Knit Picking

What to knit? My daughter has a gymnastics meet coming up (no, I’m not knitting leotards”¦I’ll explain the connection in a minute) and I don’t have a knitting project in the works. All the patterns I’ve looked at look like costume rejects from Cirque du Soleil ““ garish colors and really strange shapes. There isn’t even anyone I can knit a baby sweater for. The only women I know who are pregnant are Nicole Kidman, J-Lo, and Jessica Alba, none of whom probably want a sweater from me. If I don’t think of something soon, I’m going to be knitting tea cozies. But let me back up a bit”¦

I’ve been knitting consistently for about the past six years and in that time I’ve come to believe that knitting is the perfect hobby. It requires a minimum of equipment: two sticks not much bigger than pencils and a ball of yarn. It can be done with the cheapest ball of $1.59 cotton yarn from Michael’s or on the other end of the scale, hand-combed, hand-dyed yarn spun from 100% pure yak-down imported from the Himalayas.

I can knit in any season, rain or shine, and I can get enjoyment out of it whether I do it for 10 minutes or two hours at a sitting. It is completely portable and I can do it unobtrusively anywhere: on an airplane, in the car on a family road trip, or waiting for one of the kids at the orthodontist’s office. I think quilting is a beautiful art form but it would pretty difficult to take a sewing machine and fabric on the road.

In fact, one of the reasons I started knitting was because my daughter began competing in gymnastics. After attending her first meet, I realized that between the warm-ups, competitions, judging, technical difficulties, and award ceremonies, I had many years ahead of me sitting in a high school gymnasiums suffering through six hours of bleacher-butt to watch her perform six minutes of routines. If I didn’t want to go absolutely crazy during these marathons of posterior patience, I had better find something to make the time productive. Now, at the end of her competition season, she has an array of ribbons to add to her bedroom wall and I have a new throw for the family room or a gift for a baby shower. If I was really smart, by now I would have knit myself a seat cushion.

Unlike some hobbies that take people away from the rest of the family, knitting keeps me connected. I know there are “golf widows,” but at least in our house, there’s no such thing as a “knitting widow.” Instead of being irritated because Steve and Ethan want to have a male-bonding experience watching Live Free or Die Hard for the tenth time, I enjoy being in the room with them while they watch the movie and I continue working on my sweater; 112 minutes of “Run! Run! Run!” or “Go! Go! Go!” doesn’t seem so bad if I have another sleeve to show for it.

Knitting gives me the opportunity to make productive use of “found” time in a gymnastics meet or watching TV and that gives me a sense of accomplishment. I feel downright virtuous for making such good use of my time. My mother would be proud. Since I started knitting, I’ve made shrugs, sweaters, socks, scarves, shawls, gloves, hats, felted bags, ponchos, baby sweaters, headbands, an afghan, and pillows and I haven’t gotten up any earlier or gone to bed any later.

One of the best things about knitting is that it is very forgiving. Unlike sewing where the fabric is cut away to make the pattern pieces so there is always a chance of irreparably snipping too far into the fabric, knitting strings balls of yarn together to make fabric to the pattern’s specifications. So if I get to the end of a project and it’s not the right size or I’m just not happy with it, after a few minutes of unraveling, I end up with the same raw materials that I started with. The only thing I’ve lost is the time I spent making it.

Sure, it’s a little frustrating to have Jennifer try on a sweater that took me three months to knit only to find out that she can’t get it on over her head, but if I’m knitting because I enjoy the process, then starting over is actually giving me more enjoyment. That particular yarn becomes the gift that keeps on giving. Hey, maybe I could just get one ball of yarn and knit and rip it, knit and rip it for the rest of my life! Ok, I’m getting carried away”¦

Back to the problem at hand, what to knit?

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