February 10th, 2011

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Knitting up the Raveled Sleeve of...Casting On

My mother was an expert, inventive, and creative knitter.  When I was in college and for a few years after (the peak of her knitting, before her eyes began to fail) she taught me to knit. I never reached her level, but made scarves and caps and had started a sweater when we moved to south Texas where a wool sweater defines redundancy.  She knitted matching sweaters for Michael and me when he was a baby.  (Turquoise with an interesting pattern in a bronzy-mixed-blend yarn over it.  Loved it.)

So it's been a long, long time since I knitted.  Having touched it since Michael was born, anyway, and he's 27.  But a friend knits...and another writer, Robin McKinley, has friends who knit...and they got her interested too...and she started posting about her knitting lessons on her blog.  With pictures.  I began to remember how I'd enjoyed knitting and that I still have quite a stash of yarn, and so on and so on.

But there's this problem.  The thing is, to knit you have to cast on. Casting on is the first step in taking a couple of sticks and a length of yarn and making fabric with them--something that becomes something you can wear.  Casting on is not like the rest of knitting, exactly, and there are several approaches to it.  My mother forgot, in her long spell of not knitting, how to cast on--when she started again, about the time I was leaving high school, it took her days to figure it out.  I forgot, in the years since I had knitted.  Lot of people forget and have to relearn, but we all dread it.

But the near-memory of casting on began to nag at me.  My hands would sort of wave and fingers twitch, as if they could do it if they had the yarn and needles.

Finally last night I thought I remembered where one of the knitting bags was, in this house and not the other.  I found it.  It contained multiple skeins of Red Heart wool yarn, and one double-ended needle with some mint-green yarn being worked in a pattern.  Probably by my mother, and probably for Michael, and where the other three double-ended needles are/were, I have no idea.  I wasn't about to take my mother's little pattern piece off that needle, and you can't knit or cast on with just one needle anyway.

Tonight, getting up from the chill (feet finally not freezing) I came in here to try to finish what I was working on earlier in the day. Instead, after staring at the screen for awhile, I turned around, picked up the knitting bag and pulled out the first skein that had a loose end handy.  Looked on my desk for knitting needle equivalents.  Hm.  Two pencils.

Tied the first overhand knot around one pencil.  Thought.  Didn't think, but let the hands mess about.  And slowly--and clumsily--cast on a stitch.  Almost without looking.  The next one I looked at carefully. Two stitches on.  Three.  Four.  Look again--three's not right.  Pull it off and try again.  Three. Four. Five. Six....and there they were, nice cast-on stitches.

I was so excited I had to take a picture and then another and another.   Wow.  I remembered how to cast on and I did it with pencils.   My mother never did it with pencils (well, maybe she did and I just didn't know it...but not knowing it, this means I made it up myself.)   Pencils!  It's by no means ideal and I'll get back to real needles in a jiffy, but if I can cast on with pencils...can I knit with them?  

Er...no.   Getting a cast-on row off and a row of real stitches on is often a bit tricky ( I remember it being tricky)  and the blunt/steep end of these pencils make it hard to get the pencil you're moving onto into the little loop that's the cast-on stitch.   And besides...I'm not sure I remember how to loop the thread  and which part of the loop to pick up to move it over as a new stitch, with the old one underneath.  Several frustrating tries later, and in consideration of a sore throat, stuffy head, and cough, I gave up on that.  But...I can cast on.  With pencils!

(OK, all you expert knitters can now laugh at me.)  (And everyone can ignore the dirty computer keyboard.)

  • Current Mood
  • Tags