

    1. Jacquie

      Oh gosh, thanks so much, Isabel! How lovely to receive such a warm welcome back. Yes! I am very much looking forward to making a misshapen scarf that I too shall wear with pride. I’m thinking a nice infinity scarf might be nice (I think there’s enough time between now and winter for me to make that happen). I completely agree; as I was drafting the post I had an epiphany where I thought “These lessons are all very applicable to many different things in life/life itself…maybe knitting IS life??” The bit-by-bit mentality is particularly welcome in my life right now. Slowing down is good for the soul. Thanks again for your lovely comment – it made me smile! xx

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    2. Jacquie

      Also SeaChange is one of the shows that I missed out on when I was younger. Do I need to rectify this?

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      1. Isabel

        You need to rectify this immediately. I think any life lessons knitting doesn’t teach, SeaChange does πŸ™‚ It’s the best. My favorite show of all time.

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        1. Jacquie

          High praise! I will have to get onto it. I did start reading Helen Garner because of you, after all, and that was an excellent life choice.

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  3. Carolyn

    So ace, Jacquie! My grandma taught me too. She click-clacked away to keep her arthritic fingers loose. I’m often filled with wonder at how man6 patterns can be achieved from two stitches – knit and purl -and then the addition of a few slips here and there, yarns around. Magic indeed! But the dropped stitches! Argh! This is where crochet is more forgiving. I love that you have a crafty man in your life. Definitely no appearances of that in our home πŸ˜•

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    1. Jacquie

      Yes! My mind was blown when Mathew showed me all the different patterns. It hurt my head a little haha. I’m not sure I’ll ever work up to doing anything super fancy, but it’s nice to know there are options! I definitely need to practice my basic knit and purl so I can confident I won’t drop any stitches first. Hehe yes, I feel very fortunate to have such a handy individual nearby πŸ˜€ Thanks, Carolyn!

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  4. Emily

    Yay for you giving knitting another chance and blogging again! My Mum taught me how to knit, I never got the hang of holding the needles correctly, then I learnt a different way in Germany and know seem to do a combination of those ways. Hmmm, it means I am very slow and end up with sore shoulders. I’m happy that I knitted myself a mohair cardigan when I was pregnant 20 plus years ago, but I don’t think I have the patience to do it again. I still have that cardigan, even though it is massive and too scratchy I am proud I made it so it stays. Keep on clickety clacking.

    Reply

    1. Jacquie

      German knitting – how intriguing! Shame about the sore shoulders though. I certainly felt sore in the hands and fingers at first, but that was probably due to my clenching πŸ˜› How lovely that you still have your mohair cardi; that’s very sweet. I hope I can make something and hang onto it like that. Thanks for the encouragement, Emily!

      Reply

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