No, this isn’t a vasectomy story. It’s a story about knitting, about family, hobbies and traditions. Its also a story of stubborn determination and pain.
Now, many, many years ago, before I began going to school, I was introduced to knitting. It was an intriguing thing to watch, especially for a child who was born with a cat’s curiosity. Wool had to be unwound and rolled into balls. Balls had to be sorted into color codes. Knitting needles had to match the thickness of the yarn or the size of what was being knit. Knitting began in a fast and furious method of getting through a pattern without any mistakes. Patterns were altered on many occasions to make new creations that were better than the original with handwritten scribbles alongside the margins of tattered pages.
I was fortunate to have a mother, two grandmothers, several aunts and cousins all addicted to knitting. It was the thing to do; there was no other option for them. While going to school and taking part in many extracurricular sports activities I once failed to knit a toque needed as a Christmas gift. It didn’t matter that my grade average was above 95 or that I was on 5 sports teams. My Mom was blown away by how I could have just not knit that toque in time.
But this story goes back to when I was four, just learning how to hold the knitting needles, wrap the yarn around them and keep those stitches in line. I wanted to be the best knitter ever, like my Aunt Margaret Rogers, whose knitting needles made the whirring sound and did a blurring motion while she rocked in her chair and whipped up item after item with ease. I wanted to show Grandmother Agnes Vickers that I could make sweaters and slippers too and be allowed up on the grown up couch to watch the soap operas that she called stories. I wanted to proof to my mom that I could pay attention, that I did realize being able to knit was important.
But, frustratingly, I had the hardest time keeping those stitches on the needles. I think I probably put too many on, but I was four and I was so proud with every formed loop that I just added stitch after stitch. I couldn’t read a pattern so I was forced to guess how to try and make what I wanted to accomplish. Not a great way to succeed. And I did not. I was great at rolling up balls and sorting colors though.
My Aunt Donna came to my rescue with a pair of tiny knitting needles and my own woven bag for carrying yarn. I don’t know who it was that taught me to read patterns, but I am grateful for that. So at the age of four, perhaps just having turned five, because it was near Christmas time, I successfully knit an entire row without dropping any stitches! Finally, I had done it. I overheard with much pride, a hushed conversation that they had believed I just wasn’t going to be a knitter, broken up with the odd comments in my behalf, that I was just a baby and too much pressure was being put upon me.
There was alot of competition amongst the knitters in my family. They were all very talented, all with their own style and preferred assortment of items they liked to create. Some were apologetic, like Aunt Jacqueline Rogers Clyke, who showed her work and critiqued it simultaneously. Some made things in secret and we only saw the wonderful finished projects, like Aunt Sheila Rogers Munroe. Some were beginning new projects before even finishing others, brimming with so much creative energy they could barely contain it, like Aunt Donna Rogers MacRae. Some turned knitting into a visiting activity, where projects were shown and compared, complimented, then constructed amidst conversation and snacks, like Grandmother Agnes Reid Vickers. Some were serious knitters, like Nana Lorraine Rogers, Mom Gail Vickers Rogers and Aunt Margaret Burt Rogers, who needed uniformity in their workmanship, timely production, creative touches and to begin one project the moment they finished another.
I knit today because it is comforting to do so. I choose colors that go with the amazing scenery of Trout River, Newfoundland. I knit because nature inspires me and because I know how. I also recognize, from living in a northern climate how the importance of learning this skill was passed down for generations amidst my ancestors. Knitting meant surviving the cold, keeping dry and warm, staying healthy.
Today, aside from its physical benefits, knitting is helping me emotionally, with pulling pieces of memories forth, giving me comforting moments of piece and accomplishment, amidst a year of economic uncertainty and pandemic fear. So whether you are four, nine, forty or 94, never be afraid to pick up those needles and twist that yarn! And once you succeed, encourage others to do the same.