The song by Staind, It’s Been a While, comes to mind instantly as I log on to my blog. Yes, it has, and as I formulate this post in my mind, I cringe at the idea of writing about my new obsession, the very thing that has kept my hands and mind so busy as to keep me from writing. There are several people in my life who will now roll their eyes and walk away at a mere hint of that one word which describes this obsession: knitting.
Instantly, your mind draws upon images of old ladies and miles of brightly colored, wobbly knits in combinations no human eye should ever be tortured with. And you’re right to have those images in your mind. I had one particular memory of Ron Weasley standing in a cavernous room wearing a knitted jumper with a giant R emblazoned across the front. Harry asks, “What are you wearing?” His expression is one of polite confusion mixed with distaste. Ron replies, “My mum made it,” and pulls a face as if to say ‘what can you do?’ Indeed. Come to think of it, if Ms. Weasley had so much magic ability, then you would think her knitted garments would be, well, magical.
Good news, though, this is 2018 and knitted things have emerged with a new aesthetic: chunky, textured, and in neutral shades ranging from the palest creams and grey to charcoal and black. There are also complex cabling and super fine lace knits; skills I haven’t attained yet. This is not your grandmother’s knit. Still, knitting is very much like poetry – personal, open to interpretation, and quite often downright awful. Is it any wonder though when you look at the yarns currently crowding shops both physical and online. Grandma remains quite the feature, it seems.
I recently attended a “yarn crawl.” For the uninitiated, this sounds potentially fun, like a pub crawl is fun. I wish it were fun. They really should have cocktails in the mix, but instead it’s just driving from one knit shop to the next (many miles apart) and browsing the “latest and greatest” in domestic yarn offerings (mostly bold color gradients) coupled with the odd shawl pattern. I saw plenty of old ladies, too. Did I mention that yarn, especially nice wool, can be quite pricey? I saw skeins priced at $35 per 50 grams. You’ll need maybe five of those for a single sweater (possibly more depending on the size). Several hundred dollars later, you slog home to your favorite knitting spot and … you’re back to where you were yesterday. Longing for a drink, and knitting something that you hope someone enjoys.
It sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? If it’s so dreadful, then why even do it? All I can tell you by way of an answer is to describe my own personal journey. It barely makes sense, even to myself.
For me, it starts with sheep. I realize this is a tough place to start. I recently watched a bit of a yarn documentary where that point was exactly made: it all starts with sheep and grass. In my case, it was nothing more than a strange and rather surprising affection for bucolic, pastoral solitude. England, Scotland, Ireland, the sea, chilly weather, a cup of hot tea, sheep in the pasture… I have no idea where or when I developed my affection for that, but it lurks around in the back of my psyche and manifests itself in odd ways. As if my old soul was born there when the rest of me wasn’t. On Twitter, I found a shepherdess who has an online shop that sells specialty UK wools. She often posts lovely pictures on her Twitter account and one day in the summer she posted a weekend sale of her yarns. It had never occured to me to knit prior to that very moment. I directed my browser to her shop, full of natural wools, and fell in love. I didn’t know the first thing about knitting, so I watched a YouTube video on beginner knitting, and decided quite immediately that I could do that. I bought a very small amount of the UK wool and waited, not very patiently, for it to arrive. Meanwhile, I was plagued by an unfathomable scent memory picked up while living in Australia. Irritated, I hunted for and found a local shop (The Black Sheep. Adorable, right?) and bought a small amount of non-UK yarn and the necessary tools of the trade. I couldn’t wait to start knitting!
When my yarn arrived from England, I was very surprised at the texture, particularly the skein of natural cream wool (natural means it hasn’t been dyed). It was springy and bouncy, fuzzy and not itchy the way I remembered wool from my childhood. It felt right in my hand, like reuniting with an old friend after a lifetime of being away.
After numerous false starts, I finally got the hang of knitting and completed my first scarf exactly a month ago. There is something incredibly satisfying about creating something wonderful from something so inherently humble.
Not content to just knit for myself, I decided to try creating something I could sell. I have miles to go before that grand day, but when it arrives I will post something here. With any luck it won’t go over like bad poetry.
Who was I even before knitting came into my life? I look back to the woman who used to spend most of her free time studying ancient Egypt, reading science articles and working on her novel manuscript. In tribute to her, HERE is an article that combines the best of both worlds. One day, I will do so in a more tangible format!