Monday, April 26, 2010

Day One: How It All Began

I wandered through a few knitting blogs last week, and discovered that Eskimimi is hosting the Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week.  The idea is for knit and crochet bloggers to write about the same topics every day for a week, offering a range of perspectives as varied and colorful as our leftover skein stashes.  You don't have to officially sign up to be part of the fun, but you can find participating bloggers by googling each day's tag.  KniCroBlo Week starts today, and since my April posts have been a little far and few between, I thought I'd give it a go!

Day One is about how it all began - when and how did we learn how to take two sticks and a ball of yarn and make fabric with them?  I remember learning how to knit from my mom when I was in elementary school, and for a long time I had the swatches to show for it (one yellow, and one pink).  I don't remember whether I liked it or not... My mom recently found a picture that perhaps explains why I didn't keep knitting.  The look on my face isn't encouraging...

We lived in Sewanee, Tennessee, where my dad was in seminary.  Fast forward twenty years to New York City, where I was the one in seminary this time.  I suppose I had seen my mom knit from time to time while I was growing up, but she and my grandmother were more often holding needlepoint or cross-stitch in their laps, and these were the needle-and-thread projects I liked best.  I remember cross-stitching a few baby things - bibs, pillows, and my most ambitious piece, a little wall-hanging of Mickey Mouse in his sorcerer's apprentice robes and hat.

I really can't explain why I went to the "Knitting and Crocheting Prayer Group" that met at St. Luke-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church on Thursday nights... I had read blurbs about them in the church bulletin, and knew they gave away prayer shawls and each year contributed a huge afghan for a raffle on the day of the city-wide AIDS walk.  An orange crochet hook and a small skein of thick burgundy yarn were placed in my hands moments after I arrived.  "It's easier to learn how to crochet first," the group leader said, and she showed me how to pull the hook through loops of the surprisingly soft yarn (I later learned it was Lion Brand Homespun, and the woman who taught me to crochet wrote for the Lion Brand website).

For the next hour and a half I fumbled with the stitches, which mysteriously grew and shrank as I finished each row.  The handful of others who filled the parlor had brought their own projects with them - blankets, baby sweaters, warm hats and afghans.  They told stories as they worked, laughed at their dropped stitches, and frequently leaned toward one another to admire or assist.  One group member arrived late, there for the first time since recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor.  The group paused, pulled a beautiful prayer shawl from a closet in the hall (as I peered in I saw that it was full of carefully folded handknit shawls), and wrapped it around his shoulders even as they wrapped him in prayers for his continued recovery.

I was, and I can only say it this way, hooked.  I bought some Homespun of my own in a deep purple and began crocheting a prayer shawl, running out for more yarn before I knew it (and, unfortunately, before I knew about the concept of dye lots).  The shawl turned out to be a polygon shape with no right angles, so I kept it for myself and it hangs on a chair in my office.

Before I left New York, I went to Purl Soho for a pair of knitting needles and a skein of Noro Kureyon (I was told the colors would encourage me to keep going when I got frustrated, which I was told I would).  It was my first trip to a yarn shop, and if I had been curious before I was completely in love by the time I left.  I had never seen so many colors and textures of yarn.  Back home in Mississippi, just a few days before my ordination, my mom sat down with me and taught me to knit.  Again.


tishka said...

A wonderful story.

Cathy said...

And now, the rest of the story: I am learning more from you! It must be in the genes...Mammie, Mamama, Nana, and Jennifer. Charlie may not knit(yet,) but he has helped me pick some colors for socks and prayer shawls!

Wool Free and Lovin' Knit said...

Fabulous story -- I think that knitting is a powerful craft for church women to re-embrace in our hectic world. Thanks for sharing.

Mary O'Shaughnessy said...

St. Luke in the Fields is my parish. In 2006, after a series of horrific events starting with the unexpected deaths of my godfather and mother, and including job troubles and housing woes, I came home to discover a warm and wonderful long scarf that had been made for me by the group. It was a complete surprise and I dissolved in tears at the unexpected sign of love. It is a wonderful, continuing ministry.