Textile Teachers – Knitting

When I was seven, my mom arranged for me to have knitting lessons with an older lady, Mary,  who lived up the street.  Every Saturday I went at two o’clock for an hour’s lesson.  My mom is left-handed and I’m right-handed, so she didn’t think she could teach me herself.  Since I was not the organized sports type,  she thought I should develop some interests.  Also, Mary loved kids but didn’t have any, so Mom probably thought she was doing the neighborly thing by lending me out for a while.

My first lesson was casting on, and then the garter stitch.  I remember clearly sitting in a comfortable arm chair with good lighting while Mary sat across the room and worked on her own knitting.  I can still see the grass green yarn I used, but I have no idea if I picked the color or Mary did.  I kept my knitting in a work bag made out of an oatmeal box, covered neatly with brown fabric, and decorated with yellow and orange flowers created with Art-tex – an early fabric paint.  Mary had made the work bag for me.  We just sat companionably together and worked.  I don’t remember talking much, just enjoying the peace.

Over the weeks, I knit a large square, learned to cast off, and then repeated the whole process.  I was so surprised when I came to my next lesson, to find that Mary had joined the two squares with a border of crocheted scallops, and stuffed it with a pillow form.  I didn’t know I was making anything in particular.  I was amazed to find out I could make something real!

My next lesson was the purl stitch.  I was still working with that grass green yarn, and again, I just knit a square, smaller this time.  Mary turned that square into a straight sheath dress for my Barbie doll.  As a finishing touch, she sewed a little rhinestone triangle to the shoulder of the dress so Barbie would be wearing a fashionable brooch.  Then, she gave me a 4-piece outfit for my Barbie – she could have been working on it while I was sitting there, I don’t know.  I don’t remember ever asking her about her own projects.

I’m not sentimental about my own creations – I tend to get tired of looking at them while I’m working on them – and I really didn’t like that green color even then, so I don’t have my first two knit creations any more.  But I do have the outfit that Mary knit.

doll's knit outfit

Jackie Kennedy would have loved this outfit

I never became much of a knitter – too many dropped stitches.  But early on, I learned that comfort and companionship can be found in hand crafts, even across the generations or across cultures, and I am so thankful for that!