2.29.2012

yarn

Rowan Light Tweed wool, $1/hank, thrifted

I have just one crafting hobby. In 2003 I'd run across a one-page article in a magazine talking about how cool and popular knitting was again; now of course I know that statement is made in magazines every few years, but right then it made me think, "Huh, maybe I could learn to knit." And it wasn't that I needed to feel cool and popular, which I've never been, but that I was staring-out-the-window-at-birds-and-airplanes-for-hours depressed from a long stretch of unsuccessful job hunting (after quitting a job I didn't enjoy and attempting a new field) and bored of being an unplanned stay-at-home wife with nothing to do outside of job hunting but cook and clean and grocery shop. I needed a new challenge, something productive. And somehow, nobody around me knew how to knit.*

I grew up in a U.S. religious subculture that still separates women's work from men's work with lines as clear as the ones painted on the basketball court in the middle of the stake center (church), repurposed as needed for Halloween-candy booths, yearly father-daughter dinners, and sweaty-palmed youth dances. In reaction to all that, I stubbornly avoided becoming skilled at most of the traditional women's work, such as canning and bread-baking and sewing and other forms of crafting. Silly me to have avoided learning that stuff for free, when DIY domesticity has since become something hipsters buy books and take classes for. No, I dressed my Barbies in suits and gave them kissy boyfriends and sent them off to work in offices with briefcases—only Barbies' jobs were vague and undefined—they did something in offices in heels, maybe as book editors, whatever that was. (Now that I think about it, I never bothered giving the boyfriends jobs; their job was to be adoring. No wonder I'm in therapy.)

vintage Orchard Knitting Worsted in "coral," $1 (original tag: 78 cents)

Anyway, deep inside the baggage of my upbringing, secretly I'd always wondered how people can take two sticks and some string and magic that into sweaters and socks. Truly, this is a miracle. (By the way, anyone who believes in the Watch-Needs-a-Maker argument that the organization of nature must require a designer has never tried to wind a ball of yarn: knots create themselves.)

Chester Farms Pride of the Flock, $2, thrifted
 
So I bought a used knitting reference book and taught myself how to knit from a book—the wrong way (into the back of the stitch, not the front, which twists it), as it turns out, but I realized my mistake six months later when watching a woman knitting a fuzzy scarf across from me on BART. (Book learnin' has its downsides.) But I did it! I taught myself how to knit. I started frequenting yarn shops, eventually becoming part of the online knitting community.
 
I'm not the kind of knitter who must knit every spare moment of his or her life. It's mostly something I do with friends-who-knit or when watching movies or TV series on Netflix on free evenings, which seem rarer and rarer. And because yarn is easier to collect than knit, I now have an entire dresser drawer and a few baskets full of yarn to knit up or de-stash before I die. So for this and other reasons, a couple years ago I restricted myself to only buying secondhand yarn. Finding actual wool yarn at the thrift store, rather than acrylic, doesn't happen often, but unfortunately more often than I finish projects.

vintage Luxuria Knitting Worsted in "char gray," $1
 
I've been knitting, off-and-on, a simple black cardigan from locally-produced Oregon wool/alpaca since November. It may be finished in time to wear next fall. And that's because my interests, like my former religion's historical and postmortem allowances of wives, are poly-.


*I know of only two people in my family who knit(ted). A story my mother tells is that her grandmother was so allergic to wool that one time as a child, frustrated because no one was listening, she cut up all her wool socks. After learning to knit, I found out a lovely older cousin of mine is an excellent knitter, but alas, she lives in Texas. And one great-aunt on my dad's side knit up and mailed us slippers some Christmases, but she lived in Ohio and I never met her.

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