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Knitting - A Sad Story With a Happy Ending

Updated on February 28, 2016

Stuggling to Learn to Knit

Do you see this poor duck in the picture to the left? That's me and this is not a learn to knit story like all the other learn to knit stories. I decided to learn to knit a few of years ago and just don't understand what I'm doing. I feel like a duck out of water. It's not that I can't knit. I can. But I don't have the knack for creating something that looks like it is supposed to be. For instance, I tried to knit squares for a quilt. Being a mathematician, you'd think I knew what a square should be. I do, but my hands don't want to work that way.

And whose fault is it anyway? Not mine, I'll tell you. It's my mother's fault. Yes, it's true. My mother cast a spell on me so I'd never be able to knit and I'll tell you why.

My Mother and Knitting

When I was growing up, my mother was constantly knitting. She made sweaters, scarves and other clothing. She knitted while watching TV and socializing with her friends - who were also knitting. Both of my grandmothers knitted, too. I still have Afghan blankets from both of them. I used to watch my mother knit. I can still her the clicking of her knitting needles and see her moving her hands, turning the wool (it was almost always wool) around her fingers. I never had a desire to knit, nor did anyone offer to teach me. Eventually, everyone put down their knitting needles and I never thought of knitting again.

At least, not until a few years ago.

If I taught you how to knit the way you teach me about computers, you'd never be able to knit!

Computers and Knitting

My mother and I got along really well. Our only problem was that we had difficulty communicating with each other. It was most evident when she would call me for help with her computer. Years ago, my sister and I got my mother a computer. We installed it for her with basic software, showed her how to use email, surf the web, load her games and play them. However, as with all computers, there was the occasional glitch. Unfortunately for us, she lived in New York and we were in California. Tech support was difficult, to say the least.

She called me for help. One problem was that she would call me when I was at work. The second problem was that she didn't hear well. It wasn't cool for me to speak loudly at work, so I would always have to walk outside to talk to her. Then it sounded to her as if I was screaming. I gave her step by step instructions. I even emailed them to her. She could never follow them. She would tell me it was like I was telling her a recipe and leaving out an ingredient. Or she said it was like her teaching me how to knit and left out a step so that the sleeves on the sweaters were lopsided. Needless to say, I almost never could help her. And she kept bringing up the knitting threat. After a while I got smart. and had my sister help her.

My mother passed away in 2007, I missed her deeply. I found myself looking for a way to stay connected to her, but I wasn't sure what that looked like.

A Coincidence - Debbie Stoller

I was at a gathering one night not long after my mother died. There was a group of women aptly listening to someone talking. I walked over to them to see what was so interesting. It happened to be Debbie Stoller, the author of many books on knitting. She was discussing her latest book. It also turned out that she was going to speak about her book at a large independent bookstore in the area within the next few days. I decided this was the sign I was looking for. I was going to honor my mother by learning how to knit.

I went to the book reading. I found her talk very engaging. It seemed that everyone in the audience had read her books and made the items in her books. They even brought samples of their work with them. i bought two books by Debbie (see the first two books listed below). I started reading them that night and went shopping for needles and yarn the following day.

Within a few days, I could knit, purl, cast on, and cast off. I also learned what it meant to drop stitches because I did it so frequently. I knew what to do, but my hands just couldn't follow.

Stitch 'n Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook
Stitch 'n Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook

I started learning how to knit using this book. It is filled with information about the basics of basics including needles, yarns, techniques (knitting, purl, cast on, etc.) and how to fix things (I visited these pages often). I also liked her advice on what you should have in your knitting bag. I was pleased when I needed something and it was already in my bag.

 

Some Learning - A Glossary of some basic terms

I almost forgot! This is supposed to be an instructional lens, so we're going to take a break in the action and learn a few things.

  1. Knit (stitch) - Intertwining yarn with a series of connected loops.
  2. Purl (stitch) - The Purl stitch is the same as the knit stitch except the stitch is made from back to front instead of front to back (see video below).
  3. Cast On - A very important step in knitting is getting the yarn on the needles. This is called casting on.
  4. Cast Off - Casting Off (or Binding Off) is the method used to get your project off the needles.
  5. Dropping Stitches - Dropped stitches are stitches that fall from your needle and create gaps in the pattern. I've become an inadvertant expert at this stitch.

And Some Video Instruction

Click on the links below for some basic information about what we just learned in the glossary.

I Practiced for Weeks and Here is What I Made

OK. You can't wear it and it won't keep you warm. But what you don't see is that I mastered some techniques. I could cast on, knit, purl, and drop lots of stitches. My kids were pretty proud of me. I just couldn't get the hang of putting it all together. I got frustrated and pulled everything apart. That's when I realized my mother was right. So I put down my knitting needles until I got another sign.

Knitting Groups

My Next Sign

I was reading my synagogue newsletter and saw that there was a knitting group that met once a month. I took that as my next sign from my mother to get back to knitting. I knew most of the women there (men are allowed but I guess they aren't interested). They were making squares to create baby blankets for the afghans for Afghans humanitarian project. I figured this was a great first project for me. How could I go wrong with a 4x4 square? I just had to count the right number of stitches on each row.

As you can see in the picture on the right, my first "square" wasn't so square and there are plenty of dropped stitches. One night, I was knitting while I was lying with my infant granddaughter. She loved the color and feel of the yarn. So I kept this piece for her.

If You Don't Succeed

Try, Try Again

My next attempt (picture on the right) was more of a rhomboid than a square. It obviously didn't become part of a blanket. But finally I was able to make squares that were included in the blankets.

I have come to have a greater appreciation for knitting. My skill set still leaves a lot to be desired. But I really enjoy the knitting and being able to create useful items. I have come to admire (probably more in awe of) those who are so creative and can use their hands so well.

My Latest Project

Baby Hat

The knitting group started making baby hats for newborns in the hospital. The picture on the right is my first baby hat. I'm so thrilled even thought it isn't perfect. You can see I started purling accidently.

This baby hat took me a long time because I was too embarrased to ask for help. The women in the knitting group are so much more experienced than I am. However, I am beginning to learn more complicated projects and how to read knitting instructions.

Some Advice

Maybe I'm not the best one to give advice on knitting, but I'm going to tell you what I've learned in the last few years:

  1. Learn the basics. Practice until it feels natural. Don't worry about making anything.
  2. Knit with a buddy or mentor. Feedback is very helpful. Ask for help.
  3. Socialize. Knitting becomes more than just needles and yarn. Share ideas with others.
  4. Show off your finished project. Maybe even give it to someone. It will brighten their day.

Honoring My Mother

My mother's spell seems to be wearing off. I plan to continue learning more about knitting (stay tuned for another lens on my progress). It brings back memories of my mother and helps me feel "connected" to her. It is a challenge for me. I am not creative nor am I very skilled with my hands.

I'd Appreciate any Feedback or Comments You Might Have - As you can see, I still need some help.

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    • dlobel profile image
      Author

      Debra Lobel 4 years ago from Oakland, CA

      @dawnsnewbeginning: I'm still knitting. It's getting better. I'm not pulling everything out and starting again as often. Lol

    • dawnsnewbeginning profile image

      dawnsnewbeginning 4 years ago

      Nice lens! Please don't give up! I still to this day when I crochet, I cannot make things to wear because my crocheting gets bigger as I go! I taught myself to knit and as I'm not the best in knitting I do love it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I enjoyed your story - if you enjoy knitting and creating things I am sure you will get better - otherwise I would say you should do something you enjoy. Blessed.

    • profile image

      lovemicheala 5 years ago

      Wow, congratulations on your hat! A lovely lens and lesson on perseverance!

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      I really love the way you have told your story and I'm sure your mother is looking down on you with a smile and pride.

    • profile image

      macchinasinistra 5 years ago

      I actually love to crochet,but I learned to knit because I needed to do something challenging. So I applaud your efforts. With every project you WILL get better. Just relax and enjoy the process. Best Wishes!

    • solutions4u profile image

      solutions4u 5 years ago

      Humorous story. I've always loved to knit. I don't have so much time these days, but used to always have something on the go and have knitted everything from a dress for myself to a couple of huge babies' shawls.

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      Don't ask me. You're an expert in my eyes.

    • KennediBrown LM profile image

      KennediBrown LM 5 years ago

      Your little yellow square looks so much like my strange red rectangle...or whatever it was. It's almost a year later and I still haven't gotten the hang of knitting! It's great to see you have, though. Helps me to feel like it's not altogether impossible if you just have the determination.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      I laughed when I saw the first yellow square. And congratulations on your persistence. I can relate to your story because it has a parallel in the writing part of my world. Wish you the best.

    • profile image

      MiscDiva 5 years ago

      This is a very enduring, interesting and informational lens. Very nice indeed!

    • Nithya Venkat profile image

      Nithya Venkat aka Vellur 5 years ago from Dubai

      Hi, Great hub. Honoring your mother - that's great. Best of luck on allyour future projects. Great advice too.

    • ceejaycmarshall profile image

      ceejaycmarshall 5 years ago

      Great lens!

    • ceejaycmarshall profile image

      ceejaycmarshall 5 years ago

      Great lens!

    • AgingIntoDisabi profile image

      AgingIntoDisabi 5 years ago

      I don't know a mother-daughter relationship that is perfect. The bottom line is you loved each other. That's what counts most.

    • profile image

      seemarahate 5 years ago

      Great ideas, Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I wish I new how to knit, great lens though! Maybe I will learn now.

    • EpicFarms profile image

      EpicFarms 5 years ago

      How does that old ad go again? You've come a long way, baby! *grin* Sounds just like me and crochet (made a lens awhile back). But after miles of yarn and many repentable words, I finally found my groove. Looks like you may have found yours as well ;o)

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I, too, tried to learn to knit many years ago and being left-handed found it quite difficult. Eventually I turned to crochet, which just 'clicked' with me once I finally learned the basics. My yarn crafting all came from a strong desire to learn, overcoming two obstacles -- no crafty people in my family to show me and doing it 'backwards' (as many right handed people love to say about us 'leftys'...LOL). Recently (and reenforced by this story) I have gotten interested again in knitting and still having my knitting needles (and lots of yarn from my crochet crafting) have been thinking of giving it a try again. Maybe YOU are MY sign! :)

      So... I really admire you for your perseverance to learn knitting. Loved your knitting story and am sharing it on my Nifty Knitting lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      People are still loving knitting.. eSpecially housewifes...

    • Lemming13 profile image

      Lemming13 5 years ago

      My grandmother tried so hard to teach me and my two cousins to knit and crochet when we were young, but none of us could master it at all. She despaired of us. Funnily enough, just after she died all three of us (quite independently of each other) decided to try again and suddenly it all made sense. Now I design my own crochet patterns, and we all are keen needlecrafters. I like to think that she paid us a last visit to pass on her own skill to us - and maybe your mother did too. Thank you for a lovely lens.

    • fivee05 lm profile image

      fivee05 lm 5 years ago

      I can only knit small bags and table mats.

    • knitter82 profile image

      knitter82 5 years ago

      Seeing your first attempts brought back memories of me trying to learn to knit when I was 12. My mom's left handed and I'm not. Mulitple attempts to teach me failed miserably, always ending with me in tears. Finally a sweet old lady at church spent an hour with me and I got the hang of it. My first pieces look somewhat like yours :) Enjoy your new hobby...very addictive!

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 5 years ago

      The baby hat turned out so cute!

    • profile image

      vBizeso 5 years ago

      Nice Lens

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Great lens. My grandmother taught me to knit but only boots

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens! I can crochet, but my knitting skills are sadly lacking. Good for you for following through!

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 5 years ago

      This could be my story too. After many, many attempts I still can't knit well. Oh well, fun lens.

    • JodiFromFlorida profile image

      JodiFromFlorida 5 years ago

      Don't feel bad I've never mastered knitting either. Loved your story!

    • JodiFromFlorida profile image

      JodiFromFlorida 5 years ago

      Don't feel bad I've never mastered knitting either. Loved your story!

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 5 years ago

      Fanrastic story and pinned!!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      Practice makes perfect. And you succeeded in making that cute baby hat. Thanks for sharing a delightful story with a happy ending.

    • JohannaBaker profile image

      JohannaBaker 5 years ago

      I admire you for persevering and eventually mastering the square. I learnt to knit when I was 13 and have knitted many things in my life. I even knitted when I gave up smoking - a couple of rows every time I craved a cigarette and finished a cardigan within a couple of weeks. Keep going...and thanks for sharing your story. By the way, my mother taught me.

    • profile image

      luckyeinstein 5 years ago

      Ha ha ha. This reminds me of me. All thumbs - and my mother us so good at this.

    • profile image

      EFLobel 5 years ago

      This is a very sweet story. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      ldgraham 5 years ago

      Loved, loved, loved your story! I have managed to learn to handle the needles, but am most comfortable with the looms. I take it everywhere with me, and can draw a crowd almost anywhere. Like you, my best stitch with the needles were the dropped ones, though I do still try them when I have time. I have created a small business for myself with the looms and it keeps me pretty busy! Here's wishing you all the success in your amazing adventure!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Wonderful and very interesting story! I too have worked to master knitting and the closest I have come to it (on a consistent basis) is using the Knifty Knitter looms. I made my first hats using those and they came out great! I can crochet the basics just fine. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I loved this story. Your humor comes through in a funny but serious way. Your dedication to stick with it is amazing. I would have probably given up. your sense of waiting for a sign is genius and something i would never had thought of. Good Job!

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 5 years ago from Albany New York

      You made this lens so interesting....even though I don't knit! Well done and lovely story line about your Mother.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I love your story. And I thought your sweet duck at the beginning was dear. I think siblings often shy away from the things that their brothers or sisters are good at. Competition makes life tough. So to have different interests is a good thing. But to honor your Mom, so to speak, by learning how to knit, is a really beautiful thing to do.

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 5 years ago

      A very touching story thank you for sharing!

    • FantasticVoyages profile image

      Fantastic Voyages 5 years ago from Texas

      What a nice story, and a great way to honor your mother! I'm sure she would be quite proud of your knitting attempts. Looking forward to reading future articles about your knitting adventures!

    • designsbyharriet profile image

      Harriet 5 years ago from Indiana

      What a great story and lens. I've tried knitting, but it is not a craft I am good at, but our have inspired me.

    • designsbyharriet profile image

      Harriet 5 years ago from Indiana

      What a great story and lens. I've tried knitting, but it is not a craft I am good at, but our have inspired me.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 5 years ago from So Cal

      I have never considered a dropped stitch as one of the regular stitches but have now added it to my list of stitches too. I can knit and purl, cast on and off, and drop stitches too. Still, I have learned enough to make hats, socks, washcloths with designs. I will never finish the sweater I started for my grandson (and he's outgrown it anyway) but like you, I continue trying and that's what counts. Good job, love the pictures!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I love your personal story of encouragement! Thanks for the book recommendations and the great advice to learn the basics then practice, practice, and practice some more!