I read a lot. You should see my mini library at home. Mostly I read historical and paranormal romance with the odd science fiction book thrown in for flavor. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about knitting. My favorite knitting author is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. She’s hysterical. I highly recommend her blog if you don’t already read it. Recently, I acquired the Knit Lit books (all three). The stories are alternately funny, insightful and sad. The stories that make me wistful, though, are the ones about how people learned to knit.
In most of the learning to knit stories, the author was taught by a beloved relative. A mother, grandmother, auntie, cousin, or a best friend’s mom. There’s usually a loving relationship between the teacher and student. A relationship that the author thinks of fondly every time he or she picks up the needles. I wish I had that.
My mother’s mother, my grandmother, taught me to knit when I was 5 or 6. I know I was that old because my sisters and I stopped visiting her soon after I turned 7, which is how old I was when my mother died. My grandmother was not a nice person and I won’t pretend she was now that she’s passed. She was manipulative (she often threatened to jump from the Bay Bridge if such-and-such happened), closed-minded (we feared to tell her three of her children and one grandchild were gay or that several of us were atheist due to the bridge-jumping threats) and she gave me nightmares (I used to dream she had Freddy Kruger’s saw hands and was trying to slit my throat). When my mother died she tried to take my sisters and I away from our father, which is why we stopped visiting.
But, this is the lady who taught me the basics of my favorite passtime. When my sisters and I were spending one of our last summers at her house, she taught all three of us to knit, though I’m the only one that still does. She taught us to knit because summer is baseball season and she wanted to watch the Oakland A’s games in peace. (Not that it was peaceful, she yelled at the television quite often and very loudly. I suspect that it’s a gentic trait, as I’ve been known to do the same thing while watching Oakland Raider’s games.) My grandmother taught us what I now recognize as the backward loop cast on and the knit stitch. I had ugly orange yarn and we were all making rectangles. They may have meant to be scarves, but as they were never cast off, I can’t say for certain.
My grandmother never knit us anything, at least not that I recall. Other than the time she taught us, I have no memory of her ever knitting. She must have at some point, though, as she taught my mother to knit.
My mother knit all three of her daughters blankets in the weird zig-zag pattern (everyone seems to have at least one afghan like it, even Mr. Liu does). Mine was orange and yellow, the middle sister’s was shades of pink and the youngest sister’s was shades of blue. Those blankets were the only items my father ever saw her knit and he says she hated every minute of it, but was determined to finish them for us. A true labor of love. They were special to us, something made just for us by a mother we barely remember. Unfortunately, they’re with our baby books and the stuffed animals my father bought each of us the day we were born (to protect us from ghosts and the bogeyman), lost to us. The few things I have that tie me to my mother I cling to tightly, especially my name.
I didn’t knit for years in between, save the random elementry school project. A couple of my friend’s picked it up after college, so I picked up the Knit Knack kit and gave it a whirl. Casting on and the knit stitch came back like I’d never stopped. The purl stitch, casting off and learning to read patterns took more time to figure out, but figure it out I did. Well enough to where I’d spend all of my time knitting, if I could. It’s gone from hobby to outright addiction.
However, sometimes, when I knit something for someone special to me or I see some fugly orange acrylic yarn at Michael’s, I think of my mother and the blankets she knit for my sisters and I. It makes me smile.
I guess I do have that loving association after all.