How I Came to Knitting
An essay by Robin Jacobson
Every one learns in a different way. It’s what makes us unique.
Every one learns to knit in a different way. It’s what makes us unique knitters. There are even so many ways to knit that many of them have names. Pickers, Flingers, Combination Knitters, all unique a fabulous individuals that have found their perfect way to interact with yarn. I think that the way we knit is just as interesting as what we knit. But even more interesting than that is how we learned to knit.
Everyone has a story. Some are short, “My Mom taught me.” Some are long and take days or even whole books to tell. Mine is a short essay, not an epic saga, but hopefully interesting.
I first learned to knit from my Mom when I was in Jr. High. It was the ‘80’s and I had a very short attention span. The ‘80’s were not great for girls who were less superficial and liked to create things. If you liked to make stuff and sew and cook you were either Amish or super weird. I was a freak show, in a very punk, proto-goth kind of way. I even had purple hair. Well, knitting didn’t take and I ended up starting my love affair with sewing and painting, both of which have kept me fed and clothed at various points in my life. I think my knitting produced one 8” square for the whole decade.
The second time I learned to knit was in the ‘90’s, again from my Mom. This produced a second 8” square. I may have been trying to make a hat.
The third time I learned to knit was in 2002. My Mom had just made a batch of hats for the kids for Christmas the year before, 2001, and I wanted to make my daughter a matching scarf. It was January and she really needed it. My Mom gave me the leftover yarn from the hat; it was a horrible fluffy pink acrylic. I had never touched wool yarn. Mom always knit with acrylic. Cheap acrylic. Then Mom gave me the aluminum needles she had used. They were old and dinged all to hell, so the yarn kept snagging. She showed me how to do a long-tail cast-on. The only one she knew. I knit the whole 60” scarf in stockinette stitch. I had no idea it would curl up like that and end up looking like a plushy pink boa constrictor. I would not have wished this on some one I don’t like as a first knitting project. I would not wish this on an enemy as knitting penance.
My daughter loved it. She still wears it, with the hat.
After the big pink snake scarf I needed to feed my creative soul. I had stopped painting. I wasn’t currently sewing or designing so I needed an outlet. I got some acrylic eyelash yarn my daughter had picked out and made her another scarf. My friend, now adopted sister, Shelley took me under her wing. She helped me figure out the while my purl stitches were perfect and I had wonderful gauge every single one of my knit stitches were crossed.
And then she took me to a real yarn shop. Before that all my yarn had come from Rite-aid. She bought me my very first set of Denise needles. She bought me a $37.00 skein of hand painted rayon eyelash yarn in a deep chocolate/coffee because I liked it. I made a scarf, for myself, on size 17 Lantern Moon ebony needles. She thought I was nuts for knitting something so slippery, so easy to drop a stitch, on such big needles. But the needles were pretty and I didn’t know any better, and it was way easier than the squeaky acrylic on evil aluminum needles.
These three scarves are the only scarves I have ever knit. My next project was a queen sized afghan knit in the round, and then came socks.
I learned some very interesting things from Shelley, my second knitting teacher. I learned that Mom was left handed and therefore knit weird. She had never really learned a standard way and no one could show her how to knit left handed. She would hold her working needle between her knees and then her other needle in her left hand and only ever worked on straits. Long straits. She was also a flinger.
This seemed like a lot of extra arm movement to me. I’m ambidextrous so I figured I could figure out a way to use both hands. I became a picker completely by accident. That’s not how the 1953 book my Mom gave me showed to do it. Shelley’s a flinger. I just grabbed the needles on that first scarf and went about knitting continental. I still have no idea why my hands thought that was just the proper way. Thank goodness no one was there to stop me.
Every single person I have taught to knit since I have taught English. That’s just the way they liked to learn. It felt right in their hands.
That is the best gift I can think of to give to some one.
The gift of knitting.
To make it feel right.
In there hands.