I was still in Elementary school—grade six if I remember correctly—when my auntie encouraged me to join 4-H. “Just think how many knitting friends you'll make, Elskan,” she told me.
Always gregarious and interested in learning more about the craft I loved, I quickly agreed with the plan.
On orientation day, our school rooms were utilized for new purposes. A note on the door of the grade seven room read 'knitting'. Two friends who I'd recently taught some knitting basics accompanied me. A gang of teenagers already occupied the room. One of them walked up to me like a security guard in a bank. “What are you doing here?” She looked down her nose at me. “You’re too young to learn to —.”
“I already know how to knit.”
Prepared for this challenge, I unwrapped my garter stitch scarf from my neck. “I knit this.”
She pulled it off my shoulders and showed it to the gang. They didn't say anything—they didn't have to, I could see it on their faces. That scarf earned me a place of respect in the group.
Thankfully, my auntie arrived before the gang could interrogate my friends.
From then on, every Monday after school, we group of girls meet with my auntie. She taught us to cast on and off, to knit and purl, and to increase and decrease. She taught us the language of knitting—CO, k2tog, p2, STst. She transformed us from strangers to a circle of knitters.
The year concluded with Achievement Day. I was proud to find a blue first-prize ribbon beside my knitting. Some of the parents cried nepotism—claiming my relationship with my auntie, not my ability, had earned me that ribbon. Declining to debate, next year, my auntie invited the parents to judge our work—blind. Nothing that identified the knitter was allowed on the table until after the judging. Year after year, the outcome never changed. And all were forced to agree that I won those ribbons fairly.
The Christmas my auntie Ollie gifted me with a scrapbook, I filled it with everything I was learning about knitting. I filled pages with my auntie’s knitting tips. I worked sample swatches of each of the basic stitch patterns and pinned them into my scrapbook.
Beside the garter stitch sample, I wrote:
garter stitch stretches.
Beside the 1 x 1 rib stitch sample, I wrote:
To determine the number of stitches in a row, count the ladder rungs from left to right. Count the rungs from bottom to top to determine the number of rows.
Rib stitch is like an accordion. This is why rib stitch is often used on cuffs and the waist of a sweater. The more knit and purl stitches in the stitch pattern the more the knitting will be compressed.
Beside the seed stitch sample, I wrote:
In seed stitch, the knit stitch looks like hills, the purl stitch like valleys. To determine the number of stitches in a row, count the hills from left to right. Count the hills from bottom to top to determine the number of rows.
Beside the Stockinette stitch sample, I wrote:
“Rolling, rolling, rolling keep that knitting rolling. Stockinette stitch.”
Stockinette stitch rolls. Stop it from rolling by weighing it down with a 2 inch [5cm] broader of a non-rolling stitch pattern, like garter or seed or rib stitch.
Read Chapter Five of
When Gwen Knits
next Sunday, December 10
at approximately 4:40 p.m.