My knitting history begins with my grandmother, Nana Sirois, in Byron, Maine. Nana Sirois was a grade school teacher and always felt that students were capable of more than most adults thought and practiced her theories on me, her eldest grandchild. By the time I was 5 years old I was a fluent reader of basic chapter books and by the time I was 8 or 9, I was putting down the Bobbsey Twins books like candy on Halloween night. She also knew I was capable of much more: of knitting. I was six when she put my first set of needles in my hands: a robin’s egg blue set of #6 aluminum knitting needles. She rummaged around in her stash kept under the hospital bed in the living room and found my color. It was the color of new lily leaves in the spring. Of course, it was 100% acrylic but I didn’t know about yarn types or qualities then. She taught me how to make a slip knot and place it on the needle. Then how to wrap the yarn around my left index finger and slide the loop onto the needle to cast on. In a matter of moments, I was completing row upon row of garter stitch.
She died not much later, at the age of 56, of lung cancer. She was unable to teach me the secrets of knitting beyond casting on and the knit stitch, nor was she able to finish the cardigan she was three-quarters through. My aunt Kelly picked up the needles where she left off and finished the cardigan. Aunt Kelly tried teaching me the purl stitch when I was seven but I wasn’t ready then. It was too difficult for me to learn from her as her style of teaching was different from Nana’s.
For years I made garter stitch items out of acrylic on those #6 needles. Pot holders, dish cloths, and many other items that were never named as they were ripped out as soon as the end of the skein was reached. I experimented with all sorts of colors but they were ugly due to the limited supply of yarn I had.
During grade school I brought my knitting with me and would often sneak it out and knit during class when the teacher was going over stuff I already knew (I moved around a lot and was often ahead of my peers because of it). My family finally settled in the Skowhegan area when I was in fifth grade. This was the year that my public knitting ended until I was in college. In fifth grade I had class with Jake Burnham. He caught me knitting and started calling me grandma and asked me to knit him a sweater. I had such low self-esteem that his jeers were enough for me to hide this interest of mine from even my closest friends from there on out. He was such a jerk about it that he never dropped that joke. I was a sophomore in high school and he still asked me to knit him a sweater when he didn’t have another witty put down handy. My ten-year reunion is coming up soon and I’m thinking about doing just that – knitting him a sweater. Jerk.
In high school I took up crochet and put knitting aside for a few years. I made numerous granny square blankets out of acrylic. I shudder at the thought of using that stuff now that I have been working with real fibers for the last three years. I focused on crocheting afghans for family and friends for about four years then got the knitting itch again, around my second or third year in college.
I began with hats knitted in the round. This was the first time I had done something other than garter stitched flat pieces. I was thrilled! I then found a tutorial online that taught me the purl stitch. I was rocking and rolling from there on out.
From the moment I learned the purl stitch I was hooked. I have become a knit addict, quite literally. I have made dozens of scarves, mittens, hats, dish cloths in cables, seed stitch, lace and stockinette. I’m working on my first sweater after gaining confidence from my gorgeous first vest. At this point, there’s nothing I can’t knit and knit well. And I’m proud of it. Hopefully in another few years I can start designing my own patterns. And I plan on owning and operating a fiber farm within the next 15-20 years with alpaca and sheep.
So that’s my knitting history. It’s always interesting to know how people get from here to there with their interests. I’d love to read your personal knitting histories!