I am often asked how long I've been knitting. It's not an unusual question, since I do operate a yarn shop, but its one I don't always know how to answer. Rather, I'm not sure how to answer quickly. It seems a simple question and "Since I was a kid", "Decades", and "I learned in college" are all reasonable, and expected, answers. But sometimes, what seems like a simple question requires an answer that's not quite so simple.
So it is with my learning to knit. The correct short answer is since I was a little girl. However, if it were that simple, I wouldn't be blogging about it, would I?
Let's start with what I remember to be the beginning of my stitching, and what had been my usual answer - I learned to crochet in college. I don't remember the how and whys, I just remember making scarves and blankets for friends and roomies. My maternal Grandmom, Dottie, was a crocheter. I still have a blanket she made for me - it's a great big green and white acrylic granny square. So, I don't really remember the learning how part, it just seemed like something I picked up, something normal, since I saw my Grandmom doing it so often. Or at least that's what I thought.
When I opened Darn Yarn in 2010, I didn't know how to knit, but customers were asking lots of knitting questions. The crocheters were either more adventurous and didn't seem to have quite as many questions, or they were not around and not yet making their presence known to me by asking questions. What ever the case, I figured I should learn how to knit so I could at least answer some of the more basic knitting questions.
So that's what I did. I had access to books and magazines, so I taught myself to knit. (Sorry, all you YouTube fans, that method just doesn't work for me.) Knitting seemed to come easily to me. But just like any newbie, my first projects were wonky, I struggled with pattern reading, and yes, I made mistakes - dropped stitches; right side, wrong side mishaps; gauging errors; misunderstood repeats. But I kept going.
Then a few years ago, my maternal Grandfather passed away. That might seem unrelated, but, there are two things that make it important to my stitching history.
First, my Grandfather was from a large family, he was the second oldest of many children and he was one of the first to move his family off of the family farm. When my mom was a young girl, my Grandparents left the family farm and moved hours away to Toledo where my Grandfather had a job. This move didn't go over well with his family - they left his parents, all his brothers' families, and all the nieces and nephews - to "go it on their own".
Secondly, my mom passed away in '90. Therefore, at the funeral there were a lot of relatives I had never met. My aunt and uncle (mom's brother and sister) had kept in contact with some of their cousins and aunts and uncles, and my mom probably had too, but since she'd been gone for so long at this point, these people were all strangers to me, and I to them. But the family resemblances were strong, therefore, as my aunt was introducing me, many of the cousins quickly figured out who I was before the introductions were even over.
What does this have to do with my learning to knit? Everything! This is when my answer to that seemingly simple question gets a bit more complicated.
These cousins started telling me stories about growing up as cousins with my mom, aunt and uncle. Mom was the oldest cousin. Many of them had fond memories of her teaching them all sorts of things, they liked to play school. They also had many memories of her teaching them to knit - while they were rollerskating on the porch. Can you imagine that? It's quite a picture, even if you don't know them - a bunch of youngsters wearing roller skates, tangled up in a great big mess of yarn, while playing on the porch of a small wooden home in rural Michigan in the mid 1950's.
It was at that moment that I remembered that I had knit blankets for my stuffed animals and dolls when I was a little girl! I had knit bedspreads and rugs for my dollhouse! I had knit dresses for my dolls - nothing fancy, just a big rectangle tied around their waist, so I guess they were more like togas. It was then that I realized my mom had likely taught me to knit when I was a little girl.
When my stuffed animals no longer needed blankets, I stopped knitting. And life moved on... and like so many things, I forgot about it until many, many, years later.
But here's the thing, I don't remember learning to knit - or crochet for that matter. I can only remember back to a few early projects to get a vague timeline. I remember making a blanket for a college roommate, but that's it. I don't remember the yarn, learning, or why I decided to gift her a blanket. I recall the blankets and rugs for my dollhouse and doll bed occupants (there was a lot of yellow yarn) - but not learning how to make anything, who taught me,or even when I would knit - summer vacation? Watching the Muppet Show? After dinner?
I don't know who to attribute this skill to - could have been my mother (most likely), her mom, or some random person, like a babysitter or teacher, who took it upon themselves to teach me. I was what would now be called a "strong willed" child (no surprises there), and had an overactive imagination, as well as growing pains that made me cranky, so I could easily see being taught to knit as a way to harness some of my creative energy and/or help manage my buzzing brain focus. I can also picture myself learning by watching someone else, picking up their spare needles/hook and some scrap yarn and simply asking "How do I?" or "What's next?".
So, you see, it's a bit more complicated than one would initially think. I simply don't remember learning to knit or crochet!
I've also had quite a few job titles before becoming a yarn shop owner, so maybe it shouldn't seem strange that I really can't give a simple answer to what should be a simple question for me. After all, most of us have round-about life stories that make us who we are today. The best answer is probably to simply state that I come from a long line of stitchers, which is true. And maybe that' how I should start answering, besides, I'm not sure many would believe me if I answered truthfully that I've been knitting for almost 40 years.
Wherever you are in your stitching life, and how ever long you've been at it, keep on Stitchin'