On Idenity

I have to admit, I too had a grandmother (or in my case a godmother) teach me to knit when I was a child of 5 or 6 years. I remember sitting next to her pastel jordan almonds after preschool trying to knit – continental I believe. It was difficult, and I lost interest quickly. How is anyone supposed to pull a string forward with a pointed stick? It seemed illogical. I also remember struggling with drawing hair while at her house. How were you supposed to represent the hair on the back of the head without covering the face? I settled on drawing it up over the head, like everyone had just gotten a thousand-volt shock. How funny that must have looked! 3-D to 2-D struggles. Come to think of it, I only had that problem with drawing hair…

At any rate, my mom was not inclined to force me into recreational activities, so my knitting came to a quick end. Mom learned to knit when she was a teenager, but she wasn’t knitting when I was young. She sewed much more. I regularly went to fabric shops with her, which is a habit we have yet to grow out of. After I went to college she revived her interest in knitting. We began visiting yarn shops in addition to the fabric store.

I’ve been happy to join her on these trips, and I’ve watched her do more and more with her knitting. I must say, watching a parent develop a skill from the perspective of adulthood is a unique and delightful thing. I don’t know that kids end up being able to express that adequately to their parents when it happens. They’re supposed to be the ones impressed with us, so it’s hard to know how to show we’re impressed with them.

I really looked at knitting as something mom did, maybe because I knew I had already tried it and didn’t take to it.

I liked looking at the yarns. So much color and texture. My mom has an ability to look at something and see the potential it has. I look at things and see them for what they are right now. Yarn hanks can be tricky that way. Stunning in their own right, but sometimes very different from the fabric you end up with.

It was spring break and mom was in town. (I teach now so I’ve never really left the academic calendar.) I got an itch to make something with my hands. Why not have my mom teach me to knit? As you might expect from a serious knitter, she had an extra pair of needles on hand and taught me the basics before we went yarn shopping the next day. Suddenly, that was a very different trip. What if I looked stupid because I was an adult and didn’t know what I was doing yet? Ha! No such thing, but I had that worry at the time. (And I’m sure I’ll have it again with something else. I really got to get over that.)

It felt good to make something. It was great to stare at beautiful yarn and see the colors develop across the needle. And the best part?! You didn’t have to clean up, you could just put things away! Knitting is such a tidy craft. Over the rest of the academic year I knit a scarf and a cowl for other people. Then it was summer and there was nothing in the way of completely loosing myself in knitting.

Diversity is only threatening when you lack a sense of self.

I dove in. If I wasn’t knitting I was on the internet trying to learn about knitting. I was on Ravelry like it was Facebook, and “Hot right now” was my news feed. My yarn shrine, I mean stash, was growing. I discovered knitting podcasts. I could listen to someone talk about knitting – while I was knitting. It was wonderful. And that’s when it happened, I had my knitting identity crisis.

There’s an aside in Stitch ‘N Bitch titled, “A Field Guide to Knitters”.  It’s a fun little account of a few types of knitters one might run into. When I first read it I had the magazine (and now internet) please-fit-me-into-a-box quiz moment. Why is there anything appealing to those quizzes anyway? I’m sure a psychologist somewhere knows. Well, I wanted to fit into a box while reading those descriptions, and when I got to the end of the list I struck out. I was a sort of blend between several. Oh well, I got what Debbie meant, and it was cute.

As I was looking for more podcasts to consume while knitting a baby blanket, I started to wonder – what am I doing? Do I even like knitted fabric in my wardrobe? What do I expect to come of this? Will everyone think I’m turning into an old lady? (I was a big weekday matinee viewer in grad school, so I feel like I’ve got one foot in that door already. And let me tell you, that’s the way to watch movies.) I was seeing more and more of this wide world of knitting and it was freaking me out because there was a good lot of it where I didn’t see myself reflected back to me. I became frustrated with everything, which didn’t make any sense. Why should I feel threatened by what someone else is doing? Isn’t more people doing different things good?

The trouble was, I hadn’t stopped to think about what I wanted from my knitting, or how knitting was going to fit into my sense of self. I just leapt  into it, and during that summer it took up most of my waking hours. Everything I came across was beginning to pile up and define me. No wonder I was feeling critical and snippy.

I had come to a place in my life where I wanted to make something with my hands. I had spent my years of education feeling guilty if I wasn’t reading a physics book, and I needed something tangible. I happened to resonate with knitting. I want knitting to be a stretch. I don’t want to settle into it. I don’t want it to be safe. I’d rather an adventure. And for whatever reason, I feel at ease with challenging myself in this medium, and in this community. It really is a great place, and yes, the diversity does make it better!

After hearing a few podcast interviews with other knitters, I suspect my current knitting goals have more to do with being a new knitter than being a particular type of knitter. Maybe I will also crave simplicity in knitting someday, once I feel like I’ve explored enough.