K is for Knitting
When I was a teenager, I discovered knitting, and steadily stitched together about a sweater or two a year for several years. I started with the ubiquitous legwarmers that every self-respecting teen of the ‘80s wore. Then I worked my way up to sweaters. My brothers each received a fairisle sweater, my father a cardigan, my mother a cable knit vest. (And several fashion wonders for me, too. My daughters recently discovered two of my high school creations, one of which actually had puffy sleeves, which is hard to knit, believe me.)
The last thing I knit was a dress for my younger daughter when she was about five. It was adorable.
But I packed away my knitting needles in favour of other leisure activities (if you can call squiring your kids around the city to swimming lessons and soccer practice leisure.)
Knitting and sewing are one of the few pastimes that have not been radically modified by technology. Digital cameras have taken away the tactile aspect of film, as well as the critical eye required when you have a finite number of photos to take. (Have you heard the joke: Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and took three photos, my teenage daughter went to the bathroom and took 147?) The art of creating a photo album has been replaced with iPhoto books (which are, admittedly, awesome). Even painting and drawing can now be done on a screen.
But knitting? Nope. You still need yarn and needles.
There’s something ridiculously satisfying about it. It’s simple yet complex. Knitting a pair of socks or a scarf makes me think of my childhood hero, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her Ma would be bracing for a harsh prairie winter knitting with wool she carded and spun herself, while Pa skinned a rabbit to make her a cozy hat. Cool.
I learned to knit when I was a Brownie, but it was hard. Instead, I learned to cork (sounds like a dance move, no?). Remember how you just pounded some nails into a wooden spool et voila, you’ve got a corker. You could make all the pot holders you could ever desire.
But by the time I hit high school, knitting came more easily and it was fun. So I was delighted when my kids decided to dust off my old needle case and start casting on themselves. It didn’t come easily at first for them either, and their early efforts produced misshapen scarves for their dolls. Even though my mom sewed, she gave me a key piece of advice that I passed on to my kids. If you make a mistake, rip it out and start over. You’ll never be happy with your work unless you do. We let the doll scarves go but when it was time for bigger projects, they soon understood how true that is. Now they’re making infinity scarves and head bands (the new leg warmers) like there’s no tomorrow.
Sometimes it’s hard to find common ground with a teenager. It’s amazing to think that a centuries-old craft can be the tie that binds us.