This humble swatch is what I brought home with me from Rhinebeck. Not the yarn, per se. But what it represents.
It represents a lot.
I grew up a “maker” in a family full of “do-ers”. My family never sat still enough to make anything…
…it was bunches of people playing H-O-R-S-E on the driveway, competitions of hitting golf balls into the back woods, my father rounding up the entire neighborhood for epic games of Capture the Flag. It was fantastic, and I loved every second of it. But I also desperately wanted to make things. And no one else around me really wanted to.
I made little potholders on peg looms. My mom had me sew on every button that fell off a piece of clothing, because she hated it, and I was eager. I begged for a sewing machine (I wanted to make clothes!!) and my grandmother bought me one. Then my father threw it away while cleaning out the basement a year later. It was an honest mistake, he never saw it used and honestly couldn’t understand someone wanting one. He thought it was clutter.
This is all to say, I didn’t have anyone in my family to teach me how to do all this stuff that I had a strong, but vague, desire to do.
Then I grew up. In my early twenties, I thought, hey, there’s no reason I can’t teach myself to knit. I drove myself to a Michael’s, bought a Susan Bates Knitting Starter Kit ™ that contained a big ball of acrylic yarn, a set of aluminum straight needles, and a pamphlet with instructions on How to Knit. I then stumbled across the first Stitch N’ Bitch book, which I revered. Compared to the Susan Bates pamphlet it was maybe the best knitting thing ever made. Then I stumbled across blogs (the first of which was Steph’s, which exposed me to KALs and knitting as sport) and there was no turning back for me ever.
This has to sound familiar to a big chunk of knitters. I was part of a giant wave of people who came to knitting in the early- to mid-oughts through the Stitch N’ Bitch book and the internet. I thought I could learn everything I needed from those things.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve slowly come to appreciate the other side of it. How much I learn when I’m with other knitters: in yarn shops, at festivals, at retreats. I love how accessible the internet has made knitting. It’s powerful and it’s important. But it’s also not a substitute for learning from other people.
The internet cannot look at how I’m holding the yarn in my fingers and tell me why I can’t knit and talk at the same time. (Which is what I learned from my people at Rhinebeck this year.) I also benefitted from discussions on setting in sleeves, sewing on buttons, and watching someone steam a re-knit piece of fabric to un-kink the yarn.
So, now I know a much better way to hold my yarn and needles. It not only economizes my movements, but makes it so that my brain isn’t wondering where the needle is every 3 seconds and then literally rendering me unable to speak. (Honestly, I thought it was a problem with my brain. Turns out it was a problem with my knitting! I can’t tell you how awesome that is.)
The swatch above is for nothing except re-learning how to knit, which kind of reminds me of when I took piano lessons as a child. Half of my time was spent playing actual songs, and half of my time was spent on technique lessons: exercises focused solely on the fingers learning how to move in a way to play the piano better.
So that’s been my knitting this week. It’s not a song in and of itself, but my songs will be more beautiful for it. And I don’t think I could have ever learned that from a book or the internet.