It bothers me a little bit that hipsters knit. While I think it’s awesome that people my age want to knit… still bothers me. Because I would hate for someone to see me knitting and think I was just someone who wanted to be cool or doing it as, well, as a hipster thing to do. I knit for reasons completely unrelated.
I started knitting when I was about 13 or 14 years old. In order to be confirmed at my church, we had to go to one church meeting. And since neither I (nor my mentor) cared to go to some boring budget meeting, we decided to go to a prayer shawl committee meeting (since she knew how to crochet and they had food).
—For those that don’t know, a prayer shawl is just a knitted shawl that is knit for someone; generally who is in some kind of need/going through a major change. Oftentimes people take turns knitting a single shawl, sometimes adding different colors/textures of yarn as their turn comes.—
So I showed up at this meeting and, of course, I was by far the youngest person there. By a good 30-35 years or so. I’m naturally very shy and hate talking, but of course had to deal with an onslaught of question about my life and my goals and school and my siblings and everything else. Having sat through these, I was finally ready to learn how to knit.
Jane came over with a ball of white yarn, a pair of size 13 needles, and a packet. I’m thinking “Oh, great. A packet.” But she sat down next to me, handed me this packet and told me I could use it if I needed to, then began to show me what to do. I never touched the packet again after that night; she taught me well.
Despite her excellent (and very patient) instruction, my first piece of knitting was pretty bad, and I think that’s an understatement. Holes everywhere, crazy stitches that looked more like knots, and it somehow managed to almost double in width and length.
But I was determined, and slowly I got better. I knit my first prayer shawl, then a scarf for myself, and then… nothing. I got so busy and I didn’t want to sit down and learn new stitches/techniques and so it became just something I kind-of knew how to do. By the middle of my freshman year of college I had knit a few things - a couple of hats, a scarf for my best friend, and a never-completed tote bag.
And then, something happened. My brothers godmother (who had been really like another mother to all of us) was diagnosed with cancer. Mrs. Maralynn (or as my sister used to call her “Miss Maryland”) was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. In addition to just being incredible, she was incredibly crafty. She quilted, sewed, crocheted, scrapbooked, and knit. Her projects were absolutely amazing. Sadly, only a few months after her diagnosis, she passed away.
While we were helping her husband clean out their house, we found tons of yarn.
7 trash-bags full, to be precise.
And I guess it kind of hit me: all of this yarn had a purpose that it never got to fulfill - as stupid as that might sound. But she bought all this yarn with ideas of things to make that now would never get to be made.
We donated most of the yarn to our church/Mrs. Maralynns’ other friends. But she had told me the last time we came to visit her that I was free to take her needles and all the yarn I wanted. Currently, I have two trash-bags full of yarn. It’s all different and wonderful and I love it. When she was still alive she gave me 6 skeins of yarn, making me promise that I could only take it if I would use it to knit a prayer shawl. So I’ve kept that yarn, and once I find a place to live, I intend to make one.
The needles I knit with today were hers. And they are irreplaceable. The yarn might be the only visible part of the finished product, but the needles make it happen, and I find if comforting that her needles are what help me to be a knitter.
I knit because I love it. I knit because she is no longer able to. I knit because I love the feeling of taking a seemingly worthless pile of string and turning it into something beautiful and useful. I knit because it’s relaxing. I knit because it’s creative. I knit because it’s challenging.
I knit because it’s personal. A friend said to me the other day that they’d rather go out and buy a Harry Potter scarf than get one that was hand-made because the one made on a machine will look nicer and I think that’s terrible. Who cares what it looks like? I wear the hats and scarves I’ve made with pride. I know where every dropped stitch is and every little hole and that’s what makes it special.
So sure, some people may knit because it’s cool. But me? I knit for a hell of a lot more.