My mother is and always was a fantastic knitter. My sister and I gallivanted around in colourful home-knitted cardigans from our infancy. The most exciting part of any of her projects was always when we went to the haberdashery to choose the buttons for our new cardigan. Running my hands over the rainbow wall of button tubes, I inspected each one carefully to guarantee the best choice. Inevitably I chose a set that resembled a small animal. I remember in turn blue butterflies, red and black ladybirds, bright strawberries and my sister’s yellow teddy-bears which I envied so much. The spare ones still sit in my mum’s dusty button jar today.
My great-grandmother was another prolific knitter of the family. While she still could, she would send us knitted toys in the post: a bunny rabbit in a pink dress, and tiny chicks wearing bobble hats. As a girl I remember knitting as some kind of magic art that I was desperate to learn. I’d imagine being able to turn this long thin yarn into multi-coloured costumes for me and my toys! After a couple of years toying with French knitting (this produced some scarves of impressive length for my dolls) I finally graduated to grown-up knitting. In the end, I think my mum must have taught me how to cast on about 10 times and it was at least another three years before I could knit for real without throwing the needles into the air in frustration, or running back to my mother for help because I had dropped all my stitches again.
The first project I managed to complete as part of a craft kit was (of all things!) a knitted toy spider which I named Sophie. Despite the fact that Sophie now only has one eye, six legs and a decently large hole in her back, she still represents hours of devoted concentration and the overwhelming desire I felt to copy my mother. The amount of love and hard work which went into forming that spider was as much as my young self could possibly muster. Sophie was followed by a much neater unnamed companion. He was an orange rectangle with pink limbs, googly eyes and a bright purple feather for hair.
It wasn’t until my early teenage years that knitting became a more serious vocation. After I began to learn independently from books and online it soon became my main creative outlet, and it still is today. I participate actively in my university’s Knitting Society, where I help to teach others and practise the age old ritual of knitting, cake and gossip.
I will never forget the joy of watching my mother create clothes out of thin air, the desire to emulate her, and the struggles of my earliest successes. As a young girl, learning to knit was like entering a secret club of which only my mum and I were members – it is something which still brings us together today.
Girl Museum Inc.