I've been asked this question by a lot of shocked and bewildered people lately. When we went to Newfoundland for our honeymoon, so many of the older ladies were SO surprised to hear that I knit (and see it). One said to Robbie, "Hang on to her. There's not many young ones that knit."
It always surprises me that more people don't knit. Some say they don't have the time, some say it's a dead art, some say it's anti-woman. There are a million excuses, but, in my own, humble opinion, if you haven't tried it, you can't judge it.
So why do I knit? How did I become a knitter? The story is fairly straight-forward, although it tends to get somewhat confusing at times.
I first started crocheting (does that look like it should be pronounced "Crotch-et-ing" to you?). I learned to crochet when I knee-high to a grasshopper (thank for the phrase, Dr. Phil. I knew you'd be useful eventually). One of my memories of my mom from my childhood is the big bag of squares that she crocheted (Crotch-et-ed) for an afghan. They were all colours, probably scrap yarn of some type of glamourous acrylic. I would sit at her feet and play with the hook, trying to make my squares look like squares. It was during this time that I developed a fascination for yarn. The squeaky, crunchy yarn in Safeway. I always used to rub it against my face as I walked by. Yarn sweaters completely absorbed my being for a time. My mom bought a sweater that had a bunch of veggie matter in it. I spent two weeks picking it out, rubbing my fingers over the scratchy wool. I loved it.
I quickly forgot how to crochet by the time I hit elementary. I started doing much cooler things like finger painting, playing with clay, math, and playing "Lean into the wind," a game much revered on the windy plains of Taber, Alberta.
In grade six, my mom gave me a tiny cross stitch kit of a grey cat with a red bow in my stocking. She showed me how to do the stitches, how to put the yarn on the needle, and I diligently brought it to class every day and worked on it during gym when I "forgot" my gym clothes. I don't think I ever finished it.
Once again, I lost the art of cross stitch, of home crafts, shortly thereafter. I had my things. I was artsy. I enjoyed working with my hands, loving freestyle painting, excelling at pottery, getting my hands dirty with charcoal, spending extra time in the art class just retreating into my own world. The repetitive movements of pencil across paper, slip across clay, allowed me to think about my day, my time, daydream, imagine a purpose (or at least paint a very elaborate picture involving myself, clay, and a Backstreet Boy. You've seen Ghost--use your imagination).
After high school, I stopped doing most of my art. I'd sit at a wheel from time to time, take another pottery class, dabbled in glass-blowing, picked up a pencil and my tablet from time to time, but nothing really stimulated me. I would go to Walmart and buy cross stitch patterns, work them halfway and quickly discard them. I'd do paint by numbers. Never finished.
Every time, though, I'd go into the yarn aisle. See, at this time, I didn't know that stores like Make1 existed. I thought that yarn was the acrylic, the fun fur, the one pound Red Heart balls. One day, I decided to pick up a crochet book of granny square afghans. I poured over it, finally deciding to do one of them. I bought the yarn and started. It took FOREVER. When I was done, it looked great, and I gave it to my friend, Cat, for Christmas.
I started crocheting (crotch-et-ing) all the time. I stopped cross stitch. I stopped paint by number. I found something that was hands-on, and something that allowed me to be creative.
About a year after I started crocheting again, we lost Robbie's mom to cancer. She was a knitter, and a damn competent one. She could go lay a floor, build a deck, and then knit a sweater. She was super woman. She was my friend.
Since I was the only one who really did anything with yarn in the family, I was given her knitting basket and all her needles, stitch markers, patterns, half-completed sweaters, gloves, hats, mitts, slippers...
For about three months, I didn't touch it. It sat in my livingroom, exactly as it had in hers. The needles, the reading glasses, the rolled up patterns. It smelled like her, and I refused to touch it. I wouldn't do it justice.
About a month after she died, Robbie and I found out that we were expecting. As excited as we were, we were terrified. The fear was increased with the loss of Robbie's mom who had so wanted a grandchild. One night, sitting in my basement livingroom, staring at the basket, I asked myself, "What would she be doing right now? How would she have reacted to know that her first grandchild was on its way?" The answer came as quickly as the question. She would be knitting. Not just dabbling in the knitting for a few garments when the baby was born. Oh no. She would have been locking herself in her room for nine months until that baby was born so she could present it with a lifetime of clothing. She would have blankets, shirts, socks, hats, pants, bibs, dishcloths, YOU NAME IT.
I picked up her needles, and I cast on.
So why do I knit? I knit because when I knit, I remember Vera. I remember the women who came before me. I pass on the knowledge that, for generations, was just considered "a woman's work," but kept those generations warm. I knit because those repetitive motions take me back into myself, to a place where I am myself. I knit for myself, and that is such a hard thing to admit.
Why do you?