Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Sweater Curse chapter 1, page 6

I'm pleased to offer you, page-by-page, the first three chapters of The Sweater Curse, each Wednesday...

The Sweater Curse

Chapter One (page six)

She noticed the unwanted increases as well. "Look, your scarf is growing wide, elskan min."

"What did I do?"

"Well, I think you may have knit into one stitch twice, or you may have mistaken the front loop for a stitch."

"Can you fix it?"

"Yes," she said. "What we have to do is rip all the stitches back."

"All of them?" I questioned disappointedly.

"Yes, unfortunately, but just think of how much more knitting fun you will have." She used a safety pin to mark the last perfect row. "Rip." She handed me my knitting. It became a game. I slipped all the stitches off the needle, and as I pulled the yarn, the stitches disappeared faster and faster.

"You worked magic. All the rows have vanished." She collected all the stitches, placing them back on the needle. Then I re-knit them.

Knitting wove us together.

Chapter One (page five)

The first item I knitted was a garter-stitch scarf. My aunt cast on twenty-stitches and handed me the needles. When I finished knitting, I gave it to her to cast off.

After examining my work, she declared, "Your stitches are well formed. Your tension perfect."

I was so proud. "Now what?" I asked, eagerly.

"Now, I will teach you the purl stitch," she said, demonstrating.

"It looks so tricky."

"At first, it does seem hard, but it will get easier. I know, I'll tell you a little story about Pall." Pall was my youngest cousin. "It will help you remember the steps. One day, Pall was full of Loki's mischief, he walked around the garden." My aunt put the tip of the working needle behind the yarn. "Came in the back door." She thrust the tip working needle into the loop. "Danced around the kitchen." Brought the yarn over the tip of the working needle, between the two needles. The working needle was brought down into the new stitch. "Finally, he hopped out the window." New stitch formed, she pulled the old stitch off the carrier needle.

She worked a few more rows, and then it was my turn. Once again I practiced, and eventually, used both the knit and purl stitches to make a hat for my doll.

"To shape the hat, you will need to learn how to decrease," she said. "Decreasing only sounds difficult. All you do is knit two stitches together."

My education continued until I could cast on and off, knit, purl, decrease and increase with ease. Occassionally, I would make mistakes. My aunt was the first to spot the disappearing and reappearing stitches.

"Ah, Loki's mischief." She chuckled. "After every couple of rows, you should count your stitches. You want the number to remain the same."

Following her advice, I was disappointed to discover I'd lost five stitches. "How did that happen?" I asked.

"See the ladder of holes, elskan min? I think a stitch has hopped off. Here, let me catch him for you." She used her crochet book to collect the stitch and carefully worked it, row-by-row, up to the needle.

Chapter One (page four)

She coiled yarn around each nail. Then she took a knitting needle and began to knit stitches from the loom. She pushed her red plastic needle between the loop and the nail, slipped yarn into the gap, folded the loop over the yarn, and a stitch was formed. Her dance was slow at first, but increased in speed with each row.

Her tenth row completed, she gave me the needles. "Your turn elskan min."

I grasped the needle as she had, like a pencil. My aunt worked the needle into the loop effortlessly. Well, it wasn't effortless for me. Finally, out of frustration, I ceased the loop, pulled it forward, and slipped the needle into it. I fought and won my first stitch. Progress was difficult, but I refused to fail, and eventually my determination was rewarded as performing the stops became smoother.

Only a few rows later, I mastered the technique.

The loom was a simple gift, but it introduced me to my life-long passion. I quickly moved from the loom to knitting needles.

Mastering the craft was easy and fun. For, you see, not only did I have a natural aptitude, but also an experienced teacher.

"When we begin a row, one of the needles has loops of yarn, or stitches, around it. The other needle is bare. We will call the needle with the stitches the carrier. The other needle we will call the worker. To knit, put the tip of the working needle into the center of the stitch." I closely watched my aunt. "Now wrap the yarn around the working needle. Pull the yarn through the loop. When you have a stitch on the working needle, pull one stitch off the carrier needle. Continue until the carrier needle is bare." She transferred the loops from one needle to the other. "This stitch is called knit. If you do a lot of them all together, the stitch pattern is called garter."

"Hey, now the carrier needle has become the working needle, and the working needle has become the carrier."

"Very good, elskan min." She beamed.

Chapter One (page three)

you. She is a poorly educated farmer's wife. Your future is far brighter," Mother would say of my aunt.

I didn't share Mother's prejudice. For me, my aunt created a home, something Mother could have never done.

Surprisingly, Mother did allow my aunt to teach me to knit. I'm not sure why.

Perhaps, due to my amma's--my grandma's--local fame as a crafter, she thought it was my rightful inheritance. Or more likely she desired to prepare my hands for the life of a surgeon.

Even though she granted this concession, she still maintained, "Crafts are for the common folk. Art is far more worthy of your time and energies."

I indulged her by spending some of my time drawing. To her delight, I developed some talent, but drawing didn't hold my interest. Knitting did.

Some of my earliest memories are of my aunt engaged in the craft. I stood transfixed as her needles magically coiled the yarn into a myriad of items:  sweaters, blankets, toquest, and mittens. She picked up her knitting, and it slipped on her hand like a glove, the yarn wrapping around the grove on her right index finger.


Days  before my sixth birthday, I heard the steady pounding of my uncle's hammer issuing forth from the barn. What is he making? The question buzzed in my brain like a mosquito, but I didn't investigate. Instead, I waited patiently. Soon my uncle emerged holding a board of nails.

"Happy birthday." He grinned and handed me my gift.

Uncle Stein wasn't a finish carpenter. He was a farmer. The things he made didn't look fancy, but they worked.

I held something, but what it was intrigued me. I lay the board down on the table beside my aunt. "They look like telephone poles," I observed, tapping the flat top of each nail with my finger.

"Good eye, elskan min, my dear," Auntie Oli said. "This is a knitting loom. Here, watch. I'll show you how to use it."

Chapter One (page two)

All farming communities are perpetually in need of doctors. Mother remained busy morning, noon, and night. She was the only doctor for the entire municipality, so if she couldn't heal you, you were out of luck.

When Mother flew off to save the day like some kind of superhero, it was my Auntie Oli who folded me into her brood.

"I had boy after boy, but then you came. Finally, our family was blessed by an adorable baby girl," My aunt's words cradled me in love. "You looked like such a little angel in the dress I made for you. Do you remember the doll I gave you? You took such good care of it."

Life was good, until Mother came home. She'd strip me of the dress and the doll and replaced them with jeans and a toy truck, declaring, "My daughter will not be repressed. She will not be marginalized." It was her raging battle cry.

Mother anthem:  "I am woman. Hear me roar." She regarded my childhood as some type of feminist, conscious-raising experiment. She preached, "Beauty says nothing of the beautiful. Physical attributes are simply a blending of genes. It is intellect which is the true judge of a woman. You must invest time in cultivating it. Be careful what you learn and from whom, for it will mark you for the rest of your life. And you don't want to be marked by them. Oh, how I hate this farm! It's so dirty, smelly; it's disgusting."

I wondered why she worked in a rural hospital.

Did she view herself as a savior, either due to her skills as a doctor or for her beliefs as a feminist? Maybe she saw herself as a martyr who would endure wretched conditions, sacrificing self to save bodies and minds.

"I was born, raised, and educated in West Vancouver, British Columbia. The McNamaras are a prestigious family. Your grandpapa, Doctor Alexander McNamara, is well-respected among his peers." Even though she directed this message at me, she ensured others heard.
"She's fit to cook your meals, make your bed, do your laundry, take care of you, but remember, dear, she isn't your equal. I don't wish her to mark

Chapter One (page one)

The earliest impressions my mind retains are a patchwork of senses: the smell of bread baking, the wet tongue of a farm dog, and the crunch of autumn leaves. These memories are seductive, I could get lost in them.

I must focus on cold hard facts.
Place of birth:  Blondous, Manitoba
Date of birth:  April 14th, 1988.
I was born into a world of big hair, padded shoulders, and disco. Freaky.
Two years after my birth, we entered a new decade the 90's. At twelve, we were in a new century--the twenty-first.
Dead at the age of twenty-five.

Blondous is a dot on some maps. Other maps don't even bother. It's located in the center of the province between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba, in an area known as the Interlake. Blondous was named and settled by Icelandic immigrants. They were forced to leave Iceland, because the land they loved could no longer sustain them. In naming their new community, they attempted to bring their culture with them. In these scrub trees among the rock-filled land, they dreamed of Iceland.

I was born in the W.C. Blondous Memorial Hospital. It was the same rural hospital where Mother doctored. Oh, those poor nurses! How taxing it must have been tending to her when she was pregnant.
"Yes, Doctor."
"Of course, Doctor."
"Right away, Doctor."
Mother kept them hopping.


This isn't Heaven. It isn't Hell. And I'm not alive.

Picture this:  a bus stop, tons of people packed into the small space, all waiting to continue their journey. Many buses stop here. Some passengers get off, others get on. Young children with sickly white complexions huddle together in the shelter. Teenagers with rope burns around their necks get off the bus. Old men with bullet holes climb on.

Throughout this confusion, the only constant is me. I remain alone.


I don't know, but I must find the reason. I must examine my life to discover the momentary lapse. The wrong I've committed. The task I've neglected. It's my only means of escape.

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Next post:  Letters to Saint Nicholas


Anonymous said...

Leanne - I'm so glad I have your book on my Kindle :)

Author Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for your comment, Laurie.

Anonymous said...

You know about knitting. This takes me back to the time I was around eight and my mother's friend, who had two boys (my mother had 3 girls) patiently taught me to knit (my mother didn't have the patience). Thank you for the memories, Leanne. I love this story.