My first knitting project when I was about ten years old was a hat for my older sister’s baby. Mamma had helped me learn to knit and purl and follow simple directions. I had knitted little patches for practice but that hat was my first real piece. Even with Mamma’s careful help I kept acquiring too many stitches by splitting them or I purled when I was supposed to knit or dropped stitches. Mamma patiently helped me redeem each mistake as much as possible. Bu that hat was crooked, uneven, and really ugly. Mamma praised my work, though, and made me feel good about it. We mailed the hat along with Mamma’s beautifully knitted baby blanket to Pat in West Virginia. By the time we saw her and the baby months later, the hat was way too small. I don’t know whether baby Lorna ever wore it! But that was the beginning for me of a lifelong love of knitting.
You may not be a knitter. You may grow orchids or bake cakes or take beautiful pictures. You may be a quilter. But to me, knitting is great therapy, a joy, a fulfillment. I say if you’re anxious, start knitting. If you’re disappointed, out of sorts, start knitting. I have particularly found it helpful to pick up a knitting project when I got stalled in writing a chapter, an article, or a poem. The rhythm of stitching untangles the frustration in my brain. This diversion helps for thinking through other problems as well. But knitting, like other hobbies, skills, and sports, can teach us valuable life lessons too. Here are a few knitting lessons I’ve recognized.
Every single stitch is so important. The number you cast on your needles, along with the size of your needles, weight of your yarn, and number of rows knitted, establishes the size of your finished project. Just one or two less or more stitches does make a difference. If you purl one stitch when you should have knitted it or make a cable twist one stitch off the pattern or–heaven help us!–drop a stitch or split a stitch, your piece will be greatly affected. The effects can range from a pattern looking ugly, like my infant hat, to a hole in your piece or an unraveling that is nonredeemable.
Lesson to learn: As every stitch counts, so does every conversation, every day, every smile, every choice.
When teaching someone to knit, something I stress is a willingness to make mistakes. Be ready to take a few rows out and knit them over correctly. Don’t give up because you realize you have more or less stitches than you’re supposed to have. Depending on the pattern, you may be able to knit two stitches together, pick up a stitch, or turn a purl into a knit stitch. Sometimes you simply need to start over. My sister, Jackie, has always amazed me with her fortitude in starting over on a blanket half finished because her pattern had gone whacky. She will unravel hundreds of rows in order to start over and make them perfect.
Lesson to learn: Don’t give up when you make a life mistake. Like a baseball player who misses a strategic ground ball, shake it off and try again. Mother Theresa said something like “Those who make no mistakes do nothing.”
As in all skills, it is imperative that you follow directions. As in following a recipe, you need to look though the directions so you’ll know what to expect. There are some very complicated patterns which require strict concentration; others you can almost knit in the dark if you know the directions. How do you know what to do? Most knitting pattern books have a table of knitting terms, abbreviations, and how-to’s in the front of the book. There are online instructions for knitting procedures, such as making cable stitches, how to knit seed stitch, how to increase or decrease and many more.
Lesson to learn: We have a Book, the Bible, to show us how to deal with life day by day. When we don’t follow it, our patterns become all askew.
I become quite frustrated when my yarn is miserably snarled. I’ve learned I must tease the yarn out of knots gently and patiently. If I jerk and try to force the threads to spin smoothly out of the skein or off the ball, I can damage it until the only solution is to cut the bad tangles out.
Lesson to learn: When a problem shows up in family life or on the job, or you’re stalled in traffic, or bombarded with multiple tasks, take a deep breath and tease the tangle out. Do not despair! Stay calm, say a prayer, and count to fifty or a hundred before you panic.
Whatever your skill, knitting or not, you can enjoy giving a gift that may be treasured and bring much pleasure while at the same time you keep the lessons learned! Sometimes your gift may be returned for repairs. Like one of the dolls I made as Christmas gifts. Charli’s doll she named Mildred looked very appealing to the family dog. Luna was proceeding to tear one arm off when Charli rescued her. So today we performed surgical repairs on Mildred. It was my pleasure to instruct Charli in the mending.
My four sisters and I are all knitters. We have knitted for each others’ babies as well as our own children and grandchildren. Now we’re knitting for great grandchildren, nephews and nieces. Suzanne is in a knitting club. All those ladies make prayer shawls for cancer patients and others. Pat could knit very fast without even looking, even knitted in class as a college student! She loved to knit sweaters for needy children in cold places. Ginger strove for perfection in creating beautiful sweaters. Jackie is talented in making sweaters with intricate colorful designs, like birds in flight. To all of us, visiting a yarn shop is almost as fun as Christmas morning. When one of us is having health issues or some other hard patch, the question from sisters is “Are you able to knit?” If the answer is affirmative, we know all is well.
The Great Creator planted within us a desire to create. Let us enjoy what we can do with our hands–and learn our lessons too!