Friday, February 1, 2013

Knit and Purl for Mama

11:50 AM 4 Comments

I taught myself to knit in the fall of 1997. I was in India on study abroad and, after three months spent with a large group of American students at a monastery in Bodh Gaya, found myself alone and very cold in the mountain town of Darjeeling for the independent study portion of the semester. After months of intense communal living, the solitude was somewhat comforting, and when I came across a shop that sold yarn and needles, I picked up a few supplies. A college friend had shown me the basics prior to this, so I was easily able to get started. I knit a scarf for my mother, who I was missing, and another for my then boyfriend, who I was missing as well. When it came time to cast off, I toted my project down to the front desk of the Tibetan guest house where I was staying and, without a common language, asked the Tibetan woman there who was often knitting to show me how. I can see her smile so clearly in my mind.


When I decided to join the Peace Corps a year and a half later, I once again found myself alone and very, very, very, very cold (I was assigned to northern Mongolia). I knit a lot. I mean like a crazy lot - I made my friends sweaters and scarves, mittens and hats. I constantly wrote home asking for more yarn, and I collected yarn on countryside visits (which is why I still have six skeins of scratchy camel wool under my bed waiting for a project). I mastered the art of knitting while reading at the same time, so I'd sit by my wood stove with needles in hand and a book balanced on my knees while outside temperatures hovered around -40 degrees. I spent months and months like this.

When I reflect retrospectively on my fifteen year relationship with yarn and needles, there's a theme that runs throughout; I seldom knit for myself. For me, knitting has always been a meditative act; there is something about the rhythm of moving two sticks and a length of yarn together that breeds a reflective quiet in my mind. I like to think of each stitch as a thought for the recipient, be it a distant friend or a soon-to-be-born baby. Okay, that is a bit overstated: there are plenty of times when I am on a timeline and just want the darn thing to be finished...but I'd like to think that the majority of my gifted projects are knit up with tiny little wishes worked into the stitches.

This long-winded introduction is to bring you up to date with my thoughts as of late. My wonderful and amazing mother had gastric bypass surgery last week, and I knew months ago that I wanted to make her an afghan to have around the house during her recovery. That does not mean that I had the wits about me to get started on a afghan months ago, however, so when it suddenly got to be January, I found myself frantically looking for a quick pattern online. Two words. Big needles. Really stinking big needles. This Lion Brand pattern claims to be a six hour project. I don't know if I finished it in six hours since I don't think I've had six consecutive hours to knit since I got home from Mongolia. But I can decisively report that it was really fast, really easy, and super cozy. I particularly like the heft of the blanket - the four strands of yarn held together lend a lot of weight to it. As a bonus, it kept my knees warm while I worked on it.

My mom is recovering beautifully, and it was an absolute joy to present her with this blanket last weekend. I like to think of her covered in my stitch thoughts as her body figures out its many changes..and I am glad, on these cold winter days, that she is warm.