Saturday, March 17, 2012

Women & Knitting

Have I mentioned my obsession with knitting?
Maybe a bit here.
But to help you fully grasp my love of needle arts, 
and the history behind my passion, 
let me tell you more...  
(And what better month to highlight this little story than Women's History Month!)
My love for knitting was inspired by several different crafty women in my family, even though none of them were knitters.  My grandma Vivian loved to sew and quilt and spent hours and hours bent over a quilt hoop meticulously pushing and pulling the thread along the lines in the pattern.  Her addiction to quilting was so strong that she organized her daily life around 12-1:00 p.m., when her "stories" would come on CBS and she could sit in her rocking chair and work on her latest project while the drama between Victor and Nikki played out on Young & the Restless.. 
Ahh the wonders of plastic surgery...
My mother liked sewing too and made all kinds of neat stuff with her little singer sewing machine.  When I was a little girl she made me all kinds of blankets and toys.  One of my most precious treasures was this little activity book she sewed from scraps of fabric.

the baby lady bugs were always my favorite :)

One of my favorite memories of my mothers sewing was the night we stayed up until midnight working on an extra credit project for my Latin class.  Together we made a wall hanging of ancient Rome that depicted the adventures of Perseus quest to fight monsters in his battle for Andromeda.  It was pieced together from bits of felt and even had a little "ship" that could be Velcro-ed to each continent. 
My Grandma Vivian's sister, Aunt Mildred, didn't sew, but she crocheted and I loved to watch her fingers turn big balls of yarn into lovely baby blankets and hats.  Of course most of the yarn she used was scratchy acrylic and came in crazy colors, but the talent it took to work that little needle in and out of thousands of tiny holes without making a big mess was amazing.
None of this crafty talent really motivated me to try and learn to sew or crochet when I was young, and grad school left me too busy to even think about learning these skills.  But after the mad-rush of exams and job interviews, I started to have more free time.
I also started to really miss my family.  After grad school I took a job that was at least 5 hours away from my hometown.  At this point, my Grandma Vivian and my Aunt Mildred had passed away and my mother was sick with breast cancer.  I was frustrated at the fact that I never took the time to sit down with any of these women to learn from them the how and the why of their art.  I was also longing for a connection, and the ability to produce a handmade article was thrilling.  It would not only make these women proud, it would be a way to carry on their legacy.  
So one night, in the cold of November, I picked up a set of needles and a ball of scratchy acrylic yarn at Wal-Mart and decided to teach myself to knit.  Looking back, I don't know why I picked knitting as no one in my family was a knitter but I do remember wanting a project that didn't require electricity and a kitchen table :). 
I struggled a lot through my first few rows and my first project didn't really turn into anything but I got the hang of it and kept going.  Pretty soon I was obsessed and bought up all the yarn I could find.  I spent hours online looking at videos to make sure I was getting each stitch right and teaching myself new stitches.  I made hats, scarves, mittens, blankets, toys and pretty much anything I could find a free pattern for.  
My first attempt at a hat (that I still haven't finished)
Knitting became a form of meditation that helped me to focus, relax, and most importantly create something.  I found that I really enjoyed giving my knitted goods as gifts and basking in the admiration of friends who would exclaim, "you made that?!"  When my son was born, I found a new sense of pride in my knitting as I wrapped him in a blanket I made myself, or gave him the gift of a handmade toy.

It's an elephant...

and a lion!

Bear's Christmas present :)
To me, each thing I make is special.  It takes me hours, days, even weeks to turn a ball of yarn into something special, something wonderful.  And each time I hold a project in my hands and meditate on what it is going to become, I feel that the piece takes some of me with it to the recipient.  Knitting empowers me to create and allows me to give my love, time, and creativity to other people.  And it allows me to feel a connection to all of the women in my past who took the time to put a little of themselves into the things they made and gave.  It helps me understand how much those women must have loved the people that they made things for.  And it helps me remember how special a handmade gift truly is.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful gifts...Owen will treasure them forever. I'm going to try to make a lady bug like the one your mom did. Hope you guys are doing well!