My grandma taught me the basic knit stitch when I was about 5 years old, using this rhyme:
“In through the front door,
Once around the back,
Out through the window,
And off jumps Jack*!”
On my mom’s side of my family, knitting is the norm. Most of us learned the skill – first my mom, then my aunt, then, years later, my cousins and me. Knitting is a given at most family gatherings, even now. When the table is cleared, the kettle goes on the stove, tea is chosen, and knitting projects emerge from bags.
For my first project ever, like most beginners, I made a “square.” My grandma started me off with a cast on edge of about 10 stitches. From there… things got interesting. My “square” ended up being completely devoid of right angles and full of dropped stitches. It curled around on itself, as a three-dimensional, amorphous blob.
And I was so proud of it.
That was when I first learned the important lesson that mistakes are just design features. If something doesn’t turn out the way it was originally envisioned, it doesn’t mean it can’t be something else. I sure was excited to present my favorite Beanie Baby dog with his new blanket/cape.
After creating that first piece of fashionable knitwear, I moved on to doll clothes and accessories. I had great ambitions, but little follow-through. I remember once designing a bathrobe for my 18-inch doll. I picked out the yarn (fuzzy Mohair-esque purple yarn from Grandma’s stash), she set me up with corresponding needles, and I casted on as we pulled out of the driveway to go home, after a weekend visit. It’s a 3-hour trip between my Grandma’s house and mine, and at the end of our journey, I think I’d managed about 10 or so rows. Many years later, I found this abandoned project and frogged** it.
I still innovate design elements, sometimes by accident. I still knit while traveling as a passenger in the car and on public transportation. Since then, I have gotten better about actually finishing projects (…for the most part). And now, many sweaters, gifts, and original designs for knitted stuffed animals later, I’m well-known in my friend group and extended family for my knitting. It’s part of what makes me, me.
*I now wonder if it’s the same Jack who jumped over the candlestick and all that. He’s quite athletic, that Jack.
**For any non-knitters out there, “to frog” means to pull on the yarn until it unravels – so that mistakes can be fixed or the yarn can be used for a different project. Why “frog?” Because you “rip-it, rip-it.”