How does a knitter begin? False starts and true beginnings.

This post is my interpretation of the theme for week two of the A Playful Day Love Your Blog Challenge, which is “Beginnings”.  You can find out more about the challenge here.

A Playful Day

How to begin, when pondering beginnings?  One of my favourite beginnings is, ‘Once upon a time…’  So I’ll start with that.  Let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time, there was a small girl.  Each day she grew a little and she learned a lot about the world around her.  She loved to ask questions and one day she asked her mother, ‘How did I begin?’

‘Now, there’s a question,’ her mother thought, searching for an answer which would be right for such a small person.  And she said to her daughter, ‘I made you.  I knitted you, stitch by stitch, over many months until you were ready to be born.’

Somehow this answer made sense to the small girl until such time as she was ready for a more scientific answer, and she felt very loved that her mother had made her with so much care.

Despite the story of her knitted beginnings, the small girl did not pick up knitting needles herself  for a few years, until, one long summer day, a neighbour taught her how to knit.  The girl learned to form the ‘knit’ stitch, and knitted an irregular square of mustard-coloured yarn.  Her neighbour cast off the square and the girl sewed it up into an envelope with a button to fasten it – a purse!  She proudly filled the purse with coins, which immediately fell through the gaping holes between her rather loose stitches!

At that point, the girl looked at her work and decided that she must be very bad at knitting.  She was clearly not a knitter and she did not try to knit again.

The end.

I’m sorry.  There is no ‘happily ever after’ here.  The girl did not follow her apparent knitterly destiny, growing up with needles in her hands and quickly becoming an amazing knitter of immense skill and prowess.  Instead, this is a true story, and true stories are often less tidy than made-up ones.

The girl in the story was me.  My mum used to tell me that I’d been knitted.  I loved that explanation of my beginning, but I look back slightly regretfully at the fact that I didn’t persist with my first childhood knitting experience.  I sometimes wish I had been that happily-ever-after, amazing knitter-girl.  Maybe I could have been like Annabelle in Mac Barnett’s book Extra Yarn (which is a brilliant story, with beautiful illustrations by Jon Klassen, of a little girl who learns to knit from an ever-replenishing box of yarn).

In real life, by the time I picked up needles for the first time, I had already developed the early stages of a perfectionist streak which I hadn’t yet learned to handle.  The disappointment of toiling to create a completely useless purse put me off trying to learn any more.  In later years, stubbornness, persistence, and eventually a little more patience with myself would kick in to support that perfectionism, and actually help me to learn when I found things difficult.  It was just a shame that THE MUSTARD PURSE OF DOOM happened before that.

Of course, in real life, stories don’t have to have a neat ending, as they often do in made-up story land.  That mustard garter-stitch square wasn’t the end of my knitting life, but only a false start.  I found my way back to knitting as an adult, and this time I fell under its spell and became an everyday knitter.  You can read the story of the true beginning of my knitting life here.

That’s the exciting thing about beginnings: they don’t always have to happen at the beginning and sometimes we get more than one chance.  As a late learner, I am not the knitter I would have been if I’d knitted all my life.  However, I have had the pleasure of being fully aware of my learning experience and the satisfaction of each new skill.  I still have so much to learn and I’m looking forward to each step of the journey.

Arrow (3)

Knitted arrow from Unravel 2015

How did your knitting journey begin?

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19 Responses to How does a knitter begin? False starts and true beginnings.

  1. Faith says:

    I think many of us have similar beginnings. I started and stopped so many crafts before finally picking up knitting needles in college. And that explanation from your mum is perfect.

    • Yarnful says:

      i think it’s interesting how people find different crafts fit them at different points in life. I don’t think I would have made a knitter as a child – I needed a bit more patience and resilience first!

  2. gracey says:

    That’s a wonderful story about your mom…what a great way to explain it to a young child…glad you finally got back to trying it…

  3. laralorelei says:

    We’ve all had mustard square moments, it’s what makes us seek new and better ways of doing what we love

  4. the desert knitter says:

    I’d never thought of it this way until you posted this, but I think I know exactly what you mean about the perfectionism. I tried a bunch of crafts as a kid (including knitting), but they were unsatisfying because I couldn’t make them look the way they were supposed to – that is, the way my mom or teachers made them look. It wasn’t until I got old enough to realize that you had to learn things, and that you could learn things, that I was able to make crafty/creative projects work. (I still get disappointed that they don’t look the way I want them to, though!)

    • Yarnful says:

      I think that kind of perfectionism stays with you – I also still get frustrated sometimes when I’m learning or making mistakes. But I’ve learned a lot about how I learn and not letting it get in the way. Maybe one day I will win!

  5. Nidhi says:

    I love this post, how you wrote your story out. And I really liked the explanation that she was knit stitch by stitch. How adorable!

  6. Juliann says:

    My grandmother taught me to knit when I was a young girl but it wasn’t until I learnd about prayer shawls that I picked up knitting as a craft that could bring joy and relaxation.
    Love your story.

  7. That’s such a lovely story. I can certainly relate to the perfectionist streak too – I have to try hard not to be too critical of myself and to speak to me as I would speak to others.

  8. Laura says:

    As someone who was almost entirely a ‘self-starter’ (my grandmother never managed to teach me to knit, my mother – liberated woman of the sixties that she was – could barely be persuaded to sew on a button), this really resonated with me, as did the perfectionism. It’s so hard to start things when you know you’re not going to get them right the first time! I think crafting is good for us in that sense – it’s an area where, if you don’t get it right, it doesn’t matter. You still have money to buy food and a roof over your head and no one shouts at you!

    I really love your story, tidy or not 🙂 Sometimes things are all the better and satisfying for being a little messy in the middle.

  9. Wendy says:

    I’ve certainly had a few Mustard Purses of Doom to knock me down. But that’s the beauty of knitting – it can always be fixed, you just need the patience to rip. Great story!

  10. Kirsten says:

    What a lovely way for a mother to explain how she made her daughter. This whole post made me smile, as well as making me slightly sad that I can’t remember how I learned to knit. I was taught as a small child and it’s lost somewhere back in my memory.

    • Yarnful says:

      Thank you – I was lucky to have such an explanation! It’s funny how sometimes we wish for what we don’t have. I still sometimes wish I couldn’t remember learning to knit!

  11. Becca says:

    Loved reading about your knitterly beginnings and the mustard purse of doom! True stories are never neat and tidy. I remember learning to knit when I was younger was a real struggle and took my dad, aunt and grandmother numerous attempts, and like you, even after I got the hang of it, the bug didn’t really bite me until I was much older. Sigh. Extra Yarn looks wonderful, will have to track down a copy

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