I am learning to knit. Again. For the third time.
The first time I learned to knit was as an undergraduate. At the ivy-covered women’s college I attended, there was a time-honored tradition of learning to knit during the between-semesters break in January, when we students had the option of remaining at home or returning to campus to take non-credit classes in fun, non-academic subjects: international cooking, belly dancing, sign language, origami, welding, cross-country skiing and, of course, knitting.
My roommate and I were classic overachievers. No simple project such as a scarf for us: we wanted to make sweaters. And not just any old sweater. We chose Icelandic sweaters with complicated patterns and multiple colors of yarn. This is the equivalent of saying, “I’d like to go sledding” and then strapping yourself onto a luge sled at the Olympics. While I did learn the basics of knitting that January, I only completed about 4 inches of the sweater, after which the unfinished project sat in a bag in the back of my closet until, many years later, a friend of my mother’s, an expert knitter, finished the sweater for me.
My second foray into knitting was slightly more successful. My sister and my college friends (they with their own unfinished sweaters) were all having babies, and I wanted to give each of them a handmade baby gift. Based on one old “how to knit” instruction booklet, I successfully completed a few baby blankets and hats; luckily, babies are small. Mind you, these were hats and blankets that only a new mother and good friend could love, as my skills were limited to knitting in one direction with no ability to fix mistakes, of which there were plenty. Luckily, babies are non-judgmental. I liked to point out how I had thoughtfully included ventilation holes so the baby wouldn’t get too hot.
Now that those babies are all tweens and teens and I’m hooked on the homesteading trend, I got the itch to knit something for myself — something without holes and perhaps larger than 4 inches. Something that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to wear. Since wisdom does occasionally come with age, I put the (even older) booklet aside and signed up for a class.
At the first meeting, the instructor asked us why we had signed up for the class. Nearly everyone shared an unfinished college sweater or ventilated baby blanket story of her own, so I knew I was in good company. Wisely, our instructor encouraged us to start with a small project, something simple that we could successfully complete within the allotted class time. No Icelandic sweaters allowed: we each received a pattern for a rolled-brim hat.
Although the word conjures up images of a white-haired grandmother in a rocking chair, all alone save for the cat (or 12) at her feet, knitting can be quite a social activity. Our class only met officially a few times, but our meetings were filled with laughter and chatting. Despite our status as beginning knitters, concentrating on each and every stitch, we still tried to help each other through mistakes and confusion. And there was a general consensus that continuing our meetings over a glass of wine would surely only enhance our skills.
I’m proud to report that I completed my hat (made with a soft, luxurious alpaca yarn from the Northeast Fiber Arts Center) and even managed, with some help from YouTube, to fix a couple of mistakes. Not to mention that I have worn it in public, without embarrassment and without ventilation holes.
Third time’s the charm.