Starting Out

It is Day 1 of Knit/Crochet Blog Week.

Don’t forget that all this week we have a small giveaway in operation – leave a comment on this post to be in with a chance.

The prompt:

How and when did you begin knitting? was it a skill passed down through generations of your family, or something you learned from Knitting For Dummies? What or who made you pick up the needles/hook for the first time? Was it the celebrity knitting ‘trend’ or your great aunt Hilda?

Oddly enough, I really did have a great aunt Hilda… she would never have had time for knitting, though. I adored her – but that’s a post for a  different day.

Let us start at the very beginning

It is almost embarrassing to confess just how long ago I first picked up my knitting needles.  It was so long ago in fact, that I cannot with any confidence remember my actual age at the time.  I do know that it was before I started school, because I can remember “learning” again in school. I was probably four.

One thing that I do remember is my knitting needles; they were lime green, short plastic needles with black stoppers at the end.  They were very flexible, which made forming stitches quite difficult, and they had a very nasty taste when I sucked on them!

Father Christmas brought me my knitting needles.  They came in a cellophane tube — with three little balls of wool, each in different colours.  The wool itself was rough and harsh.

My mother was a keen knitter.  No, more than that – she was an avid knitter.  There were years in my life where I simply cannot recall an evening when she did not have knitting needles in her hands.  She knitted everything from our school jumpers to black lace stockings.  I remember at about the time that I learned to knit, mum and dad were going to the Works  annual dinner and dance — and she knitted not just a mohair stole but also a lacy top, off-the-shoulder gypsy-style.  Both were in pink, though slightly different shades and different yarns, and she had her hair coloured pink with sparkles in.  She had a lot of perfume on too, when she came in to say goodnight to us before going out.  (We should cut her some slack for this outfit, it was the 1950s after all) She was fast.  Not in a racy sense, but a very speedy knitter indeed.  I can remember going to the shop with her to choose her yarn (although we called it wool, everything was wool in those days — whatever it was made from — and it came from the wool shop)  just days it seemed, before the outing.

It seemed natural then that she should teach me and my twin sister to knit when we were very young indeed.  The trouble was that it came so very easily to her and she was so very fast  — when we were so very young, and simply could not follow the speed of her fingers or that litany of “in, round, through, and off.” Oh, there were tears.  Such a simple thing!  We were such stupid girls!  How could we not be able to do it!  Tears, and slapped fingers.

It was Nanna who came to the rescue.  The details are hazy, I remember far more about the tears that I do about the aha moment, but I do wish that I could recall the moment of triumph when I finally got it and produced a few stitches of real knitting.  I just remember sitting on a stool at her feet and being shown slowly and carefully how to make the stitches.

I do not suppose that I knitted anything of any consequence, I probably tried to knit a scarf… but  a four-year-old’s concentration span is limited at best, and all I honestly remember making at that time was a lopsided pair of trousers for my cuddly dog toy.

Sometime after we started school, I think in the juniors rather than in the infants, we were taught to knit in school.  We were all given a hank of dishcloth cotton and taught to knit a garter stitch square.  Sitting upright and forward facing at our desks, we all knitted away — some of us better than others.  I enjoyed the feeling of being able to do it, while everybody else was struggling.

In no way could I have been counted a knitter nor can I have been said to enjoy it.  I just did it because it was expected of me and came to believe that I was pretty poor at it, because I was always being told that I was poor at it: “Not like that, like this.”  “Too tight.”  “Too loose.”  “Dropped stitches.”  What was there to be enjoyed?  This was something that I had to learn because allegedly when I grew up it would be expected that I would service my husband and children with this basic skill.  It had to be learned, it had to be done.


So there I am — probably around seven or eight years old by now and well able to form a knit and purl, and to cast on and cast off, but with no desire to knit and with no conception of what I might knit for myself.  Not yet a knitter then.

There the matter stayed.  And stayed.  And stayed — until I became pregnant.  I dusted off my basic skills purchased some needles and a small handful of patterns, chose some yarn and made myself some bootees.  Buoyed by this initial success I embarked upon a matinee jacket, then another, and another.  Proud?  You bet!  I popped my knitting into a bag and took it to show my mother.

Apparently my knitting was rubbish.

(Actually, she was less than impressed by the accompanying announcement of her impending grannyhood too.)

I could have given up then, but I bought another pattern and some more yarn and I kept on practising.

Thus, it went on — I worked my way up from tiny newborn clothes to 3 month baby clothes to 6 month baby clothes and onwards through the toddler years.  I gained more confidence and I gained greater skill — I tackled a man jumper!  I even got as far as Fair Isle, and by the time I was expecting my second baby six years after the first, I spent my waiting time wrestling with two ply Shetland wool in seven different colours.

That Fair Isle pullover never actually was completed — there was a small matter of post pregnancy weight gain that never actually left me.  I knitted on for a few years, making sweaters for the children and for my husband.  I made a few rather more exotic pieces for myself — or at least, I began them…

Once I moved into the workplace, beginning to earn some real money — and finding very little time for leisure activities outside commuting, work and, running a home — I told myself that was no need to knit, that I could afford to buy clothes.  I think you might say that I still was not a knitter.  I still had not recognised knitting as a pastime, and a joy in itself.  I certainly enjoyed the time spent knitting sitting there with my needles tucked under my arms click click click clicking away, but I had not made that big step in my thinking.

Then came the Great Divorce Debacle, in which my entire stash and collection of needles and patterns were lost to me.  I think perhaps, if I had had my knitting kit and caboodle with me in those years when I lived alone, I would become a knitter sooner but I did not and there is an end to it.

The Iris Hat brought me back to knitting after over twenty years

Eventually, Mr L entered my life.  When he persuaded me that giving up my work and my career and running away to Scotland was actually a good idea,  I found myself high in the Dumfriesshire hills with the whole long day to fill and not a lot to fill it with.  I embarked upon a creative writing course , and that is where my journey towards becoming a real knitter began.  One of the other women on the course wrote about knitting a hat and linked to the pattern and I thought it was lovely.  I bought myself the hat kit from Colinette and a pair of needles, and I spent a happy couple of hours making my Iris hat.

I was due to have surgery that would involve sitting around on the sofa for a couple of weeks afterwards.  I bought a very fat book and I bought a sock kit.  What I had not realised was that orthopaedic surgery would involve high levels of painkilling pharmaceuticals and that I would be too fuzzy to either read or knit!  Instead I watched TV, and I looked at my sock kit, and I got not very far at all.  When my head cleared I cast on a sock, and I even managed about an inch and a half of cuff.

Mr L declared a desire to move north again.  Everything went out of the window, while we packed up our belongings and searched for a new home.  The sock was forgotten about.

The socks that I started next didn't get very far and languished until the knitting bug bit

The sock remained neglected.  Our new home was in a wonderful place with the miles and miles and miles and miles of walking available to us.  And that is what we did, we walked.  Every spare moment we had, we walked.  Along rivers, up mountains, and by the sea.

Then Mr L declared a desire to move northward yet again.  This time about as far north as we could get without falling into the sea and drowning.  We fetched up here in Orkney, on one of the North Isles — almost in sight of the Fair Isle itself.  In fact, if we stand in the right part of the island on a good clear day, we can actually see Fair Isle.  I met SpinningGill, and she asked me if I would like to learn to spin.  So I did.

Becoming a fibreholic

Was it the spinning itself?  Was it the simple act of handling fibre and making yarn?  I really do not know.  Something tipped me over and made me want to knit, and I began to knit and found I could not stop.  I love to knit.  I do not care what I knit.  I am not bothered what happens to the finished piece. So long as I have a pair of needles in my hand and I am knitting.  I have become obsessive, and now I knit to the extent that I find very little time to spin; much as I would like to spin, it just is not happening.  I seek out more difficult things to knit and set myself tighter and tighter time targets in which to do it.  And I love every moment of!  I really am getting a thrill from developing my skills.

Looking at my Ravelry records, I appear to have become a real knitter in June 2007.  My journey to becoming a knitter took me 50 years.  Exactly.

Eventually I completed - My First Socks

It looks as though I began with a simple lace scarf, and then decided to tackle the socks that began life in Dumfriesshire.  I am still wearing those socks — there have been several pairs since, but my first pair is still my favourite.  There will be more, knitting socks really appeals to me — I love the whole engineering aspect of it and every single time that I turn a heel,  I marvel at the process.

That’s it then, the tale of how I eventually became a knitter. To read more responses to today’s prompt — click here.

knitcroblo1tagged with wildcard: knitcroblowc

tagged with wildcard: knitcroblo1


  1. Lisa
    April 26, 2010

    You forgot to say you are a very good knitter. I love your colour sense 😀

    • April 26, 2010

      LOL – I think there is room for improvement yet!

      I love your colour sense

      Thank you, Lisa – I’ll take that compliment !

  2. April 26, 2010

    What a beautiful story. So happy to have read this – amazing how you can learn so much about people thanks to blogs. Lovely. I wish I’d have learned to knit so young. Starting in my 30s…but starting is the most important thing I think!

    • April 26, 2010

      Welcome to the blog, Shelly. See you on Wednesday!

  3. April 26, 2010

    Such a shame your mother was so negative ! But you got there in the end 🙂

    • April 26, 2010

      Welcome to the blog, Vivianne.

      My mother isn’t negative at all – she is always extremely positive that she is the only body in the whole wide universe who was ever able to do anything right. 😉

      I consider myself lucky that she did not manage to turn me off knitting – she successfully turned me off many other things, including sewing in all its forms. I regret that.

  4. jenny
    April 26, 2010

    You have brought back so many memories for me today – I think we must be of the same vintage! My Mother taught me to knit too but she declares all she ever did was teach me to do the knit and purl stitches and I learned all the rest myself, I can’t remember not knitting, I can’t even remember learning to knit, I’ve just always been able to do it, maybe I take it too much for granted!

  5. April 26, 2010

    Wow, I learned on those same green needles I swear — we had yellow ones too. Sounds like knitting was always in your genes, you just had to find your way to it. Thanks for sharing your story!

  6. April 26, 2010

    The colour of those socks is gorgeous. I think I learnt to knit socks from that very same pattern so I’m in good company!

    • April 26, 2010

      I think that many of us knit our first pair of socks from that pattern! It’s a good pattern and makes comfortable socks. That yarn was Opal Cotton and the socks are very comfortable indeed.

  7. April 26, 2010

    Such a tale! Thank you so much for sharing, I find your story very moving. I also feel quite obsessed and will knit whatever whenever, more concerned with the process than the outcome. I had done quite a bit of knitting in my teenage years but never felt inclined to learn more back then. I only picked it back up about six months ago, and now there’s no holding me back. Learning more and more difficult things is just such a joy!
    I hope you never get parted from your stash, needles and patterns again.

  8. Melissa
    April 26, 2010

    Thank you so much for sharing such a moving tale! I don’t know how you made it through the divorce without your needles. I think that is all that is keeping me sane some days. Congratulations on finding that peace and motivation with your knitting. The socks are wonderful and I’m glad I’m not the only one still in awe each time. 🙂

  9. April 26, 2010

    That was a very entertaining tale. I’m glad you kept coming back to it. I’m glad it has become an obsession for you. Your creative writing class has done you well!

  10. April 26, 2010

    I don’t know how you made it through the divorce without your needles.

    Chardonnay, as I recall :-}

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