Knitting with chopsticks

Once you start knitting, you won't be able to stop.

The epitome of inhumanity

My conception of knitting was first formed in high school when I read Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and met that epitome of inhumanity, Madame Defarge, who famously knitted while heads rolled.

But even without the malevolence, knitting seemed an unattractive pastime to me. An activity for the infirm or the aged. (Picture Agatha Christie's Miss Marple's clacking needles.)

Then, last summer my husband and I visited the small town of Lewisburg, West Virginia, and my view of knitting changed. Forever.

A fantastical garden of knitting

We were there on First Friday, a whole-town celebration that occurs on the first Friday of every month. (Imagine street art, shopping specials, music, food and busy streets.)

Brightly colored knit fences and loosely woven walls transformed the small-town park into a fantastical place.

Off one of the main streets is a small park partially surrounded by a low brick wall. I don't know what it's name is. Although it's tiny as far as parks go (not much bigger than a basketball court, I'd say) it has the usual park things: trees, benches, a statue, a water feature.

We'd stopped there on previous visits to have a seat, relax and watch children splash about in the water. But on this particular First Friday, the park was transformed.

Brightly colored wool fences and walls draped brick and trees. Whimsical knit creatures—butterflies, spiders, birds and squirrels—dangled from benches and boughs.

It was incredible.

It was delightful.

It was a fantastical garden of knitting.

I wish you could have seen it. I wish I'd had a camera with me so that I could show you now.

But most of all, I wish I'd been one of the knitters who transformed that small park into a fantasy world of yarn.

How foolishly narrow minded I'd been! How blind! It was so clear now: knitting is a creative act, with as many possibilities for expression as photography or dancing or painting or writing or sculpting.

And like any other art, it's as versatile and unique as the people who do it.

I want to do that!

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Knitting is a creative act, with as many possibilities for expression as photography or dancing or painting or writing or sculpting.

Enamoured, I wandered around the park, finally settling down on a concrete bench. My husband sat down beside me. A musician was playing guitar under a low tree, and lots of people were milling about, mostly teenagers.

As I stared at the festooned trees and walls and benches, many thoughts flitted through my head, mostly, I wish I could do that! I want do that! I'm going to do that—or at least try!

I could have sworn they were just thoughts, but I must have said them out loud, too (or the look on my face gave me away) because not long after we returned home, my husband purchased three knitting lessons for me at a local craft shop.

A fuzzy mess

I'd like to say the personal lessons were a success, but at the end of the first one, I slowly drove home through a rainstorm, embarrassed even in solitude by the loosely woven wool on the passenger seat beside me. The product of the hour's worth of diligent effort, it hung precariously from two wooden needles.

My instructor, a ruthlessly cheerful woman, had been incredibly supportive. No mistake, no awkwardness, no muttered expletive could dampen her enthusiasm. If I had set fire to the yarn, she still would have smiled and said, "That's it! You're doing great!"

Yet, despite her encouraging words, I was feeling low.

Would I ever be able to create the sort of whimsical designs I'd seen in Lewisburg? Could I even learn to knit well enough to make a scarf?

On my instructor's advice, I had chosen thick, light-colored yarn (easier to see, she'd said)—a Valentine's Day pink—and had toyed with the idea of making a scarf for my mother-in-law. Now I thought my first try at knitting would make good packing material. Or a nice addition to the dog's toy basket.

As I pulled into the driveway and parked, my spirits sank even further. There, huddled on the dirty floor mat, was my knitting. A limp, fuzzy mess of purple-pink wool. It had fallen off the needles.

Aaagh!

There, huddled on the dirty floormat, was my knitting. A limp, fuzzy mess of purple-pink wool.
There, huddled on the dirty floormat, was my knitting. A limp, fuzzy mess of purple-pink wool.

What's your favorite handcraft?

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At that point, I considered giving up.

There were lots of other new things I could try, I told myself. Why did it have to be knitting? Obviously, I had no natural talent for it. In fact, apparently the opposite was true. It was just like that weaving class in college, when I'd set the loom up completely incorrectly and then attempted to weave while sitting on the wrong side of it.

I looked at my knitting.

Aaagh!

Then I shook off the last clinging drops of self-pity and stuck the needles back in as best as I could.

For the next few days, I continued to practice my stitches, but it was no use. The needles weren't in the weave the right way, and no matter how many stitches I did, it was all wrong, wrong, wrong.

I started again.

Dismayed but determined, I removed the needles, cut the yarn and went to the library, where I checked out two beginner's books on knitting.

And I started again.

I cast on until I could do it without looking at the directions.

I did the knit stitch. I purled. I practiced and practiced off and on for days until, finally, I could do both by rote.

Still, my stitches were very tight. Too tight.

Much, much better

Somehow, for some reason, I was doing it. I was actually doing it! I was knitting! Not perfectly, no, but much, much better than before.
Somehow, for some reason, I was doing it. I was actually doing it! I was knitting! Not perfectly, no, but much, much better than before.
Hey, it happens.
Hey, it happens.

By the time I returned to the shop for my second lesson, I'd made a puckered, dishcloth-sized mess.

Undeterred, my instructor cheerfully showed me how to bind the sad little square and then watched me start again.

This time the tension was just right. And the stitches looked good.

Somehow, for some reason, I was doing it. I was actually doing it! I was knitting! Not perfectly, no, but much, much better than before.

This time when the instructor said, "That's it! You're doing great!" I smiled.

How to fix dropped stitches (Really good!)

It's a pleasure. It's addictive. And it's fun.
It's a pleasure. It's addictive. And it's fun.

Knitting with chopsticks

Delighted that I'd broken through the learning curve, I knitted and knitted and knitted.

I knitted on breaks from work. I knitted while dinner simmered. I knitted on the couch at night while my husband watched TV.

And I'm still knitting. It's a pleasure. It's addictive. And it's fun.

I've tried knitting with my eyes closed, knitting in the dark and knitting while reading magazines.

And as I ply away at wool with my two wooden needles, trying to master the basics, I imagine knitting chains of white clover with long, stout sticks, and drooping, flowered hats with red chopsticks.

What could I knit with just my fingers? What could I knit with drumsticks? with pencils? with pens?

The possibilities seem endless.

And I can't wait to keep trying.


Copyright © 2013 by Jill Spencer. All rights reserved.


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Drop Your Comments Here 31 comments

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 10 months ago from East Coast, United States

I knit wash cloths because they are small and I'm not dragging around a large swath of materials. One time, when the knitting bug hit, I found two wooden cooking skewers and knit a key fob out of string!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 13 months ago from United States Author

Me, too, Jenna!


jennabee25 profile image

jennabee25 13 months ago from PA

I've always been curious about knitting with chopsticks......every time I look at a pair I wonder, could I knit with those?


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 17 months ago from United States Author

lol! Go for it, Thelma!


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 17 months ago from Germany

What a great idea! I am planning to knit a bag for my own use but I couldn´t find my knitting sticks. I have chopticks here and so I´ll use them. Thanks for this wonderful idea. Voted up, useful and shared in Fb.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi relawshe--Glad my sad tale has inspired you. lol Good luck! And thanks for stopping by. Appreciate it!


relawshe profile image

relawshe 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

Great and humorous hub that has inspired me to go grab that pitiful mess of a baby blanket that's been piled up in the floor of my closet and get back to it! It's so great to hear another knitter's love story with knitting! :)


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi KoffeeKlatch Gals! I agree: your imagination is only limited by ... your imagination. Good to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by. --Jill


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 3 years ago from Sunny Florida

I love the description of the "fantasy world of yarn". It just goes to show you that creativity has no boundaries.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi tebo. Knitting's quite the fad now! Lots of cool ideas out there. Thanks for reading!--Jill


tebo profile image

tebo 3 years ago from New Zealand

I knitted heaps when the kids were little, and have been thinking about having a go again now. Its good that you have mastered a new skill. Great read, thanks.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Well...probably for me, too. Except when it comes to knitting! lol


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

It was a little bit of both for me.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Deb! Hi Glimmer Twin Fan! It's an interesting choice: do you only pursue those things for which you have a natural ability or do you follow inclination rather than talent? I'm beginning to thing there's something very joyous, even inspirational, about pursuing inclination.


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

Never stop creating, no matter what the results! Fun hub Jill!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Maybe if I had been to the park on the same day that you were, I would also have a better appreciation for knitting. Don't get me wrong, I like what other people can do, and have some of it, myself. I think I am better at photography, though.(grin)


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Blossom! Yes, I am enjoying it. I can't watch TV without doing something else at the same time, and knitting tethers to the couch. I guess that's a good thing! Take care--Jill


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

So glad you've found the fun of knitting, it's so creative and something that can be picked up in spare moments. Also a great excuse for sitting and watching TV - not wasting time because you're knitting.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hey purl3agony! Thanks for encouraging a newbie. Your patterns are something to aspire to!

Hi Natasha. Maybe we could knit together all of our unfinished stuff into a work of Frankenstein-like art! Thanks for commenting. Jill


Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 3 years ago from Hawaii

I'm...ok at knitting. Well, my knitting looks nice but is so painfully slow I never, ever finish a project! I only really think to knit when it's cold out and then, come spring, I usually have half of it finished and pack it away. I really need to finish something up!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Thanks for the hug, vocalcoach! As soon as I make my first dishcloth, I'm taking a picture of it and posting it online--even if it looks like the work of a 9 year old. Everybody's got to start somewhere, right? Take care & thanks for your kind words & votes. Happy knitting! Jill


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

The best of hubs! I laughed, felt your frustration (and mine with my own attempt to knit) and your joy at marveling at the beautiful knitted things at the park. You and I are "birds of a feather" because I want nothing more than to learn the art of knitting. I can knit and I can pearl but that's it. I can't make one thing!

Bookmarking your hub to turn to when my frustration is full-blown. :)

Voted up and rated completely across and will share all over the place. Gosh, I'm dancing on a cloud of joy for finding your magnificent article.

Exceptionally well-written. Here's a big hug!


purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA

Glad you're having fun. Always nice to meet another knitting convert :) We all start at the beginning with basic stitches. And we all have to "knit" through the basics to get to more advance projects. Great hub!!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

I'll give it a shot, faythef! It would be nice to actually MAKE something--other than a mess. (:


faythef profile image

faythef 3 years ago from USA

Practice is no fun..make something..make a dishcloth...it is just square it doesn't have to be perfect..and you get lots of practice while making something useful,you maybe surprised at how well you do...I have a couple of hub pages with some free patterns that you can try..start with a simple one and then when you have accomplished one you will be rewarded with a dishcloth..(LOL)


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Exactly, Wonder wool. That's just what I'm thinking. And I know what you mean about impatience. I'll be knitting along, doing fine, and then it's like I'm racing downhill frenetically and I start making mistakes. The urge to "do it all at once" works in writing. You can sort of expend all of your thoughts in a rush and then go back and pick through them. But the approach is a killer in knitting. Thanks for stopping by & commenting! --Jill


Wonder wool profile image

Wonder wool 3 years ago from United States

If I can first learn to knit properly with the knitting needles, I surely want to try the chopsticks. Knitting makes me realise how impatient I am.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Think there's a knitting gene? You and your mom must have it! Thanks for reading!--Jill


Derdriu 3 years ago

Jill, My mother n-e-v-e-r made mistakes in her crocheting and knitting. In fact, as I read your article I'm wearing the blue shawl which she crocheted for me. She got me started on knitting, and while I was in SLC I'd progressed to Irish-patterened sweaters.

Practice may or may not make perfect (such as my mother achieved). But it always will count for enjoyment and something to show for your time.

Respectfully, and with many thanks and all the laughs, Derdriu


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Yes, still knitting--and waiting for a marvelous breakthrough! Thanks for the encouragement. --Jill


faythef profile image

faythef 3 years ago from USA

So happy you are still knitting....the vote..they are all my favorite..LOL..I can't pick just one..

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