I think I was about eight when my maternal grandmother, Grammy, taught me and my whole Brownie troop to knit. We made little potholders out of white acrylic yarn. I knotted my yarn and dropped stitches and generally distinguished myself as Least Likely Ever to Knit Anything Again. Grammy was a great knitter. She produced beautiful cashmere socks that Lord & Taylor tried to buy from her. (She refused; they could never resell the socks at a price high enough to compensate her for her time. Anyone who ever tried to make a living from their handicrafts could understand that.) I also recall her making beautiful baby layettes for my sister and brother and several fabulous sweaters for her son-in-law, my dad. Grammy had a great collection of knitting needles and bags and bags of yarn stashed into her bedroom closet. I admired them, but I could never hope to be a good knitter like Grammy. By the time she died, when I was a teenager, I could produce a knit and purl stitch competently, but I hadn't made anything useful since that potholder.
Knitting was something only little old ladies did. I did sew throughout my adolescence, with some fairly impressive results. I made a few dresses, many pairs of pants and skirts, interview suits during my senior year in college, and then, later in life, a lot of maternity clothes. I always enjoyed sewing. It gave me a sense of both creativity and control. I could make exactly the outfit I wanted, and I could control everything about the finished product. I still own and often wear a black wool cape that I made in the winter of 1999, when I couldn't find a coat that would stretch to cover my very pregnant belly. It's a little more formal than I usually need, but it comes out of the closet for formal occasions and Harry Potter premieres.
In the winter of my junior year of college, I lived with a family in Berlin, and they had a daughter approximately my age. I'll call her Annika (mostly because that was her name). Annika could knit beautifully, and she often sat on the couch on a cold evening whipping up a pair of socks. I admired her work very much, and finally, one evening, I asked her in my halting German if she could teach me how to make socks.
"Can you knit?" she asked.
"Yes, and I can purl too. But I haven't ever really made anything."
"Doesn't matter. If you can knit and purl, you can do this." She set up a sock for me on double-pointed needles and watched patiently as I worked on it. She picked up the dropped stitches (there were many), and she turned the heel. She showed me how to knit "continental style," because it was faster than my Grammy's old "English style." I returned to New York in March with a pair of beautiful homemade socks.
I didn't knit much when my children were small, but recently a local friend named Lili, an expert knitter herself with her own blog and Etsy shop, got me back into it, and I was knitting up a storm in no time. I tried joining a couple of knitting groups, first one in my little town and then, after I returned to work, at my office, but it's hard to set aside the time. I knit now mostly by myself. I make a lot of socks - they make terrific gifts, and the variations in yarn and patterns are nearly endless. I have also made several baby blankets, with varying success. (I once made a baby blanket as a surprise and mailed it off to the recipient's address in my husband's contact list. It turned out she had moved a year earlier. The blanket has not yet been recovered. If you have ever made something as big and effort-intensive as a baby blanket, you can appreciate what a tragedy this is.) I have made two or three sweaters as well. They're hard work, but they tend to impress the recipients a lot. One year I made scarves as Christmas presents for all the kids' teachers. That was a very busy November.
What I enjoy about knitting is the peacefulness of it, its meditative quality. I still get
My husband forces me to photograph every finished project before it gets mailed off to its recipient. This gives me a nice little album of completed work. Here, for example, is the only record I have of that lost baby blanket:
A few years ago, my mom gave me all of Grammy's old knitting needles. There are many, so I now have all the equipment I will ever need. I like to think that Grammy somehow knows that I have finally lived up to her legacy. My mom knows, and I think she is very pleased to have a knitter in my generation. So far, none of my children have expressed an interest in learning, but if they ever do, I will be armed and ready, with Lili's skills, Annika's patience, and, of course, Grammy's needles.