The Feminist Knitter

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Knitting & Crochet Blog Week – Day 1 April 26, 2010

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Today is the first day of Knit and Crochet Blog week. What better day to start using this space!

The topic for Day 1 is as follows:

Starting Out

How and when did you begin knitting/crocheting? was it a skill passed down through generations of your family, or something you learned from Knitting For Dummies? What or who made you pick up the needles/hook for the first time? Was it the celebrity knitting ‘trend’ or your great aunt Hilda?

My mother, a wonderful, fun, smart and inspirational woman, was very “crafty.” She could sew like the wind. She could knit anything and could crochet a little bit. She had a great eye for design and color. That was all before the brain tumor took her sight away….

I was six months old when she learned she had a cancerous brain tumor. She survived surgery, COBALT, partial loss of her vision, divorcing her jackass husband and more surgeries while I was still a baby and toddler. She lost her vision completely when I was about seven or eight. During those early years of my life, though, I can clearly remember the sound of her aluminum knitting needles scraping and clicking against each other. She taught me how to clumsily cast on and knit and purl. When she lost her health further she stopped knitting and I forgot what I had learned.

As an adult I tried to pick up knitting again but felt clumsy and foolish. Crochet suited me better and I taught myself the most basic stitches, enough to make a nice dishcloth, and spent a fair amount of time with a hook in my hands. I only used cheap cotton yarn (you know the brand!) and it split and was frustrating for a beginner to work with.

I set aside crochet completely when I found out I was pregnant with my son. Instead I pursued something I knew I had mastered completely: cross stitch. I did a great sampler for him that has Winnie the Pooh and Piglet on it. It took me a year to complete what with work and the whole pregnancy brain-drain.

Every so often, though, I would still pick up a crochet hook or a pair of knitting needles and try them out.

My mom had passed away when I was nineteen, in 1991, and my surrogate mom, who took me in like her own, was making blankets for babies of friends and family members.

One day I finally asked her to teach me to knit – knowing that she is both a patient teacher and a good one. She is, in fact, such a good teacher that even though she is left-handed she switched her knitting to opposite hands so that I could learn properly. There was only problem: She knits right-handed! So, I could cast on and knit left-handed and there my lessons fell apart. What I had was a great story but a lot of frustration with knitting which was not her fault at all. After all, since I could knit left-handed as she had taught me why not just continue to learn that way? It became a sort of self-constructed road-block.

I’m not sure what prompted me to pick up my crocheting again last year. I know it had something to do with my surrogate sister being pregnant with her first wee one and needing to make something special to honor the baby’s birth. I made a blanket for him and although the sides looked like a drunk person with scissors had gone after it, the rest of it came out pretty darn well.

I finished the blanket in October or November and haven’t been able to stop new projects since then. The more I hold yarn in my hand and the more I create from nothing but a string, the closer I feel to my mom AND to my surrogate mom.

When a good friend asked if I would like to learn to knit I dove in. She taught me to cast on and knit Continental style in an evening. I made my first scarf with yarn she helped me choose.

When the scarf was completed we had a disastrous lesson in purling and then I spent a good hour plus on knitttinghelp watching the video over and over and over and over and over. Once I had it, though, I had it! I making a ribbed scarf now which is coming along nicely.

Working in the fiber arts, to sound all snooty for a moment, is so complicated for me. It’s therapeutic in so many ways. It has so many layers inside me from just being something to keep my hands busy while we watch tv in the evenings to this deep connection to my mom and to my past that I’ve missed.

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