My beginner knitter posts have been circulating for a month now. I hope they’ve given you something yarnful to meditate on, perhaps inspired you to find needles and wool and cast on, even tentatively. I hope my confessions have helped you to know that you’re not the only one trying to crack the knitting code, the only one who wonders how it would actually feel to create copious waves of lace or to wear (triumphantly) the jumper you knitted, and be proud when you carelessly catch sight of a rib or stocking stitch weave keeping your stomach warm. I made that! Yes, me! After a month, I am plus a scarf, minus the head shaking confusion that accompanied memories of the knit stitch, and accompanied by a small cache of knitting memories: my grandmother’s knitting chant, sharing craft talk with friends, searching for a knit and natter group, choosing yarn for my scarf, the audacity of knitting in a café, being drawn into knitting shops, hunting for beginner’s patterns that are both wearable and genuinely simple.
However, as a freelancer, which carries its own kind of stress, I daily try to outrun the recession that has grasped the UK, and finding knitting time has not always been a breeze. Marketing my business often seems more sensible than knitting, although I also know that down-time, ‘filling the well’ as the creativity guru Julia Cameron so aptly put it, is more important than anything, a prime ingredient in encouraging me to be fresh, thoughtful, original and desirable in my work. I don’t know about you, but allowing myself to knit, which also means finding time to create, has not been simple. I am feeling more confident about knitting publically, but I don’t commute, so cant knit on the bus, and although inspired by a train knitter, I don’t take the train very often, so am rarely accompanied by its sonorous rhythm and the encouraging span of hours between London and York or Leeds and Edinburgh, which indeed is very conducive to knitting.
But, for the past week and a half, I have been finding something indulgent and enjoyable about knitting in bed in the morning, greeting the day through the needles, yarn plumped like a recumbent cat on the duvet. I’ve never been a morning person, usually waking up with a pillow creased face and brain cranking painfully into action, but the act of reaching for needles and yarn on waking, has seemed to be a healing act, as I knit a row, five , ten before wrapping myself in my blue dressing gown and heading downstairs for breakfast. With each stitch, I seem able to knit my fragmented dreamy/befuddled morning self back together, and from feeling initially jittery and unfocused, the act of knitting appears to hasten me towards order, coherence and balance.
I like the idea of pausing between the dictatorial perkiness of the alarm and a day structured by to do lists and striving. Knitting allows me time to gather myself before embarking on everything else, engaging with the demands of life. Sometimes I knit through rain pelting the windows, my neighbour calling the cat in for breakfast, ‘Daisy!’ (she really does this), and (rarely but beautifully) a giant sunbeam falling like a yellow plate over the wool, my needles, my hands. Of course, although intangible, all these things will be knitted into my garment too. We don’t just knit wool, we knit in the thoughts and experiences that guide our hands. I can see the sky from my bed, and usually knit that in too – the repetitive motion of the knit stitch braiding early mornings, silver skies, and the scent of coffee onto the needles with loop after loop of new stitches. I tell myself that after only a week of morning knitting, I will be making good progress with a project, and it’s true. The ‘baby steps’ theory might seem a bit clichéd, but it works.
I haven’t really ‘progressed’ from my first scarf. If you are wondering what I am knitting on these coffee stained mornings, the answer is squares, just basic squares. I am ‘between projects’, wondering where to take my beginner skills next, and haven’t yet found a pattern that screams ‘Knit me! Wear me! Love me!’ So, for my in between knitting project space, I have decided just to knit squares with the few balls of wool I’ve gathered recently, using the patterns that I currently feel comfortable with: garter stitch and stocking stitch. The idea is that as I progress these squares will become a bit more risky: cable perhaps, moss stitch. Then, at the end of a year (or two) I will have a beginner’s sampler quilt. That’s the idea anyway.
And its mornings that seem to be ticket to the hallowed time when a beginner knitter’s blanket graces my knees. It’s always cold in the UK (sunbeams or not) so there wont be a time when a knitted blanket wont be needed. I don’t know what you would fancy knitting, if you’re in Australia, you might be less in need of a blanket, but if you don’t knit in the mornings, I urge you to try it. It’s really very comforting. Buy a basket for your wool and needles, and place it adjacent to the bed for easy dipping access. One star for difficulty projects seem to work best for me early on (I don’t want to struggle with dpns at 7.30am) but you might be lit up at 5am and ready to tackle something a bit more challenging – lace perhaps. Am a little obsessed with lace.
Am wondering about how you have carve out time to knit, or indeed craft? Is it easy for you to find the time or are you filching it from elsewhere? Knitting in the garden? On a park bench? In lunch hours (and wishing you hadn’t because you’ve got tomato soup on your mohair?). Sometimes, I admit to hopping out of bed to get a steaming mug of camomile or mint tea first. Then I bring it back to bed and sip and knit, the steam impregnating the yarn with comforting steam that smells of summer meadows. The knitting is simple, I’ve rationalised it as being about ‘perfecting the craft’, and it’s certainly calming, a gentle and luxurious simplicity through which to welcome the day. Morning knitting – who knew?
Lee Ronald likes to begin things, in fact it might be one of the things she’s best at. She is a beginner knitter, beginner dressmaker and beginner cross-stitcher. However she seems to have forded the river of beginning in terms of words for she earns her living as a freelance writer and editor, www.thewordgarden.co.uk. When she is not writing or beginning things, she is usually partaking of her national (English) sport of tea drinking in her home office in the quirky and historically inspiring city of York.