A Tangible Hobby: Knitting

Several years ago, I decided I needed to take up some kind of hobby that would result in actual products being…produced.

Thinking, a lifelong hobby that has given me years of satisfaction, doesn’t have the luxury of creating anything other than pure abstraction. Thoughts are well and good, but you can’t really show them off at the family Christmas party. Besides, it seemed like everyone I knew could make something. Wreaths, pies, children…you know, stuff.

I had tried knitting in college and it didn’t quite stick. Part of the problem was the process by which I was learning. I bought knitting kits and tried to read the instructions, most of which were highlighted by illustrations of a particular motion with the needles. Trying to follow the pictures did nothing for me. I needed to see the actual motion. YouTube didn’t exist then, and knitting was still an “old lady” hobby, so I refused to sign up for classes or suffer the indignity of renting an instructional video.

After a few years, the passage of time clarified a few things for me and I decided to give the hobby another try. For starters, it had begun to become a “hip” and “trendy” way to pass the time instead of the stereotypical mark of a spinster sitting at home on a Friday night with her sixteen cats. Also, any number of instructors on the internet had begun to make videos for everything, and I could sit in front of my laptop and slowly begin to learn–step-by-step–the process of creating pretty knots from a ball of yarn.

The first video I watched was about how to make a scarf using a basic garter stitch. First, however, you had to learn something called “casting on,” a process that frustrated me more in the beginning than the actual knit stitch itself. In time, my determination saw me through the rocky start, and by Christmas, I had created a scarf that ended up in my mom’s stocking. It was a little crooked in places…after all, I had dropped and added a few stitches here and there, but I was able to give away something tangible as a gift.

I started to perfect my abilities with different stitches. Purl? No problem. Rib stitch patterns? Stretchy. I can handle that.

Squares and rectangles were no problem.

A whole blanket. Very geometrically sound.
A whole blanket. Very geometrically sound.

When I began the process of knitting in the round, that’s where the trouble started.

Seeing as how you can only do so much with squares and rectangles, I thought it would be wise to learn how to make something round, like a hat. In my first attempts, I decided to search for any kind of pattern that would keep me from having to join in the round, because I just knew that was beyond my abilities. After a while, though, it was limiting, and the top of my head was getting cold.

My first attempt at knitting a hat in the round didn’t turn out like I had hoped. I thought I had done everything I was supposed to do. I followed the pattern, I managed to successfully join everything together, and I didn’t drop any stitches.

The hat looked great.

All was well and good until I went to try it on.

But, I read the instructions!
But, I read the instructions!

This was the day I learned about gauge, something I still struggle with due to my marginal math skills. (I’m a musician; therefore, counting to four was all I thought I needed to know.)

Alas, I’m still better at squares and rectangles, but I did start to learn more about gauge the more I worked at it.

There. That's better.
There. That’s better.

While I still have many more scarves and blankets in my stockpile than hats, I suppose the moral of the story is that perseverance eventually pays off…and, if it doesn’t, I have some interesting tangible abstract art to go along with that intangible abstract thought hobby I once thought was useless.

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