It started in middle school, a Christmas present from my sister – a kit with three skeins of mottled purple yarn, a petite instruction manual, a red plastic yarn needle I’ve since lost, and two wooden knitting needles. I laughed as I removed the last bit of wrapping paper. “Well, you did ask for it,” my sister huffed.
And I had. As much as I was interested in learning to knit, I still had to approach it from a sort of “I’m doing it ironically” angle; it was a hobby for old ladies, and I was not an old lady. My hesitancy didn’t last for long, though, and soon I was holed up in my room, tearfully begging the stitches on my needle to resemble the picture in the booklet. After my third unravel, I gave up any hope of that and decided to keep knitting, surprised to find a few rows later that my mistakes were barely visible.
I knitted like a madman (mad old lady?), finishing an entire scarf in three days. . . only to have to redo the entire project when I cut the ends too close instead of weaving them in and the whole thing unraveled in my hands. Even so, I refused to be deterred and completed My First Scarf (2.0) a few days later.
This wasn’t my first foray into crafting, but it was the first to stick. I’d tried my hand at crochet a few times – mostly making pokemon amigurumi – and while I’d enjoyed it, it had never quite clicked for me the same way knitting did. Maybe it was the symmetry of the two needles vs. one hook, or maybe it was the euphoria of watching my stitches slide from one needle to the next – whatever the reason, I’d unlocked a passion that wouldn’t go away anytime soon.
When I packed my bags for college, my needles and growing yarn collection hitched a ride. I’d made scarves all through high school, and now it was time for a new challenge: hats. I downloaded a couple of patterns off the internet and brought them with me to class so I could knit under the table. My first was so small I could barely fit it on my head, but I’d fallen in love with how (comparatively) fast making a hat was, so I kept going.
I tried to learn a new technique with each project: cables, Fair Isle, different types of stitches. I made a hat for each of the Star Wars movies in the sequel trilogy, displaying a yellow, red, or blue logo as appropriate. I went back to my roots and made a scarf that looked like a stylized fox holding its tail. I tried making socks a few times but always got scared when I got to the heel. Eventually I branched out to other mediums like sewing and cross stitch, but I still consider myself a knitter at heart.
Over the years, knitting has come to mean so much more to me than just a way to pass time. I like to joke that you can tell how depressed I am by how many projects I’m working on, and well, there’s some truth to that. I always find myself pulling out the ol’ needles whenever I’m feeling especially down. (Case in point: when COVID hit, I made three hats in five days.) I know whenever I need to be reminded of my significance, my ability, and my autonomy, nothing helps more than using my hands to create something that wouldn’t exist without me.
It’s been a while since I last picked up my needles. Not because my brain resolved its existentialist crisis; it’s just that I’ve found other ways to keep my hands busy. But I’ll always be grateful to my sister for giving me that kit. Thanks to her, I’ve found a passion and a self-care routine that will last a lifetime.