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.

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