A Mad Knitter?

Knitting came to my life about 8 years ago. People usually don’t believe me at first when I told them that I learned how to knit at work. The place where I used to work was a program for children and adolescents who come into the U.S. unaccompanied and without a proper documentation. These children came from all over the world; pretty much almost all continents have been represented. I probably can’t be too specific in this blog regarding their country of origin, but needless to say, I’ve come across languages that I had never heard of previously. And yes, they’ve had kids from my country too, not plenty, but there have been some.

Group cohesion is a challenge in that environment due to many factors. To come up with group activities that children of all ages and from a variety of cultural background would enjoy is often more challenging than people think. To make things more complicated, there is a limited space at the shelter for a large group activity. Playing high-energy level games are often impossible. It turns out that arts and crafts activities are something that almost every cultural group has an interest in, so they do drawing, crocheting, knitting, jewelry making, friendship bracelet making, and many more activities.

Almost all adults, staff and volunteers, have been involved in the arts and crafts activities with the children. How could we not? It is the best way to get to know the children, to enter their world. And the children take it as such an honor if any of the adults joins them. Many times we, the adults, don’t even know how to do the activity, and the children happily teach us. One day, I sat down with some of the girls who were knitting. I was watching them teaching and checking each other’s knitting project when one girl asked me if I knew how to knit. I said no, but then she handed me her project and progressed to teach me, like it or not. Looking back at it now, it was quite humbling actually. I remember thinking at that time how interesting it was that the roles had been reversed; I became the student and she the teacher.

After work that day, I went straight to a bookstore (or was it an arts and crafts store?) and bought my first book of knitting, titled (surprise, surprise) How to Teach Yourself How to Knit. All I learned from the girl was how to do three basic things: casting on, how to knit and purl, and casting off. These are really the three basic things about knitting. I’ve been learning the rest of knitting techniques on my own ever since. Lots of ups and down, though, I can tell you that. Many unforgettable frustration times, unfinished projects and leftover yarns. Ask my husband, Mike, and he can happily share with you his recollections of unfinished projects, or stories of how he found yarns in every room, every closet, every corner of the house, even in the bathroom or kitchen sometimes. You name the room. Oh, although he may actually forget all about this (one place where denial can be a blessing), I did make a sweater for him one time and it was so enormously huge that it just swallowed him. That was the last time I made him a sweater. I should have known not to do that because I was too new into the whole knitting experience that I failed to pay attention to one thing, how to use gauge. Yeah, big mistake!

Gauge in knitting or crocheting is crucial, especially when following a pattern, because every knitter pulls yarn to make stitches differently; some make tighter stitches than others. Often you’re also not lucky enough to find the exact yarn that was used to make the model project in the pattern, and using a different yarn can mean either a larger or smaller finished size if you fail to take into consideration the gauge size.

So, a lesson to all new knitters, or those who are interested in knitting, the fourth most important technique to learn in knitting is how to use gauge. Remember that!

I’ve been enjoying knitting so much that I think I’d be lost if I can’t knit anymore. There have been times when one of my arms, or both, became so much in pain because of the constant repetitive movements. This usually happens after knitting for so many hours in more than two or three days (those days have long gone). I probably experienced carpel tunnel syndrome without even knowing it. Ever since I went back to school, the schedule has been so crazy and constantly changing that I haven’t been able to do knitting as often as I would like. Attempts to include knitting into my schedule require me to work on small and easy projects so I can bring the project with me anywhere I go. I’ve knitted on the train, during my lunch, or while in a group supervision/meeting in practicum site. I can even knit without looking at the project in my hands, as long as it requires no fancy stitches, to the point that I would now knit while watching TV at home.

No time a wasting!

I think I can just knit and knit nonstop, even if it means that in the end I have to unravel the whole project again because I run out of yarn. Of course I’d be happy to see a finished project, but I knit not firstly because I crave for an end project, rather the knitting itself that satisfies me. I read an article one time in a knitting magazine (yes, there are such things as knitting magazines) about two types of knitters, the product and the project. The product knitters are those who knit with the goal to accomplish an end product. The project knitters are those who enjoy the making of a project or the process, the longer the better. I’m in the latter group, obviously, as evidenced by the large amount of unfinished projects in the house. When I say large amount, I mean, a lot of them. Hence, my nickname (courtesy of my husband), the mad knitter.

I have also experienced a sense of “knitting withdrawal” whenever I didn’t touch knitting yarns or needles in days, especially in weeks. I’ve had times when the first thing I touched in the morning as soon as I woke up was my knitting project (Scary, I’m actually using the language of addiction). I’ve even knitted first thing in the morning sometimes as a way to wake up. Knitting allows me to warm up my hands and clear my head to help me focus. But most importantly, what I love the most is the feeling of yarns in between my fingers. I love the tactile aspect of the whole thing. I’m a ‘touchy’ person it seems. I love to touch things and feel them.

I think I know why I enjoy knitting so much. It’s the solitude that it gives me. It allows me to be free with my head, with my thoughts. When I knit alone without anything else around me, no TV, no people, I can get so deep and lost in my thoughts. Because it allows me time to think and solitude, it’s also a form of stress releasing. And the tactile feeling when touching the yarns and needles, forming one stitch at a time, looking at the stitches, all of those can be very hypnotizing at times. It’s like falling into a spell; I’d forget about my surroundings and get lost in my head. It’s wonderful, actually. Try it sometimes. Just don’t try it with me, because I’d be so lost in space and not be a good company. Kidding.

Actually, I’ve held a women’s group at one point in my previous practicum placement where I taught the women how to knit and then they used the group as a process group while knitting at the same time. Knitting, I believe, is so versatile and almost anyone can knit. Long time gone now is this whole image of knitting as something available to and should be done by older women only. Knitting has come back as something stylish and hip now. Ever heard of Stitch and Bitch? The name sounds awful, but it’s a group of women around the nation; it functions as almost like a support group for women to socialize, support each other and knit.

If knitting has a downside, it is the high cost of yarns, especially specialty yarns. Also, knitting yarns, even the thinnest sports-size yarn, can still be too thick sometimes for summer clothes. Therefore, people who live in much warmer climate countries would not right away view knitting as appealing. However, knitting has so much potential. I will definitely incorporate it more in my future work somehow. Don’t think that I’ll abandon my needles and yarns any time soon. The only thing that will stop me from knitting is when my hands finally give up on me due to health related reasons, which will break my heart. I just hope that I can find a new hobby when that happens, but I truly don’t think anything can replace knitting. Won’t you think so?


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