Thursday, October 8, 2009

Creative Reminiscing Part 1: Knitting

I find it interesting that regardless of the number or variety of thoughts that pass through my mind while I’m knitting, painting or baking, I generally end up reminiscing about how I learned to do whatever I’m doing, and about those who taught, influenced or encouraged me as I was learning to do it. Certain things have come to be a part of who I am – for instance, people know I knit. They know that if someone at work or my Hubby’s work announces a pregnancy, I’m going to make baby stuff. They also know that if they don’t tell me color preferences or at least gender, I’m going to pick something myself, but either way there’s no getting out of the knitting thing. My obsession with making stuff out of yarn, however, is not what this blog entry is about. I suppose, now that it’s the harvest season, I’m of a mind to give thanks to those who have, at least in some way, helped me get where I am.

First, there’s my mother, rest her soul. When I was very young and she was a housewife, she made bread by hand (there were no home bread machines), sewed some of the clothes we wore to school, embroidered, used a small plastic loom to make Barbie clothes, etc. We always had bead crafting kits and other generally creative stuff available. Later when she had to work outside the home, we still always had paints, colored pencils and craft kits at the very least. I learned to crochet while I was in early elementary school, though no one actually sat down and taught me. I picked up the basics by watching my grandmother, rest her soul, who taught my older sister, and my aunt, who can crochet doilies without patterns, much the way I can churn out a sock. I consider doilies to be far more complicated than socks. My grandmother could crochet a huge bedspread with thin crochet cotton, probably without a pattern, but even with a pattern, I consider that impressive. I recall crocheting small bags to give as gifts as far back as 6th grade, which, as my children frequently remind me, was a very long time ago. When I was a senior in high school, my mother and I found a pattern we both wanted to make, and which I am now unable to locate, at least on the web. Fortunately, I have it memorized: it’s just a basic circle-in-square pattern using a puffy stitch, and I had to make hundreds of them to make the first blanket, which was a full-size comforter. I ended up having to give it away a few months after I made it. Naturally, I decided to make another shortly thereafter, but was tired of making blue circles with eggshell squares around them, so I made this instead:

These days, my biggest inspiration (enabler, really) is my hubby. Despite all the creative or crafty things I’ve learned to do over my lifetime, it wasn’t until he came along that I saw it as something other than a greedy little hobby. Before him, I thought of it all as impractical, selfish and expensive. Even knitting was just something I did in semi-secret: I didn’t have a lot of money, so making a sweater that cost more than simply purchasing one seemed, well, impractical, selfish and expensive. I did it anyway, and for the longest time, all I really worked on was a series of wavy blankets in RedHeart worsted weight. I could rationalize buying RedHeart: it’s not expensive at all. I could rationalize Susan Bates circular needles: also not expensive. I would never have been able to rationalize Skacel or Brittany needles, nor the more expensive yarns, and certainly not Vera, a wool winder or a swift. A blog about my secret passion would have been right out. What I did not realize at the time is that knitting provides a great deal more than an object. It’s not just a pair of socks or a blanket or sweater. For the recipient, it’s something that says someone cares enough to spend both time and money to make something special and personal. For me, knitting provides time to sort out my thoughts without sitting in my easy chair just drooling and staring at the walls. I’ve never been good at just sitting and doing nothing.

In being grateful for my hubby, I have to give kudos to his mom as well. I know that she encouraged him in many ways and that she is in part responsible for how wonderful he is. With that in mind, when my hubby asks me to make a blankie (or anything) for his mom, it’s an honor; the knowledge that he considers the product of my selfish little hobby to be something he wants to give his mother is incredibly gratifying. In fact, I just recently finished this one for her birthday:

It’s a bit simple, but it’s big and I wanted to get it to her sometime this century. The main body was knitted on Vera, and the border is made of cording that was hand-knitted directly onto the main body using DPN’s. Naturally, you can’t see the border in the photo because I didn’t have time to wash and block it before the birthday party. After all, I had two cakes to make:

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