My Needle Habit

What seems like a lifetime ago, I used to knit.

My grandmother first taught me as a youngster, but over time the comparative instant gratification of a sewing machine and budding interest in home improvement kind of diverted me.

But then I wanted to learn it again about five years ago, and took a few classes to reacquaint myself with the basics and start challenging myself to tackle projects that require me to sit down and think rather than just jump in and start swimming in hopes of finding a shoreline.

I got pretty comfortable with it, and even started what was for me an ambitious project:

The front panel of a sweater for my husband, ca. 2008

And then, right about here, is when I had a baby:

It was tricky to work on the back panel of the sweater and dart away from a husband trying to capture a photo of me barefoot, pregnant and knitting. While great with child.

And my mind was needed elsewhere. Feeding, nurturing, tending to the rest of life that still needed my attention despite my attention being so focused on that tiny little miracle. I thought I’d get back to it, someday. But didn’t beat myself up.

Tied up what loose ends I could to wait for the day...

Still, I noticed the felted tote bag – my first big project – filled with various sizes of knitting needles, stitch markers, yarn, and that incomplete project. And over the past year I began to truly miss knitting. The kind of quiet that settles around you as you silently count the stitches, gauge your yarn. The mild sense of panic as the cats start sniffing around the tote bag, or grab at the line of yarn leading from the ball to the work in progress. I began seeking the just-right time to pick up these again:

Oh, needles. How I've missed you.

But life is no less busy. I can’t point to an hour where the rest of the demands will agree to wait silently off to one side and allow me the luxury of slowing down. Breathing. Knitting four and purling three, across a row of 101 stitches until I reach the desired length. I was also scared. Scared that the part of my brain that held onto those memories of how to knit had wilted and withered from all those years of neglect.

Then a sense of civic duty called. I read an opinion by a local shop owner who sells knitting and craft supplies in the town where I work. I agreed with what she said, and as it so happens her cousin who also runs the place with her is the daughter of some old family friends. Then guilt – the ultimate motivator – set in. I had to do something to show them a modicum of support: I’ll buy some yarn.

What a visual treat. What a feast for my fingers to touch and feel the many textures, drink in the array of color. And after a good 10 minutes of just browsing, I found the right yarn to knit a little scarf for my son. Bright, happy colors that would keep him warm when the cold weather visits us again:

Oh, how this will stand out against the snow...

Time doesn’t wait for a little boy. I had no choice but to grab my volume of knitting tips, pick up those needles, and put a Disney movie in the DVD to keep him entertained as I cast on 30 stitches and started winding my way back to the days when I could knit.

And I discovered that the part of my brain where I kept those instructions was not dead. I felt it reawaken, and delight in being used again. A sense of contentment and resolve settled in, and finally that sweater doesn’t seem so scary to finish. And any time I begin to doubt my abilities, I only need look at this to remind me that yes, I can:


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