I can’t forget the photo of Eleanor Roosevelt knitting while listening to election returns on the radio. I can’t think of any activity that works as well as knitting to calm the nerves; reading requires too much concentration. Even music may not be heard. But needlework beats nibbling, smoking or nail biting, to conquer stress. I remember my sister-in- law crocheting while her husband was undergoing surgery.
I can bury my nose in a book while flying or traveling on a train, although I usually have my needlework on hand when I’m chatting while waiting for the plane or train. A young man I met at Gatwick Airport in the U.K., admired the baby hat that I was making for the grandson to be, and was impressed that I “always had something on the go”.
When I am a passenger in a car I find it difficult concentrating on reading but I can always take a break from knitting to look at the scenery. My husband has complained that we drove 100 miles out of the way because I wasn’t watching the road or the map. I do put my knitting down when we are at a busy intersection or if we are in unfamiliar territory. Now, I often let Samantha, our GPS guide bring us to our destinations, but even she makes mistakes, bringing us recently to the Atlantic Ocean when we requested a route from Maine to Lake Winnipesaukee, in New Hampshire.
It was never a problem getting a seat on a crowded subway train on my daily commute to school or work years ago. All I had to do was pull out my knitting needles. I found that knitting helped pass the time while waiting on line to register for college courses and during those boring orientation sessions.
I was about nine years old when I learned to knit with the help of my Aunt Rose, and family friends, but I probably was thirteen when I finished a checkered, patterned scarf for myself. It wasn’t until I was in college that I became a serious knitter and tried my hand at a sleeveless, v-necked slipover for my father. Although the v-neck was far from perfect, Dad appreciated my efforts and wore the sweater.
Argyle socks were the rage in the 1950’s and the women at Hunter College were making socks for the men in their lives. I asked a classmate what she would do if the romance ended before the socks were finished. She replied that the socks were intended for Joe and Joe would get the socks regardless. Not my style! When Marty and I were engaged, I knitted argyle socks for him. Marty has been the recipient of other knitted gifts, but his favorites are woolen mittens, for warmth. We were away from home and he needed mittens. I decided to see what I had on hand and found some nice grey yarn in my bag. Since I didn’t think there would be enough grey, I striped the cuffs and tips of the mittens with purple, green and yellow. The compliments keep coming.
No project was too large or too small, too intricate or too simple. In fact I prefer more challenging designs and didn’t shy away from cables, laces, entrelacs or fair isles. A friend remembers that I said that I couldn’t see any purpose in doing something that was sold in the store. Now of course you can buy all sorts of ready made knitted items. I have adjusted directions for size, weight of yarn and size of needles without compromising the fit of the garment. Wool, the yarn that I favor, has many attributes, including being warmer than cottons or synthetics and holding its shape better. It is a more giving and forgiving material to work with. I also like the feel of the yarn sliding through my fingers as I work.
My fingers cramp when I work on a section of the project with few stitches on the needle. The proprietor of the yarn shop suggested to my daughter Lisa, that she keep switching back and forth from one project to another, with different size needles, if her hands ache, to keep the fingers from being in a bind and exercise them.
Back in the 1960’s when mini -skirts were popular, I made a tweed suit for myself of wine heather and coral, worked together, with a Mandarin collar and hand -knitted frog closings. I outgrew the suit when mini-skirts gave way to the cowgirl look of the 1970’s of mid -calf flared skirts and boots. I gave the suit to my mother. The sleeves and skirt were too short for her and a friend added knitted borders to the sleeves and the hem of the skirt. The alterations weren’t exactly in keeping with the style of the suit but it looked nice and Mom wore the suit for quite a while. When Mom could no longer wear the suit and mini skirts were back in vogue, I restored the suit to its original style for Lisa.
My mother had a beautiful Italian mohair sweater with hand -embroidered flowers. Here again the sleeves were too short for her. My daughter Madeline was given a box of different colored mohair, which she passed on to me. I picked up the stitches on the bottom of the sleeves, and extended the cuffs, adding a few stripes of the colors that were used in the sweater. Mom loved the sweater.
My grandson, Jacob, told my daughter, Lisa, that she was going to be a grandmother, by asking her how long it would take her to knit a carriage blanket. She remarked that it would take her no time at all because she still had the blanket that I made for him; a beautiful bulky entrelac cover, in two shades of light green, with a hand -crocheted corded edge.
Knitting isn’t just for women. A good friend made himself a black sweater because he didn’t want charcoal grey that was available in the stores. Kaffe Fassett is an artist who paints with needlecraft. I have adapted many of his designs.
After 9/11, our handbags were searched scrupulously at airports for potential weapons. Embroidery scissors were amongst the contraband. Lisa learned that the cutting edge on the dental floss pack is good for cutting yarn. NOBODY is going to stop us from knitting.