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.
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!