Monday, September 27, 2010

A Mind-Numbing Pastime

My first piece of Creative Non-fiction was about knitting, and I gave it the derogatory title of "Mind-Numbing Pastime." Of course, to me, that's one of the things I love most about knitting, just being able to back out of all the stress from the world and delve into a peaceful rhythm with my favorite Knitpicks needles. Here's a short chunk of my story:

The cold aluminum needles felt odd in my amateur hands, a sharp contrast to the hot room in the middle of an Arizona summer. The open window provided little relief. My fingers clutched stiff beige yarn and fumbled to maintain tension with the two needles. The first few stitches came out disfigured, some hugging the needle too closely while others nearly fell off. "Casting on" seemed simple compared to counting stitches and reading the impossible pattern that came with the "knit-it-yourself" kit. I knew nothing about "slip, slip, over" and "double lift increases."

My mother's slow voice guided me past the first line. Under her careful supervision, it took me fourteen tries to cast on the sixty stitches necessary for the front of the lacy halter-top, my first project. I stumbled through the next six lines of the pattern before my mother realized I had made a mistake in the third row. We had to rip the entire thing out.

I only set aside my needles when my mother had to go to work. As a traveling nurse, she lacked the time necessary to really teach me to knit. She promised we would finish the lesson some other time. When she got home that night, we rode in awkward silence to the airport in Phoenix; all of our silences had been awkward since the divorce. A nonstop flight took me back to Little Rock, where Daddy was waiting to take me home. We began the two-and-a-half hour drive to Fort Smith at three o'clock in the morning. Our car broke down on the way.

Within weeks, I had forgotten everything that my mother had taught me about knitting. I couldn't even remember the difference between a knit and purl stitch. She never had time to give me another lesson because after her two-month assignment in Phoenix, she went to New Hampshire for another three months.

I received the knit halter-top for Christmas when I saw her again that year. It was too small.


We all have a story to tell about learning to knit. Some people were taught by the grandmother, and others while staring at a Youtube video in utter frustration. What's your "casting-on" story?

My story also helps to illustrate the three words I chose in the first class period that describe hoe the things I make, make me: warm, original, imperfect. No, not the halter-top. My real story. When I really learned to knit, the day I picked up the needles by myself, taught myself, a few months after my summertime lesson from my mother, and never put them back down. I taught myself by looking at diagrams, watching the little DVD that came in the kit, and consulting youtube for my biggest problems. The first project I ever finished all by myself was a shawl that I designed all on my own. It was made up of simple stockinette and reverse stockinette. There was no shaping, and it was really wide enough to go all around my shoulders, unless I found a long safety pin to keep in in place. I have no idea where it is now. But I was so very proud of that thing once I had finished it. I constructed it out of a very soft acrylic, probably Caron Simply Soft. It was warm, a design completely original, though not very impressive, and above all it was imperfect. Just like me and my entire knitting experience.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I love the mind-numbing aspect of knitting. But somehow it does give me a sanctuary from the boredom of being with little kids all day, and I can do some thinking while I'm knitting.