Thursday, June 7, 2012


I JUST DISCOVERED THAT FOR FORTY YEARS I'VE BEEN KNITTING BACKWARDS. Of course, it doesn't feel backwards to me. It feels perfectly natural. I knit just like my Aunt Jane taught me. But I was trying a new pattern that was supposed to be easy. It only had a few variations of the basic stitch: knit, yarn over, knit two together and then one thing I never heard of before. The abbreviation was k2togtbl.

I'm in the aviary this morning, with the parakeets. They happily scold each other, or maybe they're scolding me. Why did I come to just sit here with the computer, ignoring them? Ursula busies herself digging for something in the grass. She looks and listens, still for the longest time, then pounces and digs, soil spraying up behind her. In a nearby tree a bird makes a regular clicking sound, like a Geiger counter counting...what? The proximity of whatever my dog hears tunneling through the soil amidst the roots of grasses and dandelions?

The knitting abbreviation stumped me, so I asked Sheree. She said it was “knit two together through the back loop.” I couldn't imagine it, so she showed me. Her demonstration was slow and careful, and easy to see. She repeated it several times. I thanked her, but when I tried it, my knitting began to twist in a weird way. The problem was, I couldn't see any difference between what Sheree's demonstration, and my normal method of knitting two together. I put that pattern aside and turned to other projects.

We had a big storm last night, which gave us a lot of wind, a little rain, and chased away the heat we've had for the past few days. I had to put on a fleece this morning to sit comfortably in my shady aviary with the breeze in my hair. In a little while I'll take advantage of the newly damp earth to pull some weeds. I love pulling weeds in the rain-softened soil. I dread it when it's dry, so I just wait for the rain. I'd better hurry, since the rain just made the cracks in the ground smaller—didn't make them disappear—and the wind will dry it quickly even with this coolness.

After a while I got tired of knitting my usual washcloths, and wanted to try that lace pattern. I asked Sherree to show me again how to knit through the back loop. I had the same trouble, so I asked her to show me how she normally knits. It was...backwards. She slipped the needle through the loop from the front, so for her, and for most people, I guess, knitting through the back loop is strange and worthy of its own complicated abbreviation.

I decided to follow the thread back to the source and told my story to my Aunt Jane, who taught me to knit. She thought for a moment and said, “Well, my grandmother, who taught me, was left handed. She did a lot of things differently.” I thought about how patterns are passed down and repeated through the generations. I thought about all the people I have taught to knit backwards: all three of my kids, each of my nieces, a couple of my son's girlfriends, and probably some other folks. It made me think I should be more careful of what I want to pass down. Kindness, tolerance, responsibility, forgiveness, generosity, love. I want to pass these down even if I have to learn some new habits to do it.

I started that pattern again, with some yarn Paula gave me. It is easy and goes quickly, until I get to that one stitch. I thought about teaching myself to knit forward, but it felt so awkward that in the end I decided to just reverse the pattern. I'll knit the whole thing through the back loop, and then knit in the front loop when I get to the special stitch. I have memorized the pattern and can knit it without looking, until I get there, and for me that stitch is a time machine. On every ninth stitch I am an clumsy 7 year old sitting with my aunt, pudgy fingers pulling the yarn too tightly, breathing hard in my concentration. I rest the end of the needle on my knee to stabilize it while I labor to slip the point into the two stitches from an unfamiliar angle. With time, it will get easier, I know. With time, acting in tolerance, generosity, and forgiveness will become a habit.

No comments:

Post a Comment