Saturday, January 14, 2012

It's not really about knitting. It's about life.

I'm knitting this cowl for a friend (Jennifer Hillier, another author at Gallery Books). Before you think this is some kind of act of kindness, let me assure you that Jennifer is being the kind  one by agreeing to give this little project a home. No one wants something knitted by a beginner. You can't pay someone to take this stuff off your hands. Jennifer is doing me a favor by giving me someone to knit for.

I just took up knitting and I'm teaching myself using YouTube videos. My niece walked me through how to read a knitting pattern and introduced me to some knitting websites, like Ravelry and Knitty. A few years ago I took up quilting, and it was an eye-opening experience. When I was younger, I wasn't a big fan of precision. You cannot be imprecise and be a quilter. You have to cut and sew within specific allowances. I found out that I liked being creative within those boundaries. I eventually got into art quilting. But with the writing business taking off, I haven't had the time to quilt for nearly a  year.

I like to learn something new every 4-5 years or so to keep my brain nimble. If I were really serious about this, I would try to learn a foreign language, but for now I'll settle for textile arts. So recently, I took up knitting.

I did this for a couple reasons. My mother wouldn't teach me when I was young because I'm a lefty and she thought it would be too hard for me to learn. I always resented this a little, but I'm old enough to stop being resentful and to teach my own damn self if it's that important to me. Secondly, yarn started looking really good. Irresistible, in fact. It seemed silly to buy yarn with absolutely no intention of doing something with it, so I had no excuse not to learn to knit.

And lastly, I had fallen in love with a knitting blog. I've been reading the Mason-Dixon blog for years now. It is literally ONE OF THE BEST THINGS ON THE INTERNET. It is the perfect blend of smart/funny, and reading it was a nice thing to do for myself at the end of a hard day at my soul-crushing job even though I didn't knit and had no idea what they were talking about half the time. It's written by Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, authors of the Mason-Dixon knitting books. At first, it was a portal into a world I'd never known. There are a whole bunch of women out there who as crafters, are very serious about craft but also happen to have very smart outlooks on life. I have never had a smart outlook on life. I am a quintessential Washingtonian: dead serious about everything. Reading the Mason-Dixon blog was like eavesdropping (at first) on a group of magical wise women in the forest, envying them their charm, their grace. Eventually I started posting comments, too (mine always started with "I'm the one who's not a knitter...") and lo and behold, I wasn't chased away in a flurry of knitting needles, a non-belonger.

Eventually, I wrote to Ann Shayne about something. Book-related, I'm sure. We've corresponded to the point where I feel like Ann is my friend. I feel very privileged about this. I'm bringing this up because Ann generously mentioned my book on her blog this past week. After reading the blog for years, I cannot tell you how this makes me feel! Like being in Time or Newsweek, I tell you! I feel like I've arrived.

I will post a picture of Jennifer's cowl when it's done. Don't hold your breath: I've had to rip it out and start all over three times now. But I love that it's finally starting to look like the one in the photo. It's so nice to be on the path of discovery, again.


  1. You had me fooled, Alma! I thought you knitted the cowl in the picture and did an incredible job for a beginner! (And hung it on a hanger and took an artsy photo!) ;)

    I am a lot like you in that I love to learn something new. There's just too little time to learn about all the things that make me curious and seem fascinating.

    Although I'm not a knitter, I'm going to check out the Mason-Dixon blog. Sounds like a wonderful community!

    1. Hi Tracy, it didn't occur to me until I'd posted that folks might think this was my handiwork. As a matter of fact, I' about halfway done and realized I did a NEW wrong thing. Hoping not to have to rip it out again. I hope you enjoy Mason-Dixon.

  2. I can't wait to see the scarf when it's finished! I will totally wear it, with pride.

    I can't remember the last time anyone actually MADE me something... *sniff sniff*