Friday, January 17, 2014

Lessons at the Point of a Knitting Needle

photo and mitten
by LeeAnn Rhoden
I learned to knit about a year and a half ago. It was something I always wanted to learn how to do but just never sat my butt in a chair and did it. Then I learned about the knitting and crocheting group our church has on Wednesday nights. I do crochet so I thought I'd join and lend my hands to the projects of making prayer scarves for the Confirmands, prayer shawls for those in the hospital, baby blankets for newborns, and scarves and hats and mittens for the homeless and those in need. It was in this class I learned to knit.

I was taught by a woman who had been knitting for several years and since that time I've actually been able to teach new-comers how to knit and/or crochet depending on their desire. I have even been added to our local Joann's Fabrics instructors list to teach knitting and crocheting. Now all we have to do is get people to sign up for the classes!

Knitting and crocheting are needle arts that have been around for centuries, and probably millenniums. It is a craft that is passed from one person to another, and over time more often than not, woman to woman. Knowledge about the size of the needles, the size of the yarn, the patterns, the combination of stitches and twists, to take a ball of yarn and turn it into a sweater, or blanket. Something that is greater than its parts.

It reminds me of story telling. Weaving this way and that way, combining a knit with a purl give the fabric a more stretchy quality, yet strand knitting allows for beautiful Nordic patterns. And if you pull a few stitches off to the side and replace them at just the right point in just the right way you create beautiful cables and Celtic knots. Creating the right plot and subplots and intertwining them bringing in characters, back story and details a precisely the right moment and you have a magical tale. I can envision groups of ladies gathered together knitting and telling stories.

Knitting has also taught me several life lessons. First, knitting can be easy. A straight knit back and forth can quickly and easily become a scarf. Make it wider and longer and it's a blanket. Knitting is also tedious and can be boring. It takes time and patience. Second, making it more interesting by adding purls or cables or knots or stripes requires that you pay attention. One dropped stitch and you have a hole in the middle of your fabric. It's not easy to pay attention on one project that can literally take months to complete. Third, the more you knit, the more you want to do it and the more complex the projects become. A sweater, an intricate blanket, a hat knitted in the round.

But I also learned that it is the small things that become the most befuddling. A simple mitten can bring a grown woman to tears. I attempted mittens for Little Man since it got cold and he didn't have a pair. My first attempt was, well, garbage.  My second mitten was much better. I'm working on a mate for the second mitten. I'm not discouraged. Practice makes perfect, or better anyway. In time I will create my own mitten pattern, adding my part of the story to the women who come after me.

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