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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!
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.
What's your favorite handcraft?
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.
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.
For me, learning to knit was easiest with books.
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
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!)
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.