Monday, February 12, 2007

Tag, you're it.

This isn't a meme, exactly. More like a request for information. Since "Where I Knit" went so well, I thought I'd try this again. And like last time, if you take part, drop me a link so I'm sure to see it, and if I don't leave a comment, that means I haven't been there yet. Give me a kick and send me another link.

Today's topic? Where and when I learned to knit, and how, and what I did then.

My first memory of noticing knitting is from grade school (under age ten public school). I was riding the bus from school to home (don't ask me how I remember it was afternoon and not morning, but I do), and the girl in front of me was wearing a jacket or cardigan knit at a rather large gauge. I think it was a Cowichan knock-off, but I wouldn't swear to it. (Cowichan knitting is the only traditional knitting from N America, produced by native Americans in the Pacific NW.) At any rate, I remember looking at it and thinking "That looks like loops pulled through loops." and wanting to know exactly how to do it.

Wanting to know how (and why) is sort of the defining urge of my life. (In case you guys hadn't noticed, with the suggested reading lists.) That desire to learn to knit stuck with me, even though no one in my family knew how to knit, and ten million crochet lessons from my grandmother failed to stick in my head and I produced nothing but a mile-long chain.

During my last year of high school and my first year of college (1987-1989ish) I was dating a guy whose family sprang from Mennonite farmers. (We're still friends... Hi, Twa, if you're reading.) One evening I mentioned my desire to knit, and he said, "Shoot, my mother can teach you that." (Or something to that effect.) So one evening his mother sat me down and showed me a knitted cast-on, knit stitches, and purl stitches. It took about half an hour. (As I recall, after that we all fought over the mac and cheese leftovers, but that might have been another evening.)

That's it for my formal knitting education.

After that, I checked out every book in the library on the subject (this being Amish farm country, we had quite a few knitting books in the local library -- particularly for the size of the library). I discovered Barbara Walker's treasuries and spent about six months knitting squares of every pattern that looked interesting, with acrylic yarn from the Woolworth's and some aluminum knitting needles. I'd knit a square and throw it away. They weren't good for anything (because I, as a novice dumbass, didn't think of SEWING THEM TOGETHER).

Somewhere in the middle of all that, I moved to Columbus and the local library there was both huge and welcoming. And I found charted doily patterns (Marianne Kinzel's books). I bought a ton of crochet cotton and some size 2/3mm needles at the local knit shop, and proceeded to knit lace. That was in 1990.

I knit lace.

Then I knit some lace.

In 1998, I broke my hand. In 2000, after two surgeries, my physical therapist agreed that knitting would be good for me, so I started knitting again after two years off. That year I knit fourteen doilies (some of them two feet across) all on my trusty size twos, blocked them, and mailed them out instead of Christmas cards. It's still rather strange to walk into the house of one of my parent's friends and see one of my doilies.

Around 2001, I was finally getting bored with the lace knitting, and decided if I was going to knit as physical therapy forever, the least I could do was start producing clothing. So I bought some Brown Sheep Sport and knit Elizabeth Zimmerman's Chainmail Sweater from "Knitter's Almanac".

Since I'd begun my career, so to speak, reading EZ, I was rather lax about the idea of patterns, and finally quit following them altogether and did my own designs.

And here we are.

What about you?

EDITED TO ADD: For those curious about the hand problem/knitting relationship. I've always been very careful to avoid hand problems while knitting - if I noticed holding my hands a certain way made them hurt, I would adjust my technique until it didn't. It was the broken bones (between two and twenty; the doctors and I disagree on what constitutes 'broken') and the additional nerve damage that created the problem. However, these days if I overdo the knitting, it agravates my injuries and I have to take a couple days off. (Mostly my problem is muscle strain - they spasam and my fingers twitch uncontrollably.) The knitting DOES help as physical therapy, even now; when I was pregnant, I was off all my pain medication and couldn't concentrate well enough to knit. By the end of the year, my hand was weak and I'd lost a great deal of fine motor coordination (to the point I got sent off to the hand specialist by a worried GP). Once I started knitting again, I regained most of my fine motor control within about six months. I had to build up to long days of knitting, just like working out; at first I could only knit for about fifteen minutes before the muscles would spasm. Now I can go about two hours.


NeedleTart said...

You know, Amy asked the same question yesterday, and she was so impressed with my story I think I'm just going to have to blog it. Look for it later this week (especially if we get that big storm and school is closed)>

Rae said...

Oh, that's so interesting about knitting as hand therapy. I thought the knitting CAUSED your hand pain, not that it was therapy for breaking your hand. Interesting.

I've blogged (a long time ago) about my grandmother but will post it soon. I'll drop you a note ... as needletart said, Amy asked that question just yesterday. Do you have ESP, or do you both just share a brain? ;)

Goddamned blogger ID is too long. Grr.

debsnm said...

OK, it's up - how I learned to knit - longer than it probably should be.

Amy Lane said...

Wow--I'd like to say great minds think alike, but honestly, your mind's so much greater than mine, that's probably not the compliment I would be trying for... anyway, I sort of blogged my story... it all started with a dream about a crochet hook and some yarn, and ended with my rampant emotional immaturity making me teach myself how to knit as well as crochet...

I like your story--I think it proves that some of us are just drawn to the way things work, enough to figure it out and make them work for ourselves. And I always knew knitting was good for us...but your story shows a specific way how!

Bells said...

nice idea. I just blogged last night so I'll think on it for a day or two and post later.

LB said...

Excellent idea for a non-meme-meme. I loved it so much I also blogged it. Knitting kept me sane in a turbulent time of my life. Knitting is a wonderful therapy and craft, but you already knew that.

Sandy said...

Hello, I love your blog and have just started my own, so I am out of lurk world. I posted my own knitting story at

Terby said...

Ow on the broken hand. Not fun.

I answered your question... So how was your yarn expedition the other day?

Swapna said...

Deadly dull story over on my blog, specifically here:

Catie said...

I talked about my mom a lot (she taught me to knit) over on my blog (though you likely can just click my name, sometimes blogger has issues with me. The only thing I didn't say was what I knit first. Scarves, multiple ones in garter stich. Then a queensize throw in garterstich in bocle yarn (acrylic). I love that throw actually but I got bored lots so it took awhile. Then a few dishcloths (evened out my purl stich) and a sweater.

KnitTech said...

My knitting story will be posted on the blog. That way Amy can't reject me. Yeah, yeah, "baby". :)

Carrie said...

I came, I saw, I blogged.

Bells said...

I've done my contribution!

Shelley said...

Dont have a blog but my knit story is short.
I first learned how to knit at the age of 5 or 6 from my older sister. I swear it was my sister Therese but she 'says' she doesnt knit and it must have been Connie, who was a Navy WAVE at the time. I am much younger than my siblings.

I learning so young, I still have trouble understanding how some folks find knitting difficult or angst over imperfection or are scared of new techniques.

But, Ive successfully (and gently) taught 2 adults and 7 younger folks (6 girls 1 boy) to knit. I always say to those I've taught once the've successfully finished their first project that it will be there responsibility to pass knitting knowhow on to the generation of younger folk following them.

I did have one teaching failer - the now ex friend who ended up marrying my long time live in boyfriend (thats why she's an exfriend and so by the way is he).

Laura said...

Hey there! Finally added my post on this topic.

jeand said...

short story, no blog. I was spending a summer on my grandparents cattle ranch and was sometimes bored. Decided I wanted to learn to knit, but Ma didn't knit (only tatted and crocheted) so I pulled out the Encyclopedia Britannica and used needles crafted for me by the grandfather {out of welding rods}. Next time we went to town I bought yarn and needles and made a jacket which I wore all the way through college. Discovered later that I had learned the "wrong way" {continental stitch} but never regretted it.