Practice something for twenty years and you’re bound to at least achieve mediocrity. Over the years, I’ve knit things – Christmas stockings, a sampler blanket with mixed crochet and knitting, dishcloths, a sock, a scarf – but until recently it was a slow, tight, frustrating experience.
Last year I started reading Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac. I didn’t knit anything from it. I just enjoyed her conversational and encouraging writing style. I love that she starts with the most difficult project in the book with the idea that if you accomplish that, the rest of the projects will be easy. I knew that the knitting in the book was way beyond anything I’d done before, but Mrs. Zimmerman made it feel not out of reach. Her instructions are not rigid patterns but interesting ways of thinking. She puts the power in the hands of the knitter. This year I decided I would begin to slowly work through the projects. It’s supposed to be a year of projects, but for me it is probably more like three years. I began with a “swatch cap” in cheap yarn and ripping it out over and over again after five or six rounds. After all that frogging, I got the hang of it and turned the cap into a cute little pillow for a child’s favorite stuffed animal. I finally got around to making that swatch cap in aran weight superwash merino. It came out just fine. I think it would have been better in an ordinary wool but the weight and color were perfect. As soon as I finish making my husband a replacement for the the hat he lost, I’ll try making the fisherman’s sweater to go with the cap. I’ll do it first in Red Heart, then when I’m sure I can do it, I’ll buy something really lovely to work with.
Then I took a break and made some easy hats in more cheap yarn. Lo and behold, what once would have been A PROJECT was now fast and easy. It was even mindless enough that I could teach school while knitting. I could put it down and pick it up and know just where I was. I had finally reached a low intermediate level. Then, as a reward for having achieved that milestone, I made myself a hat in beautiful, luxurious yarn of baby alpaca and merino. Just handling it was a sensual experience. For more than a week I walked around telling people, “Feel my head. Isn’t that nice?” Then the dog ate my hat.
So I made another one. Because when something is that pleasant, it is not a hardship to do it again.