I don’t think I’ve ever talked much about knitting on here because, well…it’s knitting. But, knitting is a part of my life, and this blog is part of my life, so here we are. Talking about knitting. Though really, I think we’re going to be talking more about confidence and challenges in the context of knitting. At least that’s what’s my brain is saying. We’ll see how this goes.
The first thing you should know is that I’m not a lifelong yarn-worker. Many years ago, my grandmother taught me and my siblings how to crochet. I became versed in making chains and basic squares, but I passed on the notion generally. It wasn’t until many years later, around 2005, that I started working with yarn again. And it wasn’t like I had a sudden epiphany or sign from above that yarn work was what I needed to be doing. In fact, the moment when it seemed like a good hobby to pick up (again) occurred when my husband and I were in a hobby store. We randomly passed through the yarn aisle, and I randomly stopped in front of the section of crochet hocks and yarn needles. He looked at me and said something to the effect of you used to crochet, right? And I responded with the likes of yeah, but I haven’t done it in years. And he simply said, maybe you should try it again… I could use a new winter hat. That last part might have been slightly sarcastic, but I figured yeah, I could use a new winter hat, too. And right there, I bought a set of crochet hooks with an instruction booklet, because I knew I’d need the help, and a couple skeins of yarn. Off I went, not sure of where crocheting a couple hats would lead.
Turned out, the path led here:
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
You see, though I got into crocheting, and eventually knitting, I never really had in mind that I would become “good” at either. Call it “latent self-esteem issues,” but in all the years that I’ve been making yarn pieces, never did really challenging myself come to mind. Using video games as an analogy, I always saw myself as a causal-normal yarn artist, one who’d never venture into hard-nightmare territory. And I was perfectly fine with that. I was perfectly happy making hats and scarves and sweaters using simple, straightforward patterns. Things that only required basic knowledge of stitches, one or two colors of yarn, and easy finishing. Things like this little bolero sweater:
And this small neck wrap.
I did get a little “crazy” every now and then, like with this pair of mitts that used very thin yarn and had a fan pattern on one side with buttons.
But still, we’re talking about easy-to-follow patterns and using single yarn skeins. And I was fine. I was perfectly fine with the idea that I’d be a casual-normal knitter/crocheter all my life.
And then, that request came along…a request to make a Christmas stocking. The request came from a family member, so I immediately felt obligated to follow through. But I was excited, because I had never made a Christmas stocking out of yarn before. So I asked the requestor to email me a few pattern ideas. They all pretty much looked like this:
And my heart sank. You see, the requestor had no idea of my comfort level with yarn stuffs, nor had any idea that I had never knitted patterned items such as this fancy holiday stocking. But, when people know that you know how to knit or crochet, it’s easy for them to assume that you can knit or crochet anything, because why not?
The type of knitting seen in this stocking is called “Fair Isle” or stranded knitting, and it involves manipulating multiple strands of yarn into various patterns – flowers, animals, candles, snowflakes, letters, any pattern you’d like, frankly. And it’s what I consider hard-nightmare knitting. Before this moment, I attempted to knit a Fair Isle hat, and it turned out less than great. Because the big thing with Fair Isle is that since you’re carrying strands of yarn behind the work, you have to watch your tension. Too much tension, and the work bunches. Too little, and you’re left with big loops of yarn on the wrong side of the work. Plus, there are the matters of dealing with multiple strands of yarn at once, counting stitches, and correctly following eye-crossing pattern charts.
After looking at all the patterns I had been sent, scouring the Internet for “cheats,” and internally shaming myself for being such a baby about the whole thing, I committed. I committed myself to the stocking shown above – the most complex one of the bunch. Because, if I was going to learn Fair Isle knitting properly, the only way I was going to do it was trial by fire. Honestly, as an adult, it’s the best way for me to learn. Though it is unbelievably comfortable in my casual-normal world, if I ever hope to find the confidence to progress to the next level, it’s only going to come from stepping into the hard-nightmare realm. And sometimes, knowing that someone else has confidence in you, even if you don’t feel it yourself, is enough of an impetus to take that first step.
I’ve only just started the stocking, and I’ve felt twinges of anxiety with each new row. My inner devil says you’re going to screw up! It takes everything in my power to listen to my inner angel – you’re going to do fine. I try hard not to think ahead, because I remain nervous about working the heel – I’ve never made socks before! – but I can only cross that bridge when I get to it. And when that time comes, like now, it’s just a matter of working one row at a time.
Off to a good start, so far.