Sinister Intentions and Fourteen Inch Metal Spikes

Just because I’m sinister and have two 14″ metal spikes doesn’t make me evil. Actually, sinister means “left handed” and those two spikes I’m talking about are knitting needles.

I’ve been crocheting since I was very little. I had busy little hands and I think that my mother assumed (perhaps correctly) that busy little hands would cause less trouble with some yarn and a hook in them. I like crocheting, but it has it’s limitations for me.

Crochet is bumpy and lacy, but knit can be lacy or smooth and streamlined. I’ve always been fascinated by knitting. I begged my mother to teach me how to knit for years before she finally admitted that she didn’t know how to knit.

Then I begged various family members and friends’ mothers. Unfortunately for me all Righties! Every single one of them. Every session ended in frustration and condolences like “Sweetie, you’re so good at crochet and embroidery. Why aren’t you just happy with that?” or “Maybe you should just stick to what you know.”

Then behind my back they’d declared me “unteachable”, I’d overheard it too many times. So I bit my tongue, swallowed my diminishing pride and swore-off knitting. Secretly though, I wanted to learn how to knit– I just didn’t talk about it any more. My dad taught me how to use a jig-saw, which alleviated some of the pain of not knitting, and encouraged me to build model airplanes from balsa wood and tissue. I think if Dad knew how to knit, he would have had the patience to teach me.

A few years later we were at a bookstore and I’d found a book on knitting. I snatched it up certain that the pictures and instructions would be enough to teach me. Dad drove me to the craft store and even waded through the knitting needles and yarn with me.

While I loved the first half of the book, it was a brief history of knitting– the second half befuddled me. The author had done an excellent job of describing casting on and knit and purl and turkish tri-stitching and the illustrations were clear as day– it was completely geared towards a right-handed reader. I did learn to cast on from that book, but I was baby stitching.

I couldn’t get the position or motion down for actual knitting, instead I ended up having rug-burned fingers from pulling the yarn over the needles because I couldn’t figure out how to let the needles do all of the work. I knew I was messing up right there, but the answer eluded me. I made one tight little square (which I’d promised myself that I’d make 69 more in order to have a knitted quilt) and gave up.

The rest of the yarn I’d bought with the needles, I used up crocheting things and making a charming little pom-pom kitten.

It was four years later that I tried again. With the only pair of knitting needles I’d ever owned, I cast on and knit, knit, knit, purl, purl, purl, tore out. Again and again, I tried and failed. And tried and tried. Then I put the stupid things down and had some dinner. After tearing out one final time (no doubt mutting things in language that I reserve for working on cars) I cast on and started knitting.

Somehow my hands had figured out something that my brain could not: I am not the mirror of a right-handed person. For some reason I was simply holding the yarn differently and the needles were pulling the loops through for me. Knit-knit-knit! Just a little change in position made a world of difference. Ah-ha! “This is the way it’s done.” I thought.

Then, finally, I met another sinister knitter. He holds his needles and yarn completely different than I do. It works for him, but when I tried his method I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Comparing my work against his, we decided that our stitches had no discernable differences (other than his had extremely even tension, but then he’d been knitting for 20+ years). But really, our differences in technique didn’t affect the final outcome.

So, I made a scarf and a few other knitted things and went back to crochet. This time not in defeat, but because I really wanted to crochet something. Now I’m knitting again– I’m far from being an expert knitter (I don’t knit when people are around because I knit so slowly I’m embarassed), but I’m stubborn and I know that I’ll gain speed as I gain more experience.

A few days ago I bought my second and third pairs of knitting needles (appearantly I lost my first pair when we were moving) and used circular needles for the very first time. I made a hat! A nice hat. A complete and finished hat (I have a habit of starting things and tearing them apart just before completion) that my son put on his head and decided to wear to bed. Now I’m working on a lap blanket (we don’t call them baby-blankets– makes the boyfriend worry too much) and it’s looking good.

So, from reviewing my life of sinister actions and short career as a knitter I have come to two very good answers for questions in my life. Am I unteachable because I’m different? Not at all. Does obstinance pay off? If it’s worthwhile. In this case pursuing what I wanted brought some harmony to my life– even the kind brushoffs that my knitting “teachers” gave had a burn, because I knew that I was a minute away from learning the right way to knit, but no one was willing to give me that extra minute.

I know I have issues, and knitting isn’t going to solve all of them, but now I have something to do in my therapist’s lobby.

I hope someone reads this and is kind to a lefty. I hope someone reads this and takes a little more time to teach a kid something special. I hope someone reads this and thinks about some special thing that she learned. Finally, I hope everyone that reads this is inspired to go do something that they thought was out of reach– go drive a race car, or visit Europe, or pick up some knitting needles, learn conversational Klingon or HTML or sing on the bus.

Thanks Dad.

-Wendy

Copyright © 2000, 2001 Wendy Walton

No portion of this document may be copied in any format without the author’s prior written consent.

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