Recently, I’ve spent a lot of my free time knitting and thinking about making. I grew up with crafting, making creative objects as a part of my daily life. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have my own fabric basket, craft box and knitting needles. My mom taught me how to knit in second grade and sent me to my first of a couple knitting camps. As an eight-year-old, I learned how to make my own knitting needles and to knit a little chick, which I especially loved, because my second grade class had a class chicken named Peep whom I adored. After receiving a drop spindle as a gift in third grade, I went around my house and backyard, collecting any fluffs of hair that my dog had shed to try to spin into yarn. It worked moderately well but certainly smelled like dog.
For me, as a kid, knitting and sewing weren’t any different from drawing or painting—they were all ways I could make, activities that I loved. Everything that I’ve learned about crafting, about making, has been from my mom. I can’t say that I’ve always been an avid knitter. My excitement about knitting has ebbed and flowed with my apparent inability to finish one project before starting the next. For a long time, I couldn’t conceptualize knitting without my mom. She was the one who really understood knitting, not me. This is starting to change. I’m realizing that knitting is something that is mine, too. More recently, knitting has made me feel simultaneously very independent from and connected to my mom.
While visiting my grandpa in Vermont, my mom and I took a morning trip to her favorite spinnery. I’d been there with her before when I was much younger, but I didn’t quite have the attention span to appreciate the trip. This time was different. We went into the little shop in the front of the building, shelves of yarn covering the walls. We could hear the noise of machines running in the back of the building. Peeking through the doorway, we saw skeins of dyed yarn hanging from the ceiling and the machines that we had heard earlier making yarn. After exploring the spinnery for a while, my mom and I returned to the yarn store in the front of the building. The yarn there was easy to fall in love with. It smelled like real wool in the way that reminded you of the sheep it came from. The colors were natural, deep and soft. This yarn made me want to make something. Eventually, with a lot of encouragement from my mom and a very kind shopkeeper, I decided that I would buy yarn to knit my first sweater. This would be my first big knitting project. I’ve known how to knit for as long as I can remember but learning how to read and follow patterns has been a more recent development.
Since coming back to school this semester, I’ve also been talking a lot with my friend Elise about our experiences with knitting. She tells the story of how she learned to knit saying, “it was my grandmother who taught me how to knit when I was five. It was the 4th of July, and I learned with the posts of tiny American flags and leftover balloon ribbon. ?I soon graduated to actual yarn and needles and produced a most uneven and ramshackle scarf fragment. I was thrilled with myself. I am continually impressed with the things that I can create from strands of wool or cotton. There is something about knitting that fills me with feelings of ingenuity, creativity and excitement.” The way that Elise talks about learning to knit really resonates with me. For both of us, learning to knit was incredibly empowering and allowed us to be independent, to create things we’re excited about, but also allowed us to connect. To connect with our loved ones who taught us and also to connect with one another.
Knitting is slow and not necessarily economical, but it is full of love and thought and care. I think it takes a knitter to really understand what goes into knitting something for someone. Elise certainly does. “Knitting something for someone is an act of love. I think that knitting something for someone is just about the most loving thing you can do,” she says. “It takes time and precision and commitment. From the moment I decide to knit something for someone, to picking out the yarn, to finishing the last stitch, I have the person I am knitting for in mind.”
Kaya Wurtzel is a member of the Class of 2021.