She smelled of vanilla and coconut and spoke in a soft and never demeaning tone. “Hello class, you can call me Grandma Pearl. We’re gonna be knitting today.” The way she smiled while introducing herself made me instantly admire her.
Reaching into the plastic bin of assorted yarns, I considered my options. After contemplation, I chose a soft, somewhat chunky, multicolored skein.
My stitches kept getting twisted, and I would have to unravel all of my work and start from the beginning. My classmates were having similar struggles and quickly became bored of the repetitive endeavor.
About halfway through the session I was surprised to find myself slowly getting the hang of it. I was still grasping the needles awkwardly in my clumsy hands and felt like I was unraveling about as much as I was knitting, but somehow ended up making progress.
I may have only knit a few rows but that was enough to make me fall in love.
A few knitting sessions later, I finished my first potholder. I was taken over by my sense of accomplishment and my enthusiasm led me to declare that I was ready to knit a poncho. Instead of saying my goal was unreasonable for a second project, Grandma Pearl smiled and told me to pick out some yarn. So off I went, eager to create a poncho that I had no intention of ever wearing or even giving away.
Knitting continues to be about the process. I rarely wear my knitting and don’t want a blanket in every room. It is unlike anything else in my life because it doesn’t matter what the end result looks like.
In eighth grade my school schedule ended perfectly every day with a knitting class. After hours of stressful classes, I was able to unwind my mind just as I unwound my yarn. I was the only student in the class with prior knitting experience so the teacher asked me to help teach. I taught simple stitches over and over again and by the end of the course everyone had finished at least two projects on their own. It just felt really good to pass along the craft that has been so important to me.
A few years ago I joined a knitting club where I sit in a quiet hallway and relax with my community of knitters. It is my ideal atmosphere. In silence, we focus on our individual projects and thoughts surrounded by caring people with different backgrounds and experiences. Talking and laughing, we share our own strengths and weaknesses with each other and help one another when our yarn gets twisted.
I am so grateful to Grandma Pearl for sharing an art with me that might seem inferior to the new things we can do with technology. Feeling the soft threads against my fingertips is much more refreshing and cleansing than a screen. It adds a meditative aspect to my life by centering and slowing me down.
My most recent projects are knitted stuffed animals. So far I’ve made elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, tigers, crocodiles, monkeys, snakes, and pandas. The animals are so rewarding because they look back at me as if alive. The very first animal I made was an elephant that I gave to my five year old neighbor. For the first time I saw grey yarn and polyester fiberfill transform into a creature and come alive in a girl’s eyes.
When she looked at that elephant, it gained a soul.