20 February, 2007

A Short History of Susie Knitting

I was musing about all the different things one can knit, and the different styles of knitting, and I realized something interesting. I'm not a prolific knitter by any means, but I've taken a stab at all kinds of different knitting in my day.

I taught myself to knit from a book at 16, my mom showed me Continental knitting, or as I call it, FAST knitting, and I never looked back. The first thing I remember making was leg warmers, in bright pink acrylic. This WAS the 80s, you know. I wore them often during figure skating lessons at school. No pattern, just...hmm, ribbing....hmmm, maybe I should make them smaller here, and there you are. Perfectly fine leg warmers. Last year my sister, now living in Florida, sent me a pair of leg warmers I made for her, near the same time, although these were wool. A little felted, but I was impressed with myself - they looked good for over 20 years old!

The next project I tackled was a sweater. Fair Isle, knit in the round, seamless. I had no idea it was supposed to be hard! Thank you for Elizabeth Zimmerman, and her seminal book Knitting Without Tears. If I were on a desert island and could have only one knitting book, that would be the one. The sweater was made in a foggy blue lopi sort of wool, with brown and green and cream patterns, and it was lovely. I remember buying the wool with my Mom at a yarn shop long since closed on Calvert Street in Baltimore, MD.

The sweater? Wonderful! I still find it hard to believe I knit something to fit myself so quickly out of the knitting gate. I wish I had a picture of me in it, but it's long gone now. Sadly, my young knitting self couldn't be trusted to care for woolen garments and I shrank it pretty severely when I left home and did my own laundry.

After that, I didn't knit myself another sweater for ages, until I made a boxy but good rollneck in the mid-90s. No more sweaters for me; I didn't grasp the idea that fitted garments make you look less like a fireplug, so the huge or bulky sweaters I did start were less than successful. I did tackle socks, Turkish socks, color-patterned fair isle hats, cabling, and socks knit within socks. And of course scarves. A wonderful Aran vest that I never wore because of the above Bulky Issue. And the odd mitten. I made a few lovely, lacy baby sweaters and two baby blankets in complicated stitch patterns.

Despite all those pretty nifty achievements, I lost confidence in my Mad Knitting Skillz somewhere along the way. Then I had kids and lost my ability to carve out free time. In the past year, my wish to knit and time to knit have somehow met up again, and we're glad to be back in business.

Things I have found out: I knit VERY loosely and it's a challenge making socks that aren't floppy. A small project can teach you as much as a huge project, and you might actually finish it! Lace is tough. Until you can read a chart. Then it's just time- and attention-consuming. Fitting a sweater to your own personal measurements means you just might WANT to wear the sweater when you're done.

It's not rocket science, but it's knitting. And it makes me happy.

1 comment:

Liz said...

What a cool story. Thanks for sharing.