The first time I ever tried knitting, I was a wee Girl Scout in elementary school.
I knit a headband. My mom cast on my stitches for me and, with some instruction, off I went, happily knitting. I wish I had a picture, but I remember the final product looking like, well, an elementary school student made it. Nonetheless, I felt a sense of accomplishment. By then, I was old enough to understand that people rarely do anything perfectly the first time. I thought it was pretty cool that I had made something that was kind of wearable. After all, I could hide the sloppy part of the headband at the base of my head, under my hair. It still worked, right?
Fast forward to the end of my undergraduate college career in December, 2003. I was living with my parents while applying to graduate schools. After watching my mom knit several scarves, I was inspired to try to make one myself. At the time, I’d just started dating my now husband, and so I decided it might be a good first Christmas dating gift.
My final product looked much better than the headband from elementary school, and I was not at all embarrassed to use it as a gift. Still, knitting didn’t stick with me as a hobby after that either.
Maybe it’s just that life happened and I was too busy to want to think about having a hobby.
My life was filled with graduate school, jobs, keeping up with a long-distance relationship before finally getting married, trying to make friends in a new place, buying and remodeling our first home, having my first child, and moving to a second home. Not once did I really give any attention to having a hobby during those seven years. Running and squeezing in workouts and Zumba classes served as my ‘me’ time, but I did little else for myself.
At my last job, I became good friends with one of my co-workers. This dear friend of mine is a very avid knitter. She was (and still is) always working on knitting something and I admired her work. In February, 2014, she hosted, for lack of a better term, a ‘knitting party’ in which she invited people over to sip wine and knit (no matter what level knitter you were).
I worried about being embarrassed by my amateur skills, but I put on a brave face and decided just the opportunity to get out of the house and meet new people was worth the chance.
My friend encouraged me to try a baby hat. I was skeptical. It appeared difficult to knit a hat. Did I really want to set myself up for failure? She convinced me that making the hat would help me learn other skills needed to make different items. I knew two pregnant women at the time and figured if it came out nice, at least I would have someone to give it to.
Thus began my renewed adventures in knitting.
At first, it was frustrating. There were times I dropped a stitch or my work became tangled up and I dragged it to work in shame the next day and asked my friend if she could fix it for me on her lunch break. She always did so with a smile. She was extremely patient with me and my hasty mistakes.
Once I had knit the hat, I probably felt the greatest sense of accomplishment that I’d ever felt for something I had made with my own two hands. It made me hungry to knit more.
It wasn’t long before I was fixing dropped stitches by myself, and I was asking for less and less help. My stitching became more smooth and even. My hands started falling into the gliding pattern of a more experienced knitter. I made a baby blanket for another expectant friend and started cranking out baby hats left and right.
I knit so much that my son, who was two years old at the time, caught on and started frequently playing with some scrap yarn. He’d sit next to me and move the yarn around in his hands and tell me he was knitting for our friend’s babies.
I’ve continued to knit and, while I’m no expert, I am improving.
Thanks to my friend, but also to the countless YouTube videos that provide wonderful visual instruction (for free,) I have expanded my abilities and have taken on some slightly more challenging projects.
There are so many reasons why I love knitting besides working with my hands. For one, giving homemade gifts is such a rewarding experience. I was once told by a parent that the hat I made for his baby girl was the first she ever wore. It was so heartwarming to hear and I will never forget that I handmade this baby’s first hat.
Knitting can also be a parenting-friendly activity.
For example, if I was knitting something small, like a hat, I’d often leave my knitting next to me when I sat down to nurse. My daughter would often drop off to sleep after nursing and I’d let her stay on my lap sleeping while I knit. I had a hands free pumping bra as well and this also left me two hands to knit with. These days, if I’m just stitching a straight knit or purl stitch, I can play a board game with my son while knitting between turns.
I should also mention all the health benefits to knitting that I have found over the last couple of years:
Knitting relaxes me and helps me clear my head. In turn, I feel it really does make me a better mom. There are studies that link knitting to decreased stress and increased cognitive health in the later years of life. This makes me hopeful that maybe continued knitting could help semi-cure my ‘mommy brain.’ Time will tell.
The greatest part of knitting for me, however, is that it is a hobby. It is something I do for myself and for others. Somewhere between my stitches of each of my works of art is a piece of me.
I have my days of feeling failure as a mother, as we all do. After hard days, there is nothing more comforting to me than picking up a set of needles.
I think finding a hobby you love benefits anyone, especially parents. Knitting has sure helped me redefine myself after motherhood.
If you’re looking into trying knitting, I recommend finding a friend who knows how to knit or joining some kind of knitting workshop. Utilize videos on YouTube as well. I also think you need to give it more than one shot before you get discouraged. There is a learning curve to knitting, but I found once my fingers knew what to do, they did it with ease. It just took practice.
Here are some great websites I use to find patterns and learn about knitting. There is something for everyone on these sites, from beginning knitters to more advanced:
Do you knit? If not, what other hobbies do you have that help you define yourself?
**Knitting Pattern Credits For Items In Photos Above:
- Baby Blanket (in blue and salmon): Rebecca Webb
- Baby Hat and Mitts (in variegated purple): Hat Pattern by Whit’s Knits on purlsoho.com, Mitts Pattern by Susan B. Anderson
- Baby Headband (in red): Cassie from littleredwindow.com
- Baby Hat (in pink) by Susan B. Anderson
- Knitted Tractor Toy by Dr. Frank Knits from drfrankknits.wordpress.com
- Angel of Welcome Dishcloth by Susan Mrenna