Saturday, October 8, 2005

Knit One, Purl Two

During my weekend crafting camp at Jabez, Kentucky this summer, I fell in love with a spinning wheel. I have always been fascinated by these wonderful inventions and the way they can be used to turn a glob of wool into beautiful yarn.

As I watched two of my fellow crafters spinning away, the slow spinning and twisting of the carded wool mesmerized me. Each night after class I would find a rocking chair near the spinners just to watch the empty spools fill with soft, fluffy yarn. I asked numerous questions about the spinning wheels and was ready to buy one of my own, before I realized one simple thing—I’ve never knitted a stitch in my life. I can crotchet, but I’ve never worked with two needles at a time. I made the decision that if I was going to ever own my own spinning wheel, then I needed to learn as much about yarn and knitting as I could. This is where my boss came in handy.

I have a group of ladies that I work very closely with at work. We always eat lunch together, and we plan the care and day-to-day activities of all our residents. Our little group includes myself—assessment coordinator, Nancy—our boss, Patsy—our activity director, Jill—our social worker, and Donna—our charge nurse. The five of us spend all our time at work trying to improve the lives of our residents. One new activity we have started is the Red Hat Society, yes—the same type Red Hat Society you hear about on the news. One of the goals we set for ourselves was collecting enough purple “fuzzy” yarn to make each lady in the Society a purple scarf for Christmas.

Nancy, the only experienced knitter in the group, offered to give us all knitting lessons—Jill and I were the only ones who took her up on her offer. So one Friday afternoon, just before we all left to enjoy the upcoming weekend, Nancy gave us a class in knitting 101. After several starts and restarts, many curse words, and a missed stitch the size of the Grand Canyon; I finally finished my first scarf over that weekend. I was so proud of myself. Of course, as any experienced knitter will tell you—piece of cake! This really is a simple pattern because it is all done in the knit stitch.

As I struggled with how to handle my yarn and my needles, I finally found my own rhythm and adapted techniques to suit any knitting situation. By the time I started on my fourth scarf, they were starting to look as perfect as Nancy’s first scarf. Practice really does make perfect. Another thing I noticed about knitting—it is relaxing. I can knit in front of the television, I can knit in the car; I’ve knitted at the drive-in, before it gets dark, and I’ve knitted at work on my lunch break.

I didn’t start knitting until the very end of July, and by the first of September, I had knitted 10 scarves that I thought were good enough to give away as presents. I donated two Wildcat blue scarves to the hospital auxiliary to use in a silent auction, as well as donating two more scarves to hurricane relief. As for the Red Hat Society scarves, Nancy has already done the majority of them, with help from Jill—I’ve yet to do my purple contribution, but there is enough yarn left for me to contribute at least one before Christmas.

As we have advanced with our scarf knitting, we decided that maybe we shouldn’t limit our scarf giving to just the Red Hat Society. We should make scarves for all our residents, so that gives us a big goal to work towards. My family may be sick and tired of scarves by the time 2005 is over with, because everyone is getting a scarf for Christmas this year; some of you may even get two.

The more I work with the yarn, the more respect I have for the craft of knitting. Number one, it is a lot of hard work to get wool sheared off a sheep and have it turn into a skein or ball of yarn to be used in a knitting project. It is really easy for me to go into Wal-Mart and buy several skeins of my favorite yarn, but what was it like before there was such a selection in stores? Crafters made their own yarn by experimenting with different textures and thickness of wool. Every type of yarn we can buy right now in a store—someone had to design that yarn from the ground up. Spinning is one of those lost arts that I want to learn more about; hopefully my knitting will eventually lead me into that direction.

My lunchtime friends and I are starting the first intergenerational 4-H/Homemakers Club at the hospital. We want to pair a 4-Her up with a Homemaker and let them work on projects together. We would like to start a knitting project, so Jill and I continue to knit scarves so we will be able to teach someone else how to knit when the time comes. We are hoping to gets lots of stories from our Homemakers so that we can keep a knitting journal—it will be filled with stories from the past and present. Not only will all the members of the club learn a new craft, but they will also be learning how to communicate, record, and preserve the past in a way that is pleasing. Every time I wear one of my first lumpy scarves, I’ll be filled with memories of the good times I had while I was making them.

What about you? What type of hobbies do you like? Knitting is no longer just for grandmothers, knitting is for everyone. Quilting has shown a rival In Kentucky, especially with Paducah’s Quilt Festival, why not research your entire old grandmother’s quilts and then make one for yourself. Or—photography is making a diverse change from bulky film to the digital age, why not learn the “old” ways of photography and then built a collection of vintage to digital prints. Many hobbies center on learning the art of lost craftsmanship. Research your hobby; try to learn every aspect of your hobby. Then once you learn the “ins and outs”, teach someone else. That’s how old crafts are kept alive—they are passed on from one person to another.

Now, if you will excuse me…knit one, purl two. Or was that knit two, purl one? No definitely knit one, purl two…

© Bobbi Rightmyer, October 2005