Suddenly last year, I was bitten by the knitting bug. It’s not the first time I got the urge to try my hand at some creativity. More than ten years ago, when I was still in middle school or high school, my mum taught me the basics of knitting during one of the summer vacations. We weren’t the kind of family that traveled a lot during the holidays. Most of my family lived in the same city as us and there weren’t that many places we visited other than the rare week away to a few temple towns in the south of India. So the rest of the holidays were spent being engaged in all sorts of things from cleaning sprees to learning something new. This ‘something new’ could be anything in the academic or creative realm as it had been long established that I wasn’t the most athletic kid around. So, one fine summer, I made my mum teach me knitting as I already read too many books a week, had learnt basic sewing/stitching and embroidery from my grandmother a few summers back and knitting was the next thing I could think of. Now my mother, having spent her childhood in Delhi in North India, had learnt the art when she was quite young herself as she, her mother and sister had spent much time knitting their own winter wear for when the weather turned cold each year. But I grew up in one of the hottest places in India, Chennai, and for some reason chose to learn to knit. Anyway, that first time, I was not patient enough to wait for what I wanted to take shape, losing interest early on after just learning the knit stitch and purl stitch, which more or less form the foundation of any knitting project. Whatever I was making turned out to be a long tube-like concoction which kept curling very unattractively along the edges and it didn’t take very long for me to toss the whole thing aside and get back to my ever favorite past time of reading as many books as I could get my hands on.
But last year, with my PhD thesis very nearly done and my husband being away for a 1 year business course, left me at loose ends. And again this time, I got the urge to try my hand at knitting. Mind you, I live in Singapore now, so still not the ideal location where knitwear is going to get used a whole lot. This time around, I had a resource I didn’t have access to all those years ago when I first tried to learn the skill – YouTube videos. I came across a YouTube channel called VeryPink Knits, at that was what brought me back into the game. The very first project that I made was a scarf for my hubby who was now living in Auckland and therefore more likely to experience an actual winter than I possibly could in hot and humid Singapore. And since then I’ve had several projects in the works. I managed to complete a lace scarf for myself and a wrap too. Each time I see some exotic looking yarn, I stock up some to use on the next project I start. For the most part, I taught myself the finer points of knitting from various videos online and let me tell you, there are many useful resources out there for knitters right from the basics to designing some very cool and chic knitwear. There is a log cabin blanket that I’ve been working on since last year, I work on it off and on whenever the other projects I have going on start boring me a little. Just a couple of days ago, I managed to complete my first ever ‘shaped garment’ – a cropped raglan cardigan. And though it did take me close to three months to complete, I feel like I’ve accomplished something big. A personal milestone, for the lack of a better word.
I still get razzed on for ‘knitting all the time like an old granny’. I know it’s just to tease me with some good humored joking, but to those I say, ‘not all old grannies know how to knit’. To me, it’s a great feeling to realize that I had the patience and the interest to learn something, though not from scratch, all on my own, and the fact that this skill has taught me to create lovely accessories and garments that I’d love to wear myself or gift to my loved ones, makes it all the more worthwhile. More than that, its gives a therapeutic effect to different moods and helps me focus on something tangible and also intangible at the same time. Though I do agree that these days, yarn of really good quality gets quite expensive, to start out, using the easily available acrylic varieties is good enough. One day I hope to be good enough to work on a cashmere sweater or shawl, but there’s still a long way to go to reach that milestone.
To get a historical and global perspective, knitting as a form a turning naturally occurring fibers to fabric has been traced back to as far as the 12th century. And contrary to popular stereotypes today, knitting is believed to have been used by men to make fishing nets in the early years of its genesis in what is today’s middle east. It’s not always been cute old grannies on rocking chairs, knitting away. Only since the mechanization of the process is that it turned into more of a hobby than an occupational pursuit. I’ll not get into too much detail about all this and if you want to know more, I have shared the links to some podcasts where you can find more information on the history, development and popular culture associated with this particular yarn art.
These are the links to my favorite YouTube channel on knitting where you can find some really cool projects. And to close up, here are a few pictures of some of my early projects* 🙂
*The red background is the shawl I made, the pink piece (top left) is the simple lace scarf, and the multi-colored pieces (bottom left and top right) are different pieces of the log cabin blanket mentioned earlier.
Stuff you missed in history class: http://www.missedinhistory.com/podcasts/knittings-early-history/
Stuff mom never told you: http://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/podcasts/knitting/
VeryPink knits: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrRT4LwemxYrZxj-HeCkK9Q