New Wave Knitters

Until recently, knitting only sparked my interest once before. I was six years old, stuffed on whole milk and liverwurst sandwiches, and waiting on my grandmother's couch for my mother to come pick me up. The room was shadowed with nightfall, blue with television (the evening news), and oppressively boring — the violent clicking of grandma's knitting needles were the best thing going.

"Grandma," I boldly began, "can you teach me how to knit
real fast?" She exploded in excitement at the prospect of having her eldest grandchild follow in her footsteps, and handed over two icy needles and a ball of abrasive yarn. "Now we'll have you knitting in no time," she promised. Five minutes later, frustrated by those gargantuan needles and the snail's pace I was going at, I was ready to forego my mother's ride and take the bus home.

Now that I'm a "grown-up," (wink, wink) have graduated college, moved away from home, and become the modern woman my grandmother never dreamed of being, I have no time for knitting. There are books to read, foods to eat, television to watch, garbage to throw out, water-bugs and cockroaches to kill. And neither, I assumed, do my similarly assiduous friends.

Then, on an evening just like many other, I was sitting on my best friend's upright futon, drinking cheap white wine and waiting for the pizza guy to arrive, when she whipped out a glossy paper bag bursting with fiery red and orange strands of wool, thick wooden magic-wand versions of my grandma's pointy staffs.

"Feel it," she said, throwing the yarn in my lap, "it's like nothing."

Holding those golden strands I immediately pictured myself curling up in the stuff, jumping into it like a pile of fallen leaves. "What are you going to do with this?" I asked.

"I think I'm going to make a blanket for my bed, you know, because it's easy and will look so nice with my pillows."

I laughed. "Yeah right you're going to make a blanket."

"I am," she insisted. "What, you think I don't know how?"

"I know you don't know how," I said, refilling our glasses. "How could you possibly..."

The doorbell rang. Pizza guy. We scrambled for cash and planted the box on her coffee table. I got the paper towels.

"Oooh," she moaned, wrapping a string of mozzarella around her finger. "Extra cheese was such a good idea."

I was in a semi-state-of-shock. At what point in life does a young girl learn how to knit and why do she even want to? My friends were surely too busy smoking pot and buying records in their more tender years, and things like baking and knitting were left to our elders, if not completely a thing of the past. Teenagers, I assumed as I sat home alone most Saturday nights in high school, were supposed to be out having fun all of the time; they were learning about the ways of the world, exploring each other, the city streets, film, music, drugs. I was the only one, laying on my bed, staring at the ceiling.

After discovering that my best friend had this secret I decided to do a casual survey: I called another best friend. Yes, she knew how to knit and just happened to be working on a tri-colored lambs wool knit-pearl-stitch scarf at the time. The hard part, she said, was "sculpting" it when it was done — she confessed that there were techniques she didn't know.

"Knit-pearl stitch?" I asked.

The next weekend I was at a party talking to a girl I went to college with. She's studying Chinese medicine, but in her free time, it turns out, she sews quilts made up of various fabrics she found in thrift shops around town. In order to get them done she stays up late into the night, belaboring her eyes after working on papers and reading a few Med-school text books.

At the same party another friend revealed her personal remedy for today's consumer-unfriendly society: homemade clothes. In fact, she had made the very pants she was wearing - a stunning low-rise boot-cut brown twill pair of slacks that caught my eye earlier in the evening. "You made them?" was all I could get out.

And so it seems there is something going on here — a movement, a new wave, a new-sprung vogue. Or perhaps it is simply one of the things that I've selectively ignored. I do have a vague memory of posters in college advertising a club called "Stitch n' Bitch," and I've seen many people wearing clothes I assumed they made (I confess, I suffer from a propensity to altering my own clothes with pair of scissors, a handy Swiss Army knife — really, anything sharp will do). I decided to figure out what all the fuss was about.

A few nights after my "discovery" I was back on my friend's futon, drinking cheap red wine this time, when I told her that I wanted to learn how to knit. She kindly showed me how and let me knit a few rows on her blanket, and then a few more. When I handed the blanket back to her she held it up to see how I'd done. "Funny how you managed to make it grow," she laughed.

"Somehow you've added about ten stitches!" Fortunately, she was able to fix it.

Since then I have officially learned how to knit. My grandmother sent me a care package of needles, yarn, Irish soda bread, and a Guardian Angel pin for my car that says "Drive Safely Granddaughter." Knitting is therapy, she swears, and a wonderful way to pass the time. I got on my computer and did a Google search on Knitting. Turns out there is a whole web-ring for knitters, how-to sites, blogs and links to special-pattern sites. There is a Big Apple Knitters Guild, and a multitude of American Flag patterns running around.

I've found it to be addictive as video games and a cure to fingernail biting. Knitting makes me want to rent movies and sit at home on the weekends. It's cheap, stress-reducing (as long as you don't stress out about it), and makes you think of all the people you want to keep warm. Right now I want to keep my boyfriend warm, so I knit him a scarf for Christmas. I'm working on one for my grandmother, but it might take a while because I want it to be good. And then, when I'm really good, I'll make a blanket.

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