Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ancient Irish Torture

When I was growing up, as soon as you'd mastered breathing, and walking upright, and feeding yourself, and learning your numbers and the alphabet, they taught you how to knit. Sr. Bridget initiated us in first grade. My wool was yellow and my stitches were tight. And I don't mean "tight!" in the way my nineteen yr. old uses the word. I mean "tight!" as in impossible to move on the needles. We started with ten stitches and worked in garter stitch. My work mysteriously grew wider with each line. I soon figured out that by knitting two stitches together at either end of each row, I could get things back under control. So when Sr. Bridget came around to check our ten stitches, I was on the right side of the law. Even if my piece did balloon out grotesquely on each side...... it made a very satisfactory hat for one of my dolls.

I liked knitting. Until I got to third grade. In third grade we had to knit a sock . Mine was from yellow yarn, again. Turning that heel on four thin needles almost turned me off knitting for life.

My mother always had some knitting going. She'd buy the yarn in skeins.... then torture one of her children, usually me, by having them help. I'd stand in front of her chair, arms held out in front, shoulder width apart, with the skein held taut from one wrist to the other, while she wound them into balls. Long after I thought my arms were going to fall off, she'd be coaxing me to do "just one more skein."

As I got older I started knitting sweaters myself. I liked making Arans the best. Even though they look intricate, if you can knit and purl and read you can make one. And an Aran pattern eliminates the boredom factor...

One very wet summer in Ireland, my sister and I were housebound by the seaside with our combined offspring. The rain was beating on the roof and the wind was howling. We had played cards and monopoly until we were cross eyed. Then inspiration struck--we'd teach them how to knit! Four of the eight were boy children, but we didn't discriminate. They learned right along with the girls. They never took it to Kaffee Fassett heights, but it kept them busy through a very rainy afternoon...

And now, to my delight, my eldest daughter has learned how to knit and wants to knit herself a sweater. Which is why I was rummaging around in a yummy yarn store this morning and remembering Sr. Bridget and the ten yellow stitches.


Stomper Girl said...

I've always wanted to know what a "skein" was. They crop up in books I love quite often.
*sigh* My mother crocheted. So I can't knit.

velcro said...

I sometimes wish I had learnt to knit but there are so many things I want to do that that will have to wait.

thanks for the advice on Singers. I think I've found a lovely one

Becky in FL said...

Once again, you have me in stitches! (Get it, stitches?) Do you know, we have yellow wool in common! Or maybe mine was acrylic. Anyway, mine beccame a scarf. My specialty. It was meant to be a rectangle, but it waxed and waned in a lovely, seaweedy sort of way. Oh, I could blog all night about knitting. AND crocheting. My g'ma taught me both.

Didn't your mother know about the lampshade technique? Makes a gread substitute for a child and is much more reliable. You loosen the nut on a barrel-type shade, then drape the skein over it. Watch it spin!

Did you ever drape the skein over your feet when no one was around to help (and the lamps being all the wrong kind)? I even got pretty good at flipping the feet alternately when the yarn comes around. Put that on my resume!

Great post. Love that your kids learned to knit on a long, rainy seaside Irish afternoon.

Rozanne said...

I can't get over that you were taught to knit in school, and that they had you making socks in third grade!!! I'm still terrified of the idea of knitting socks and I'm 45!

So Aran sweaters are easy? I have one I bought in Scotland (before I learned to knit), and it looks like it would be tremendously complicated! But maybe I should try it.

You know, this post has inspired me to wear my Aran today. We've got very Irish/Scottish weather today. Cold, gray, and rainy! Perfect for an Aran.

Pam said...

Aran jumpers are easy??? I find that very hard to believe. "Easy" must be a relative term, I think. Still, a great post.