I’ve taken up knitting. In our community, we did a Small Business Saturday event that took me to a cute little yarn store. The colors amazed me. They were so beautiful. My eyes went right to a brown, orange and blue bundle of yarn that I thought would make a beautiful anything. So I bought some yarn and knitting needles and signed up for a beginning class. No, I don’t have a lot of free time, but I do have a lot of stress, and knitting seemed like a nice antidote to that.
I showed up at the store for my first class. Madison, the instructor, walked me through how to “cast on,” which I learned is the term for getting the yarn on the needle to start a project. Then she showed me a knit stitch and let me practice that for a bit. Then she added a purl stitch to my repertoire. Pretty soon, she had me counting stitches and well on my way to a “ribbing” design, which is an alternating of the knit stitch and the purl stitch. (Note: my terminology could be way off here, but whatever. I’m learning to knit.) Madison said a couple of times that I seemed to really be getting the hang of it way better than other people she had taught. And me being me, I ate that up.
I left my first class super excited and determined to return a week later with much progress in hand. In my head, I wanted to be the best student she’d seen in a long time. For the next few nights, I worked on my scarf. It was looking beautiful, and I was loving sitting on my couch and counting stitches. It was exactly the kind of productive relaxation that I had been seeking. I made a mistake here and there, but I recognized them quickly enough to backtrack and fix them. I felt like I knew what I was doing.
Until I didn’t.
Monday night, I was letting off the stress of the day and knitting for myself at home. I was listening to a podcast and talking to Dave on the phone while I worked. (He asked if I wanted him to let me knit, and I had said arrogantly that I could now talk and knit at the same time.)
Suddenly, I realized that my stitches were off. There were seven where there were supposed to be six. And I didn’t sweat it immediately because I’d caught that kind of mistake before and fixed it without an issue. But this mistake was different somehow. My attempts to backtrack didn’t work. I knew I could set the project down and go to the store the next day to ask for help, but I wanted to press forward, so I kept trying to undo my stitches to fix the situation. And all I did was make it worse.
I can’t even begin to describe how bad I made it. But at one point, Dave walked in from his meeting and saw my frustration. Without hesitation, he told me to breathe and that it could be fixed. Then all hell broke loose.
“You haven’t even seen how bad it is!” I yelled at him.
And in my frustration, I pulled my needles out of the stitches and ripped the whole project apart with one massive jerk of the string.
This was my relaxation, huh?
It was 9pm. I probably should have gone to bed, but I wasn’t ready to give in, so I tried to take a breath. I can do this, I thought to myself. I can figure this out.
I pulled out my computer and typed in “how to cast on in knitting” and fiddled around until I found a video that I could follow.
I tried casting on to the video, but I hadn’t left enough yarn on one end of the string, so I ran out of yarn before I hit the twenty-five stitches that I needed. So I undid that and started over again. Then I decided the yarn was too frayed from use, so I undid that and cut off the yarn I’d been using and started with fresh yarn and tried yet again.
Two hours later, I had figured out how to cast on. I remembered the stitch pattern Madison had taught me, so I repeated it. I used the stitch markers she had provided to help me count and somehow I was back to my project with sort of a good frame of mind.
It was midnight by the time I went to bed. By then, I was no longer angry. I was pleased that I had managed to salvage the evening and re-enter my project. I was a little sad that I’d allowed the stress of the day to take over and that I had taken my frustration out on Dave. (Dave being Dave, he assured me many times that he knows I love him.) So now I’m back to knitting.
This experience showed me how much I need something like this to help quiet my mind. Eventually, I will learn enough to fix mistakes – even big ones, and I’ll grow the patience to wait until the next day and go to the store to ask for help. In the meantime, I’m staying focused – no podcasts, no talking – so that I can think about what I’m doing and do it well.
It’s pretty, no? It looks different. I miss the blue on the bottom edge. But what I love about it is that every stitch on this thing is mine. I did the cast on. I started the pattern. This is entirely my work. And though how I got here leaves much to be desired, that I got here means everything to me right now.