I am not a prolific knitter. More often than not I struggle to find a knitting project that really speaks to me.
I am stingy – I hate spending money, yet my knitting only “works” when I use beautiful yarns. They are not the most expensive yarns (I just simply cannot make myself spend more than £15 pounds on a skein and that took my breath away – it was in a good cause), but I now can’t stand knitting with the basic washable, cheap man made fibres. I have become a yarn snob.
I love bamboo yarn – it is soft beyond belief, and it’s bamboo!! We eat the stuff (so do pandas, and it turns out to be pitifully poor in nutrition, but hey, how cool is it to knit with something edible!), we build with it, we make music from it, and now we can knit. Then there’s the whole wonderful magic about bamboo’s anti bacterial properties. It seems that socks made from bamboo fibres stop your feet from smelling. All of these little things just make me buzz, and I love the feel of this wonderful yarn. Recently, I found some magic bean yarn in a bargain bin. Just kidding, it was soy bean yarn. But again!!! Oh me oh my! Soy bean?? Very different texture from bamboo, yet still very lovely.
My stinginess finds me looking longingly at yarn made from silk saris – the colours, the touch, the stories behind such a skein of yarn have me in a daze. One day, I hope to find just the right project for such a skein. In the meantime, I simply cannot justify the cost, so I regularly go to the Fluffatorium and dream! So I stick to natural fibres at reasonable prices, I love a bargain and I also try to stick to yarns that are machine washable. I am a disastrous housewife and can only maintain a semblance of order if things are really easy.
Last summer I knitted myself a cardigan – it was my first such project in years and years. I wanted desperately to try a top down, one piece garment on circular needles and I had found the soy bean yarn mentioned above. The cardigan was to cost me about £6… pretty, satisfying, soft and a bargain: my idea of heaven!! It took me most of the summer thanks to a pretty but annoyingly fiddly pattern, but turned out pretty well. Next time I would stick to a plain stitch for speed, but I loved the top down nature of the cardigan – it allowed me to fit it directly to me, and it was a real joy to finally put it on. Needless to say, I washed it carefully according to the yarn label (oh yes, I often lose the labels as soon as I begin a project), and all was well. Until the second wash. I had remembered the temperature required for a safe wash. Not the type of machine cycle. Turns out “delicates” is not the same as “woollens”. My cardigan shrank. Strange thing happened at that point. I won’t say I wasn’t disappointed because I was. But not nearly as much as I would have anticipated. As much as I enjoyed wearing this lovely handmade cardigan, I had enjoyed knitting it more. my now slightly felted cardigan was the right size to make Kesia a little jacket which she wore very happily for several months. Until it got caught (I think accidentally, but knowing me I may simply not have bothered enough) in a load of washing destined for the more plebeian cycle. I still have this cardigan in my sewing drawer – I’m sure it will make the perfect doll’s sleeping bag once it has been cut up and sewn appropriately.
The important thing in this little story is that knitting for me is far more an act than a noun. There is something almost spiritual in the act of creating something that holds its shape yet moulds to another out of some sticks and string. The repetitive nature of the act calms the mind and the creative nature of the project, from choosing the pattern, yarn, needles to sewing up the finished item promotes a deep sense of satisfaction.
About three and a half years ago, due to difficult life circumstances, I broke. I had been hanging on to the cliff edge by my very finger nails for some time, and I simply let go. It was the single most terrifying thing I have ever done, and as I felt myself falling down to who knows where two emotions warred inside me. One was the relief in doing what had become inevitable, the other was a tremendous sense of guilt. In letting go, I may have been admitting that I could not carry on as I had been, but I was also letting everyone down – my husband, my kids. My kids. Three years later, the horror of those few days and weeks is still fresh in my mind even if I am better and a much stronger, more stable person as a result.
Anyhoo… the thing is, a funny little trio of “therapies” helped me back to the land of the functional, the “sane”, the “strong”. Drugs were involved – not the back alley kind, good grief!!! The ones prescribed by the doctor and taken precisely as prescribed (I have a great fear of losing control, so I’m really not the kind of person who would ever dare play with even potentially mind altering substances). Eventually I found a wonderful psychotherapist thanks to my best friend, and she continues to help guide me through the maze of life. But the third therapy was possibly one of the strongest of this trio because it was something I did for myself, and that I can always do for myself. It does not really rely on time, travel, money or doctors, and so it feels wonderfully constant. That therapy (oh the suspense!!! – cos I did write it into the title, so there really is no mystery)… is knitting.
Oh… I include crochet in my whole world of sticks and strings, and sewing sometimes has its place as well, though knitting is central for me.
Most of the items I have knitted in the last three years have been for others. I discovered two at a time toe-up socks thanks to a wonderful Momcologist, Mindi, and spent quite some time with socks – for Darling Man, for my parents (in a slightly adolescent need to show that hand knitted socks needs not be scratchy and could be wonderful), bags for my niece, mittens for Sweet Girl, baby blankets to commission, doll’s clothes etc…
I have to admit to a particular thrill when I was asked to knit a couple of baby blankets by a mere acquaintance. To be paid a modest sum was quite lovely (I did say I have a rather mercenary edge, didn’t I?), and the knowledge that a little baby and her mother will enjoy something homemade thanks to me is just magical. The only downside to this particular project was that cost to the lady and babies’ tendencies to create lots of laundry made the choice of yarn simple but a little sad… typical, all purpose baby wool, machine washable, non-shrinkable etc etc… But I was happy with the result – the rainbow blanket was first (up above here somewhere), and the girly lacy one second. I can see a little girl playing with it very happily in a few years’ time.
My most recent project has been for me… and it’s only recently finished, and I admit to being over the moon with it. The pictures are not great because I don’t have willing photographers around me. But for the sake of posterity, here is my cardigan (which I am determined not to shrink!!).
Could any one not a knitter understand the excitement and buzz I got at joining the left and right side of this cardigan using the fabulous and simply mysterious Kitchener stitch? Oh the smiles and thrills in my tummy!!
Once again a wonderful bargain of yarn bought on ebay – merino wool that is cozy and soft and just fabulously touchy feely, and the colour was just right. And yay me, thanks to a few months of joyful knitting, I get a custom made cardigan for £10 (oh yes, the miser strikes again!!).
Thanks to knitting, I truly have my smile back.
Thank to knitting, the drugs part of the equation in the title is no longer needed, nor has it been for a year now.
The therapy continues because actually we all need to explore our landscapes through eyes other than our own sometimes.
Mostly the knitting continues because it allows me to create, and to enjoy the magic of making something useful and pretty from just a couple of sticks and a long piece of string…
Why do you knit??!
I have to add a link to the best online knitting teacher I’ve found:
Liat Gat over at www.knitfreedom.com