• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Monday, May 9, 2011


Twist yarn (or string) in a loop around pointy plastic or wooden sticks about 14 inches long.   Do the same repetitive movements until you a lot of loops around the stick.  Now turn it over and using another similar pointy stick (sorry no hook on the end - just a slippery point) transfer each loop off the 1st stick and onto the second one by pulling the yarn through each first loop to make another loop.

Leave the new loops on the second stick and since they are through the first original loops let the first stick slide out of each first original loop as each new loop stays on the second stick. The first original loops will hang below each new loop.

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The original loops make one row, the new loops make a second row and each time you turn it over and make loops again another time you get another row.  Eventually you get lots of loops and rows (hundreds and thousands of them) and they look nice and neat and make a stretchy fabric - IN THEORY!

In fact, the loops must never be twisted (unless you do them all the same or in a pattern on purpose) and if they 'accidentally' slide off a stick a nasty hole ruins not only the row you are working on but all the rows below it.

In a perfect world it can be 'fixed' by sliding it back on the stick at the right place. In an even more perfect world the loop can be looped back into the rows below it all the way to the top and no one ever knows of the accident. 

In my world I don't see the missing loop until many rows later.  
In my world all the rows have to be un-looped
and looped over again - sometimes hundreds of them.

And in my world the loops never look the same again.  

I have persisted at this challenging activity for most of my life, learned many things, managed to make a few baby blankets and fixed some clothing, and STILL find it at times, very difficult. 

Knitting is not one of my strong talents.

I first learned to tangle yarn into a semblance of a slipper when I was about 10 years old. All the girls at church had to learn - to make at least one knitted thing.  It was VERY difficult for me. 'Simple' slippers (that to me looked ridiculous) were the suggested project for a beginner.

 My mother does not knit. My father knew how but he was often not home from work when I was awake (and not doing chores - chores came first). He reassured me that, with persistence and patience, I could learn to do it. His mother could knit beautifully and made exquisite patterned, wool sweaters. His had a border of deer encircling the lower edge. Of course she passed away when I was only 6.

I learned the terminology too.  The pointy sticks are called needles and have gauges or sizes. The yarn has sizes (gauge) and plys - how many threads twisted together to make it and what weight those threads are. The loops are called stitches and stitches have names. The names even have meanings. 

I learned to sew and embroider as a child. As an adult I taught myself to crotchet but knitting just did not make sense.  I just couldn't understand the difference between a knit stitch and a purl stitch.

A slipper I made for Christmas the year I started knitting again -
I really didn't care if there were rows (like the needle points at)
where a stitch or two is knit instead of purl -
at least not enough to rip it out and redo it. 

I was about 30 and trying to remember and relearn how to make slippers when I met Aunt Bunny. We were on our way to a family reunion and would be in the car together for about 18 hours. She had knitting. She said it is easy.  And it IS!!!

Knitting is just a bunch of loops that you could make with your fingers if you wanted to but needles let you hold them all a bit more conveniently. And a knit stitch and a purl stitch are exactly the same thing but when you look at the 'front' it makes a 'v' that is called a knit stitch and when you look at the other side or 'back' where you can only see the very top of the stitch (as it loops around the next one that is pulled through it) then it is called a purl stitch.

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WHAT? . . . Did
someone ever tell me this?
or try to?

I don't think so - they only said that there ARE knit and purl stitches.

Nancy the skilled knitter of lovely lace may have tried.

It just wasn't my time to try again -
but I must credit her for making knitting sound possible -
and I filed it into my brain's "someday" category.

She reassured me that if I had made those slippers I KNEW how, and like riding a bicycle, could do it again.

Aunt Bunny also showed me that knitted fabrics have names.  
The names just are labels for groups of stitches. The stitches and rows can be cleverly stretched or compressed, have extra loops or be looped together (be added to or taken away from), twisted or turned in marvelous patterns to make lace, utilitarian objects, and even art. I think she had a book with pictures too - possibilities. I even learned to knit in the round and made some finger puppets. 

Aunt Bunny, bless you - or curse you -
depending on how my knitting is going ... 

And Elizabeth Campagnola - she gave me a 'real' pattern and taught me to read it. She also asked me why I twist my stitches - I asked her to show me what she meant.  She did - I couldn't tell the difference.  Last year I learned to knit Continental style. It is faster and lo and behold - my stitches are not twisted! I can see the difference this year. I wish I had her book - I would try some of the other pretty stitches and things in it. Sadly she passed away many years ago.

The pattern she gave me is for the baby blanket I still make. A simple but pretty fan stitch - why make slippers if you can make lace? I hate slippers - they are useless, and I hate knitted slippers even more - they are just plain ugly! and after all that work they wear out in the snap of your fingers - if anyone bothers to wear them at all. 

Baby blanket auctioned at the 2007 Forsyth Reunion.  

Knitting makes me feel foolish, 
completely clumsy, 
and totally incompetent.
Hopelessly so.  

It almost seems like a metaphor of my life. 
I mostly feel that way about everything. 

BUT knitting is a good metaphor.

I can always start over.  
A fresh start is a wonderful opportunity to do things correctly.
All the yarn can be un-looped, pulled out and wound into neat, tidy balls again - true its nature may be changed a bit and it may have stretched places and snags or breaks but it can be repaired and it is still useful. I may use the worst pieces as string for such things as to mark garden rows but it still has purpose. 

I too have purpose - even on my worst days. 

I can choose what I am making -
possibilities are almost endless - 
and I can modify my choices as I knit.

I can even change my mind when I start over, 
or when I learn something new. 

The sooner I fix a mistake the less noticeable it is 
AND the less time consuming - 
AND frustrating -
AND damaging. 

The more diligent I am in counting, and counting, and counting, and counting, and counting, and counting, and counting,
[in life counting my blessings] the sooner I notice my mistakes.  I need to count every row and on larger projects use stitch markers to count every 10-20 stitches.  Diligence means ALWAYS doing the simple basics, like counting and moving (or placing) stitch markers - ALWAYS, every single time.  An old saying (quoted by Ezra Taft Benson) states that "it is easier to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent" . 

I can give up if I want to - 
but I never do - I just take 'rests' - 
and then I finish the project 
EVEN when I don't really feel like it. 

There is something very satisfying about sticking to something and seeing it all the way through, enduring and persisting through discouragement in spite of hopeless incompetency. And surely my patience and love are refined as I let others endure and encourage them to try.  It is so nice when someone encourages me to keep on keeping on in spite of myself. 

I can get help.
There is always someone willing to teach me a new trick, give me advice (and yarn), loan me patterns, give me advice, tell me where expensive things can be purchased, and did I mention  - 
give me advice? My advice now is to do a search on the web - you can find tutorials, patterns, instructions, tips, tricks and gadgets - lots of gadgets - and then forget about it all and find a real living breathing person that knows you can learn and may even like you (or at least you may like them or something about them).

I can be mocked. 
My knitting is not perfect.
Knitting takes me huge amounts of time. Most other knitters can spot my errors - or wonder if that is really knitting. That stretches my soul like an overworked piece of yarn until sometimes the fraying worn spot breaks. When it is mended back together there is a bit of a thicker spot there where the yarns are spliced.

It is something I CAN do.
We all can do something.
And it doesn't have to be perfect - 
or even as good as yours - 
and your something doesn't have to be like mine.

Thank you Aunt Bunny -
I have a hobby I love to hate ...
or is that 'hate to love'! 

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