fourzoas: (W&G Knitting)
[personal profile] fourzoas
In through the front door
Around the back
Out through the window
Off jumps Jack.

--poem used for children's knitting instruction

I learned to knit in the summer of 2001, the last summer I'd spend with my friend's family at Hilton Head. I'd been a regular guest for their family vacations and always enjoyed this opportunity to reconnect with the folks who'd kept me sane during the previous decade of soul searching across the deep South. It was raining that day, so Momma Donna pulled out the inexpensive metal needles and dishcloth cotton she'd purchased for just such an occasion. All of the children--including the grown ones--gathered around the table for a knitting lesson.

I knew from the moment I slid the first metal tip through the first cotton loop that I was, to borrow a term from my crocheting sisters, hooked. That first project looked nothing like the dishcloth it was intended to be, but I've kept it in my knitting basket all these years as a reminder. There were other, more successful projects--hats, scarves, socks, shawls--and other, more luxurious tools and fibers--bamboo, casein, silk, merino wools, cashmere--but the basic motion remained the same. In, Around, Out, Off. In, Around, Out, Off.

I whispered fuzzy mantras through graduate school. My knitting was a constant as things around me changed: new students, new classes, new challenges, new me. I knew I'd turned a corner when the needles replaced the cigarettes, when I whipped out a ball of sock yarn and double points while sipping happy hour cocktails with my grad school colleagues. It wasn't long before I was spending less time at bars and more time at home or at the yarn shop. I felt like I'd crossed over to some new adulthood, a space where I was as comfortable sharing recipes as I was sharing readings of complicated texts. On the day I passed my comprehensive exams, I celebrated by purchasing a gorgeous hank of fine-spun silk yarn. It was to be a shawl to wear beneath my doctoral robes, but life--and my growing obsession with handknit sweaters and socks--kept me from even starting that shawl. Just as well: summer in Georgia is no time to add unnecessary layers to your academic regalia.

Instead, I knit a shawl for my mother, a long rectangle of white lace that practically engulfs her tiny frame. For all my poise when speaking to strangers, I've never been able to address the assembled members of my large family without bursting into tears from the love I feel for them. I like to think of that enormous piece of knitting as a less embarrassing way to tell my mom what she means to me.

I started teaching others, gathering them in from different places, sitting them around the table, teaching them when to take out their mistakes, sending them off with new skills. My own knitting took a back seat to the knitting of others, and I learned to see each student in those knitting classes and the ones I taught at the university, by extension, as the individual stitches they were in the fabric of my own life. The faces changed--always change--but the yarn kept flowing through my fingers and from my needles. In. Around. Out. Off.

I think I knew I'd marry [livejournal.com profile] autifon when he asked me to teach him how to knit. He was the best student I'd ever had, which shouldn't have surprised me; he'd been watching me make fabric this way for months, and the engineer in him had long ago worked out the process in theory. I just provided the materials for practice. In our knitting projects I see the differences in our personalities, my project bag littered with a mixture of the half-finished in flavors both simple and complex, his project holder laser-focused on one complicated piece destined to be an heirloom. Within thirty minutes of learning the basic stitches he was combing through my pattern books, trying out complex cables. The next Christmas he presented me a pink lace shawl that's as light and warm as his smile. It's easily the best gift I've ever received.

We're married now and living in a new state. I have a new job, new baby, and from where I'm sitting, a new future that's vast and unformed. There's an old wives tale about knitting and babies, about placing a pair of needles in an infant's hands to ensure a new knitter is coming. I place the smooth bamboo sticks into his tiny palm, and his hands instinctively--and tightly--grip the needles. I'm not superstitious, but I hope a little hope that there's a bit of truth in that old saw. As he sleeps on this cold, wet winter day, I pick up the bright yellow yarn I'm using to knit my two year old nephew a sweater; he's just discovered colors, and the yellow crayon is the one he likes the best. The soft wool slides through my fingers and the slick needles, and I'm back at the beach on a warm and rainy summer afternoon. I'm giving my nephew a wearable hug. I'm teaching myself, hater of all things yellow, to see things through a child's eyes. In. Around. Out. Off.

This piece was written in response to the Week 7 prompt at [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol: One Touch.

on 2009-12-12 06:17 pm (UTC)
ext_3965: (FA Geek Love Radio Times)
Posted by [identity profile] persiflage-1.livejournal.com
This was lovely - very touching...

I can't knit to save my life (left handed mother, right handed daughter - not a good combo - teaching me to sew was hard enough!) but I admire those who do.

And I ADORE the fact that Gromit knits!

(And now I've remembered the fic where Capt Jack teaches Martha to knit, post-S3. Must go and re-read that one again!)

on 2009-12-12 08:04 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
I think I've read that fic...might just need to read it again!

It's too bad you didn't learn, although I think you put your hands to rather good use as it is. ;-)

Gromit knitting makes me very happy; I like sharing a hobby with such a cool-headed dog.

on 2009-12-12 08:06 pm (UTC)
ext_3965: (Jack Martha Walking Away Journey's End)
Posted by [identity profile] persiflage-1.livejournal.com
Let me know if you find it - I haven't succeeded yet!

It's too bad you didn't learn, although I think you put your hands to rather good use as it is. ;-)

Is it just me who thinks that sounds rather naughty?! :D

Gromit knitting makes me very happy; I like sharing a hobby with such a cool-headed dog.

Hee...

on 2009-12-13 03:30 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks for the link to the story on twitter--I'll revisit those sometime today!

Is it just me who thinks that sounds rather naughty?! :D

You know, I was thinking of your writing, but yes, I can see the naughty in that! LOL

on 2009-12-13 03:33 pm (UTC)
ext_3965: (Jack Martha Hug Reset)
Posted by [identity profile] persiflage-1.livejournal.com
Thanks for the link to the story on twitter--I'll revisit those sometime today!

Welcome! In the end I searched Teaspoon with the word 'knit' because the person I *thought* had written them had not - and that was the fastest way to track them down...

You know, I was thinking of your writing, but yes, I can see the naughty in that! LOL

LOL I did realise that you meant my writing, but my mind was in a very naughty place yesterday! :D

on 2009-12-12 08:20 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] garpu.livejournal.com
MeiLin, I think? She's on ravelry. :)

on 2009-12-13 03:30 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks!

on 2009-12-12 07:23 pm (UTC)
shadowwolf13: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] shadowwolf13
I really like this! I keep thinking about taking up knitting or going back to crochet but I have so many other things going as it is. :)

on 2009-12-12 08:05 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Glad you enjoyed it!

I find it more and more difficult to carve out knitting time these days, but I'm always glad to have a moment or two to do it when I can--so relaxing!

on 2009-12-12 07:24 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] catholicphoton.livejournal.com
Knitting is lovely, and you're lovely :-)

on 2009-12-12 08:05 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
And you are really too kind! ;-)

on 2009-12-12 08:22 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] garpu.livejournal.com
I knew you were raising your kid right--get him started on bamboo. :)

I started knitting during my comps. I have no idea why, but my brain reached a saturation point with my topics and demanded I learn to knit. I haven't stopped. :)

on 2009-12-13 04:44 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
LOL--bamboo is awesome, isn't it?

I taught myself to knit without looking during comps; I knit this HUGE sweater in foul acrylic yarn while reading early 20th century novels.

on 2009-12-13 05:22 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] garpu.livejournal.com
I wuv bamboo. shame that if you do lace anything smaller than a size 1 is metal. :/

on 2009-12-13 03:32 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Indeed, although I had a bamboo addi (http://www.anitaderouen.net/knitnut/weblogs/000488.html) in size 1 before they pulled them from the market--and I understand why they pulled them, since bamboo in that diameter is really too delicate to withstand the pressure of knitting.

on 2009-12-12 08:33 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] faerie-spark.livejournal.com
This is marvelous! I've always wanted to knit or crochet. I don't have anyone in my family to teach me, though.

on 2009-12-13 03:34 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you--I'm glad you enjoyed it!

If you do want to learn, see if there's a yarn shop near you; most of them offer classes for beginners. For a time I taught beginning knitting at a JoAnn craft store, too, which is another resource.

on 2009-12-12 09:57 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] rejeneration.livejournal.com
I think I knew I'd marry [info]autifon when he asked me to teach him how to knit.

Yup, that's when you know you've got a keeper! =D Great entry.

on 2009-12-13 03:34 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
LOL--we must have our standards! Glad you enjoyed!

on 2009-12-12 10:12 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] beautyofgrey.livejournal.com
This is absolutely lovely. I tried to pick up knitting about a year ago, but it didn't quite stick for me. I'm going to have to try again. :)

on 2009-12-13 03:35 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
I'm so glad you enjoyed my little post, and I hope that you do give knitting another try; it's really quite good fun!

on 2009-12-12 10:36 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] sherriola.livejournal.com
I love this! i've only knitted a little, because i never learned to make anything but afghans. But i've always had a sort of secret yearning over words like silk yarn and knitting lace. I enjoyed reading this so much and imagined the various textures in my fingers.

on 2009-12-13 03:37 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Afghans are massive undertakings--I'm jealous that you've made them at all! I usually peter out quickly on large projects like that!

Silk blends feel especially good in the hands; I knit my son's christening gown with a silk/wool blend that was just heavenly! My fingers are itching to touch it now just thinking about it!

on 2009-12-13 05:10 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] cacophonesque.livejournal.com
Hooray! This makes me think of my own love affair with knitting and how it's bonded me closer to people. The way that you describe the act of knitting, of teaching, and of gifting creations to others was so beautiful and captured that joy of crafting perfectly.

Also, I knit like you--lots of ongoing projects in various states of incomplete.

on 2009-12-15 04:28 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
I'm so glad that you enjoyed my little musing on this marvelous gift of craft! I cherish all of the ways that knitting has touched my life and hope that I can continue to do it for years to come.

Of course, I'll need to add a wing to the house to hold all the half-finished projects I could start with the rest of my days on this earth...

on 2009-12-13 07:41 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] jenandbronze.livejournal.com
I love the descriptions of the needles between your hands as you knit. I tried to crochet but my hands cramp up too much to make any use to try to do it!

on 2009-12-15 04:29 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
It's really a lovely feeling--at this point, they're like an extension of my body and feel utterly natural. So sorry that your hands thwarted your efforts; crochet is really great to do as well, but I can see where it would be horrid if your hands refuse to relax for it!

on 2009-12-15 05:19 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] jenandbronze.livejournal.com
yah, I may have a very mild case of arthritis, but with the cold weather now, my hands are just absolutely stiff and holding things, if I hold something wrong, it is very difficult for me to keep holding something before it cramps up. I am just glad I can still read braille quite fast, since that doesn't bother me at all.

on 2009-12-14 02:24 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] islandman.livejournal.com
This was quite beautiful. I was trying to teach myself to knit the other day...but failed...teach me??? ;-)

on 2009-12-15 04:32 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
LOL--come on over and we'll have a cup of coffee and some knitting! If only I weren't mired in the muddy muck of the Deep South! ;-)

Have you visited knittinghelp.com (http://www.knittinghelp.com)? They've got lots of great free videos; my students have found them tremendously helpful.

on 2009-12-14 09:48 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] walkertxkitty.livejournal.com
I'm teaching myself to knit. There aren't any left handed knitters around to show me but I have an old book belonging to my grandmother which demonstrates it with both hands. I really enjoyed this piece, well done.

on 2009-12-15 04:34 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks--I'm glad you enjoyed it!

I've just recommended knittinghelp.com (http://www.knittinghelp.com) above--really great site with videos for those moments when it would help to see someone's hands doing it!

on 2009-12-15 02:26 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] onda-bianca.livejournal.com
Wow, he asked you to teach him to knit!

on 2009-12-15 04:34 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
LOL--yes, yes he did, and he's still knitting to this day!

on 2009-12-15 10:07 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] baxaphobia.livejournal.com
This is beautiful! I tried to knit and I'm all thumbs. I wish I could do it!

on 2009-12-15 04:36 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks--I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Knitting is really a lovely craft, and I hope that you give it another try if you want to do it; sometimes it takes a while to train our hands to do something new, but once that muscle memory gets built, it gets so much easier!

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