You can’t make a person into a knitter by a direct route. Making knitters is a circuitous process requiring a mix of patience, hope and indifference. Once you’ve picked your target, don’t get up in their grill and say things like, “You should try knitting! I love knitting! You will love it too!” Take a more subtle route; avoid exclamation points. In my view, it can never hurt to knit for the person. I don’t subscribe to the Old Testament-style notion that if you knit for people, you will make them into coddled non-knitters who expect the world to serve them up handknits on a silver platter. Receiving handknits can lead, over time, to appreciating handknits, to wondering how they are made, to enjoying the tactile and visual qualities of good yarn, and to wanting to have a go oneself.
Take niece Kristin, for example. When Kristin was a child, she took a slight interest in knitting. In 2003, she “knit” a big-stitch patchwork blanket, by which I mean that Kristin knit a few rows over a few days, and I knit many rows at night while she was asleep. It was a triumphant moment, after which she didn’t knit again for a decade or so. This was when I had to call upon the patience, hope and indifference. For 10 years.
Then, slowly, slowly, Kristin took up the needles again. She started out wanting to make a Honey Cowl (although she already had a Honey Cowl–she is related to me, therefore by natural law, she had a Honey Cowl). She made a couple of those, in one-skein versions. Then she wanted to learn how to knit a Ballband Dishcloth. She started churning those out in quantity. I helped her out, but I didn’t act too excited about it. You knit, you don’t knit, what do I care, kid? (Meanwhile slipping her balls of Peaches & Creme and Size 6 needles. Go ahead and take them, fine by me, this is not my excited face.)
Last winter, coming home from the coffee shop one afternoon, I asked Kristin if she’d mind if I stopped in at my local, Knitty City, for a minute. My hand to Kaffe, Ann, I really needed to pick up some Lopi I’d ordered. I had no intention of luring Kristin further down the rabbit hole. While we were in there, she asked if I thought she could knit a sweater. The earth moved under my feet (it may have been the 2/3 express train).
What followed was a brief exploration of the kind of sweater Kristin wanted to knit. She’s sporty. She likes to keep it simple, fashion-wise. She has a what-I-call waist. She was intrigued by the colorwork on her lopapeysa, but wanted a yarn weight and sweater style that was more….indoorsy. After a little Ravel-ing amongst my favorite sweater designers, Kristin chose her first sweater pattern: Sambuca, by Thea Colman aka Baby Cocktails. I helped her get started on the neck, and she started knitting away. She took it back with her to Nebraska with the sleeves on stitchholders, and in short order she reported that she had knitted the whole body, including the color work, without further intervention or assistance. By this time, spring was springing, and Kristin first employed the knitterly technique of allowing those sleeve stitches to marinate in a plastic bag for a few months.
Last week, I got a text: Kristin was knitting the sleeves. Then another text: she was blocking her Sambuca. (“Wow, Ann is right about the blocking!”) And finally, a few days ago, these pictures came over the MomPhone2000.
Kristin’s Sambuca, in Cascade 220 superwash.
Kristin claims to like her sleeves on the long side.
My work here is done.
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