Why do I knit?

Or sew? Or spin? After centuries of having to obtain their clothing the hard way, people figured out how to get machines to do the tedious work for them so that now, in 2014, they can live perfectly well without ever having to pick up so much as a piece of thread. Growing fiber, processing it into yarn, and then knitting or weaving it into fabric used to take up a lot of almost everyone’s time and attention, so when they didn’t have to do it anymore, most people were happy to stop. But a few of us knit on, to the amazement of those who do not. They wonder why we waste all that time and money on knitting when you can just go down to one of those ubiquitous big stores and buy a sweater made in a factory and imported from Somewhere Else for $19.99 (or $16.42 with a coupon)?

I was lucky to have a mother who enjoyed knitting. She grew up in a little town on the Canadian prairie during the Depression, when knitting and sewing were still considered essential skills to have. After she grew up, she moved to Los Angeles to get away from the endless Canadian winters. Though many aspects of my childhood in sunny California were very different than hers had been, she taught me to knit when I was about eight years old. Oh, how I remember that meandering swatch of chocolate brown yarn on those shiny red metal needles! Every row had a different number of stitches, and sometimes they would get so tight, I couldn’t budge them with my sticky little hands. I would give the whole mess to my mother, who would sigh and then patiently sort it out for me so that I could keep going. Somehow I persevered long enough to learn the basics, but I didn’t get bitten by the knitting bug until high school.

Unfortunately, this was the late 70s, when polyester and acrylic were king. It’s hard to believe now how difficult it was to find a natural fiber anywhere. But we knit on through the 80s and 90s. We would often go to our local yarn shop, pick out a pattern that we both liked, then each pick a different color of the same yarn to make it. We spent many a happy evening knitting together.

I stopped knitting for several years while I was launching my career designing data collection forms for the pharmaceutical industry and while my daughter was very young, but I returned to it when she was a toddler and haven’t stopped knitting since. When she was about eight years old, I taught her to knit. I’m proud to say that she, too, has been infected by the fiber bug. My mom is no longer with us, but as my daughter and I shop for yarn and knit together, we still feel her presence in the magic circle of yarn that binds us together.

So why do you knit?


2 thoughts on “Why do I knit?

  1. I love this story. My mother taught me to crochet when I was very young. My grandmother was a knitter but was not able to pass down her skills to me before she passed. When I learned to knit as an adult my mother was so proud of me and has told me hundreds of times that my grandma is smiling down at me as I knit. It wasn’t until after I learned, that my mother learned too and now her and I feel more connected to my grandma. Even after family is gone, knitting can keep you close. It’s kind of amazing!

    1. I think all of the fibery arts connect us to our past–especially if we learned them from family.

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