Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why I'm So Glad I Taught Myself to Knit Again

by Guest Blogger Margot Stevens of A Party Shade of Green

My grandmother was a prolific knitter. In every one of my aunts' and uncles' homes, you will still find her afghans in daily use. In every one of my cousins' keepsake boxes, a sweater knit especially for us. When the local paper in Port Alberni ran a story on her, and how she took in more than 20 foster kids, some of whom I now count as aunts, there are her knitting needles sticking up in the bottom of the photo. She didn't even put them down for the interview.

But like so many things, I didn't treasure her skills until she was gone. I could only remember the knit stitch she taught me, but not how to cast on or off, and without a beginning or an end, I had nowhere to go. So a few years ago I set out to re-teach myself the skill of knitting, and re-connect with my Granny's gift.

I started with The Complete Idiot's Guide to Knitting, which provided a very strong foundation for the skills I have built over the years. From this really excellent book, I re-taught myself to cast on, knit AND purl, how to increase and decrease stitches, the basics of lace and cables, and finally, how to cast off and construct a garment. After completing a few washclothes and scarves, I decided to try some more complicated projects, and learned how to knit lace shawls and mittens at a yarn shop in Kensington Market. I experimented with hats and baby sweaters, and even a stuffed animal or two.

Once I felt that I could produce knitted items nice enough for gifts, I started knitting mitts and scarves for family members, and I finally realized what drove my grandmother to knit. I have found nothing more satisfying than knitting gifts for others, because it is so much more than just buying a gift at the store. I carefully pick the right pattern for them. Then I choose a yarn that I think would suit them. Then as I knit it, I find I spend a lot of time thinking about the person for whom I am knitting, and this is such a wonderful way to spend the little spare time I can find in my day.

One of the most satisfying moments I had was last winter, when my father-in-law told me that he had been out looking for a new scarf, but could not find one that fit his needs. They were all too scratchy, too colourful, too thin, or too short. So together we designed a scarf that was in essence a very long tube, so that it was always double-thick, and it was knit with two strands of a very soft acrylic in a neutral tone. It took me weeks to knit, but once he had it, he wore it every day for the rest of the winter.

I also found, during my first year of motherhood, that knitting brought me some solace when I was afraid I was losing my mind. There is nothing like the exhaustion, overwhelming anxiety and paranoia of being a new mom, in addition to feeling like you've completely lost your identity in your new role and responsibilities. I found that having a simple knitting project that I could pick up in those few quiet moments, or when I needed to focus on something else so that I wouldn't completely lose my mind, was extremely helpful and relaxing.

If you are interested in learning, or re-learning, how to knit, or just want to find some other knitters to share a cup of coffee with, join us in November of Friday mornings at Gingerbread Lane. Starting Friday, Nov.7th, and then for the next 3 Fridays, I will be facilitating a beginner's knitting project class, along with an intermediate knitting motivation.

For more information on Margot's knitting club, launching Friday November 7th, email or call 905-271-2900

Margot is the found of A Party Shade of Green, providing parents with environmentally-friendly alternatives for kids' parties.

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