Sunday, October 28, 2007

Every Stitch, A Wish for Happiness

My mom was one of the greatest knitters of all time.

And while this statement may possibly exaggerate her skills, her talent was truly awesome. It probably came from growing up in England during the war. With everything rationed, my mother and her twin sisters were charged with knitting their own sweaters from an early age. When they grew out of something, she told me how they'd unravel the garment and use the old yarn to make something new for themselves or someone else. Nothing went to waste and their knitting prowess provided them with what they needed for those damp, bone-chilling English winters.

So, growing up, I always had the nicest handmade sweaters. Usually in a favorite color, purple or red were popular, and they featured the lovely, lacy open work patterns that my mother was so good at creating. She knitted tons of baby clothes before my arrival and was well-known for doing the same for friends and neighbors. For at least a couple of years as a youngster, my brother wore navy and white striped sailor sweaters that mom seemed to favor. He also had a little chunky blue overcoat that my mom had knitted and carefully lined. And even once, when I was about ten, she made me a red, white and blue bikini that unfortunately for me didn't hold up well once you got it wet.

I remember distinctly as a little girl grabbing a small skein of yarn out of her knitting bag and a pair of needles and trying to do what she did. Her hands always moved with such amazing speed that it looked to me like she was just stabbing the yarn and the resulting knit work would just magically grow in length from her knitting needles. Of course, when I tried to replicate this, absolutely nothing warm and woolly appeared on my needles.

Mom tried to show me several times how she did it, but she was always too quick. It was as if fast was the only speed she knew when it came to knitting and my second-grade dexterity was no match for this master.

Finally one chilly, Saturday autumn morning at the age of about eight, she had my father drive me to our little town square and drop me off at the local yarn establishment. It was there in a basement shop, next to the Murphy's dime store and the JC Penney, that I began weekly knitting lessons. My teacher was an old and slightly cranky woman whose name I don't remember. But what she lacked in social skills, she made up for with patience. And while I never developed the mastery of mom, to this day I can hold my own when it comes to casting on, knitting, purling. . .I'm a good basic knitter.

And for some reason lately, I feel the need to knit something (winter scarves are a favorite project). It occurred to me this week that I'd knitted two lovely scarves for an old boyfriend, Lee, but never, ever knitted anything for my husband. Both of the boyfriend scarves were fashioned in the basket weave pattern I like to do when I'm showing off. One was gray made from the softest yarn I could find at Wal-mart back in our college days. The second scarf was made years later when Lee unexpectedly reappeared in my life. That one was the same pattern, but made from expensive alpaca yarn in a rich, caramely brown.

In fact, that scarf was the last thing I knitted. And that was over ten years ago.

There's something about knitting that's like meditation. Each stitch a wish for happiness. Every finished row a declaration of care. The final product an act of love, created by and touched over and over again by the same hands that in happy moments could hold yours.

I asked my husband this morning what color scarf he might like. "Burnt orange," was his answer. And so burnt orange it will be. It's high time Craze had a Maggie original of his very own. Something that might warm him in more ways than one during the coming winter.

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