Sheep Gave Their Wool For This?
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my family and I recently relocated from the East Coast to the West Coast. As much as we miss home, we love British Columbia and our new town of Kitimat. Kitimat is a small city in BC’s Northwest. It is similar to home in many ways, and its natural beauty charmed us from the moment we drove past the snowflake that lets you know you’ve arrived. Also like home, the citizens of our new town have a good sense of humour about the more remote nature of the city, which is literally at the end of the road. During our first few months we were frequently teased about how long the winter could seem and how were we coping with the lack of activities? Frankly, Kitimat is one of the most active towns I’ve encountered and we have not suffered for lack of fun. Perhaps because of its geographic location, the citizens of this town are good at making their own fun and that enthusiasm passes along to those of us who are temporary residents of Kitimat. When an event is coming to town, whether it’s “Bull--Rama” (a bull riding rodeo event that took place in the summer) or the more recent hockey playoffs, everyone makes sure that everyone is in the loop and has an invitation to attend. Hobbies and pastimes are important too, and everyone is active with fishing, hunting, quading, and snow-showing. Not to mention the crafts! There are some truly talented craftspeople here, which leads to the focus of this post. I was often asked if I knit. When I answered "No," I was told, "You will."
Now, to say that I didn’t knit was technically not true. I could knit, I just couldn’t perl. Or cast off. Or cast on properly (I just knotted the wool onto a needle and gamely started looping stitches on by hand). One of my aunts, a truly talented wool crafter, tried several times to teach me as a child and young adult, and I have many 2 inch long strips of bright acrylic wool clinging to needles to demonstrate these attempts. As an adult, I worked for two summers at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site and there I learned to knit enough to “fake it” in costume. This time, the strips were a bit longer, and they were homespun wool, but they were still clinging to needles since I didn’t know how to cast off. The truth was, I’ve always wanted to learn to knit properly. I love when someone gives me a hand-made gift, and knit items are a particular favorite. The thought of busily working away on something soft and lovely and then giving it as a gift appealed to me. I’ve had several people offer to teach me over the years, but in my previous life I was always so busy it never worked out. And then I moved here, and discovered that knitting not only passes the time and keeps your hands busy, apparently it also lowers your blood pressure and helps you make friends.
I was invited to a “knitting night” organized to teach beginners how to knit. It was hosted by a very talented knitter (check out her blog, Fibre Rox). We had a choice of two projects, a scarf or a toque. I chose a scarf. Our hostess was busy buzzing around the room, teaching newbies how to cast one, then to knit and perl. Anyone who’s learned how to knit knows how frustrating it is to initially teach your fingers how to do those most basic of stitches. Luckily, our teacher was incredibly patient. I was lucky enough to snag a seat between two experienced knitters who helped me out. By the end of the evening I could (really) cast on, and I now knew (in theory) how to perl. We decided that it might be best for me to abandon (temporarily) the basket weave pattern and instead knit a row, perl a row.
Over the next few days I plowed on, determined to get something finished and off the needles!!!! I decided that I would plow ahead, mistakes and all, no matter what the finished product looked like. I think I started off with 24 stiches and ended with 36. It was a back and forth battle between the knitting and the perling. I would knit a row with ease and be quite happy with it, but by the time I completed the perled row my stitches were so tight they squeaked and the row was always a stitch or two (or three or four) longer. About half way through I had my “Aha!” moment; when I was bringing my wool forward to perl I was somehow wrapping it around the needle instead of just lying it forward. Suddenly it all fell into place. I clicked away to the end and a few nights later learned how to cast off. I held my completed scarf aloft and smiled, all the while silently apologizing to the poor sheep that gave their beautiful wool for this abomination. (As a side note, variegated wool is not the best choice for learning on.) And yet, for all its ugliness, I felt a rush of pride. I could sense my aunt nodding approval. It was several feet long, it was off the needles, it was finished!! I could knit, perl, cast on, cast off, and read a basic pattern.
I was hooked.
Over the next few months knitting evolved past something to check off my bucket list into to a real past time. I would browse through the wool section at our local department store and pick up a few balls for future projects. I bought a huge ball of bright turquoise acrylic and tackled the basket weave scarf. I finished this one very quickly and made a matching toque. Another toque followed and a scarf for my Nana’s Christmas present. Presently I am working on a beautiful Kochoran wool, silk, and angora blend scarf in seed stitch with tapered ends. Next, the coveted socks…
Have you tried a new craft lately? If so, what was it and what were the results? Looking forward to your comments!