I’ve been knitting for about 4 weeks now, teaching myself to cast on by watching YouTube videos. I’ve learned how to fix those loose stitches at the end of rows (you slip the first stitch) and slowly but surely I’m starting to knit decent looking swatches of (mostly) orderly rows of knits and purls.
I’m not entirely sure why I started knitting to be honest! I’ve always thought of myself as a sewer, not a knitter. From the outside, knitting seemed time consuming, tedious, while sewing something cozy for yourself (like a sewing a beanie from an old sweater) could be done in an afternoon.
I liked the speedy gratification that comes from seeing something that you imagined (I want a hat, and I can sew one by lunchtime!) appear in your hands quickly.
Knitting isn’t like that. It’s slower, quieter, and I’ve been surprised to find how meditative it is. You focus on your work, and stitch-by-stitch something good comes from your effort.
I read Rachael Herron’s book A Life in Stitches a little while ago. It’s 20 short essays about knitting (if you know a knitter, this is the perfect gift to get them besides some really nice yarn).
While I was reading the book I couldn’t understand why the author thought knitting was so magical. It was just yarn after all, and some knitting needles, no big deal, but I loved reading the stories.
I loved reading about how knitting a replica of a sweater from her mother’s youth made Rachael feel closer to her mother. It was fun to read about crazy knitting stashes (every knitter has more yarn than they know what to do with), and about how any yarn you buy while traveling doesn’t count towards your already overflowing knitting stash.
Rachael knitted while she was in bad relationships, living in moldy apartments, getting through graduate school, suffering heartbreak, and ultimately when she found love and published her first book. This simple activity was the glimmering throughline that gave her comfort and joy in every phase of her life.
Even after I finished the book, which was basically a love letter to knitting, I still didn’t get it. I still had no desire to knit.
One day a few months later, I woke up and suddenly had the overwhelming desire to knit. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and the local yarn store was closed. I had no knitting needles, but I did have a random ball of silky bright yellow cotton yarn that I had picked up years ago.
So to the kitchen I went to find some takeout chopsticks! I sanded them down with a random scrap of fine sandpaper, sat down with my ball of yellow yarn, and I was off to the races!
My first stitches weren’t great. My gorgeous yellow yarn was too fine for the chopsticks and the swatch I was knitting was just a series of large loops that twisted to and fro, but I didn’t care. I was knitting! I was just beginning to learn how to do something that it had never occurred to me that I would want to or be even able to do.
Knitting had always seemed like an elusive skill to me. I admired the skill it took to make those beautiful hand knit sweaters that you occasionally found in thrift stores, with their complicated looking cables and neat stitches, but I figured that knitting was something that you either had a knack for or you didn’t. Why I thought this, I do not know.
Maybe this is because I grew up in a time when people bought their clothes instead of making them. I’m sure in the past if you wanted a blue cable knit sweater you would make it yourself. Nowadays if you want a blue cable knit sweater, you type “blue cable knit sweater” into Google and buy one online.
Making things by hand is no longer as common as it used to be, but I think that’s changing with my generation. I have friends who make pottery, who bake and cook. Those skills along with knitting and sewing (hobbies that I enjoy) were skills that weren’t celebrated so much when we were growing up.
But there’s something deeply moving about making something handmade. The item that you create is the manifestation of an idea, your tenacity, and hope all rolled into the same object. Buying something that’s been mass-produced just doesn’t have the same feel to it.
Funnily enough, I don’t think that I even know anyone who has ever hand knit an entire sweater. Maybe that’s why I never thought that I would be able to knit. I mean, I know that there are people who’ve become astronauts and explored space before, but I don’t know anyone who has actually done it.
Two things that I never thought that I’d be able to / want to do – becoming an astronaut and knitting a sweater. One is much more achievable than the other, and who knows, with all of the space exploration companies out there maybe more people can visit space at some point.
Anywho, back to knitting…
One amazing thing about learning to knit is that it completely opens up a new world to you. There are knitting blogs, free patterns, and so many beautiful kinds of yarn! There’s merino, and cashmere, superwash merino (a softer kind of merino), silk and cashmere blends, and silky soft cotton. Yarns come in all sorts of colors and some skeins even knit up into confetti like patterns!
There are so many different kinds of stitches as well and they are all made of knits and purls. My favorite stitch that I’ve done so far is the Irish Moss Stitch which lays flat and is gloriously squishy with a beautiful soft-pebbled texture that looks good from both sides. I can’t wait to try more stitches out.
And knitters are nice people too! I was sitting in the knitting section of a local bookstore recently and struck up a conversation with a more experienced knitter. She kindly answered all of my questions about cables and how to go about designing your own sweater. She also gave me ideas about where to find knitting groups and recommended some online knitting forums. It was so neat to be able to meet another knitter and for them to be so kind.
I’ve also started to take a closer look at the knitted items in my closet (things that I didn’t make). I bought a hand knitted coral vest a few years ago at Goodwill. It fits like a glove and only recently did I realize that it’s entirely made up of knits and purls, both of which I know how to do now!
Then an exciting thought flashed through my mind, “I could make this!” I could make this vest! I could design a sweater and make it any color I want, make it look however I want! While I have yet to make a sweater, I am very excited to start knitting my first project. I’m going to knit a hat.
My aunt and uncle graciously gifted me a set of knitting needles and I picked out some Plymouth Superwash Merino Wool Yarn in bubblegum pink.
It’s super soft and I’ve already knit a swatch and it’s a dream to work with. The yarn also came in a beautiful cobalt blue, but maybe I’ll buy that for another project.
With lots of love, and Happy Lunar New Year!