Thursday, November 26, 2009

Plum Hat

I knitted this hat last week. It’s for a baby due in February, already much beloved by an entire congregation devoted to the eager parents.

I have had various periods of knitting, and non-knitting, in my life.
When I was 9 or 10, my wonderful widowed maternal grandmother and her unmarried sister, who lived and worked (hard) together, took my sister and me to pick out yarns and start afghans. I, alas, picked an electric turquoise that quickly transformed from my favorite color to a color I couldn’t bear to look at, much less knit with. My beloved, industrious great aunt knit that one, and presented it finished to me. But I did learn to knit.

In high school, I mastered knitting the two-needle mitten, creating them for everyone I could think of. I loved how you knitted this abstract formula, then sandwiched it together, sewed it up, and a human hand, or the ghost of one, magically appeared from two dimensions. One of my life mantras at the time was that everyone should have hand-knitted red wool mittens made for and presented to them at least once in a lifetime, and I distributed them in all sizes to everyone I thought might actually wear them.

Living in England after college, I was re-inspired by the most creative knitter I have ever known (a true textile artist who can knit in the dark and while multi-tasking and design her own garments on the fly), as well as by the fabulous array of yarns and patterns not yet trendy or available on this side of the Atlantic. Knitting was a lovely social pastime, best enjoyed over multiple cups of strong tea in a chilly four-storey Victorian on the edge of Port Meadow outside Oxford.

This knitting industry carried over into graduate school, for a while, when I specialized in sweaters, and then into the child-bearing years of those around me, resulting in adorable fruit hats of every hue, and afghans, and woolen cabled fisherman baby sweaters that I didn’t realize weren’t practical until I had my own babies and tried to put them into one.

But for some years, now, the knitting has been sporadic at best. I watch little television, the perfect accompaniment to knitting, and don’t spend much time sitting down, except behind a steering wheel or computer. Besides, my vision is not what it once was.

So I was truly taken aback at how destructive the disruptions of my multitasking mother-mid-life are to knitting. I was knitting the hat on four short double-pointed needles, and THREE times picked up the hat and began knitting backwards, counterclockwise, knitting on the purl side, so that I had to backtrack and tear out and pick up and carry on, chastened by my diminished knitting powers. It was hard to stay on task, and still feel like I was attending to the expectations I have created around me. I miss the days where I could focus on one thing at one time and create something beautiful or adorable in a straight line and not feel compromised by it.

Something to aspire to, again, in time.

Mary for the Poplar Grove Muse

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