Monday, June 12, 2006

Morticia, The Scarf, and the Icelandic "Sweata"

When asked, I always say that I taught myself to knit when I was a teenager, but as I lay in bed last night unable to sleep I got to thinking about it and realized that it was, in fact, my mother who first taught me to knit.

I was seven or eight years old at the time. My mother taught both me and my sister, Diana, the basics: cast on, knit, purl, cast off. My mother herself was not a knitter and likely knew very little more than these basics herself.

The project that my sister and I worked on together was a scarf. A 30-foot long scarf! Why a 30-foot scarf you ask? Well, I’ll tell you why. Do you remember the old Addams Family TV show? Morticia was often shown sitting in her wingback chair, knitting a scarf that draped over knees, down to the floor, and snaked halfway across the room. My mother was part of an upcoming PTA show at our grade school and there was an Addams Family skit planned for the show. Our scarf was to be a prop.

Now, you may think my mother was a bit of a dimwit to use an actual handknit scarf for such a prop rather than simply using fabric or piecing together a few dime-store scarves. But no! My mother was a smart woman (and still is for the matter, at age 83!). A brutal New York winter was fast-approaching and my mother was confronted with the reality of two rambunctious little girls – aged seven and eight – who would be trapped indoors much of the time. What better idea than to set them to the task of knitting a 30-foot scarf? Wise woman, I say. And crafty too (aaaahhh … an unplanned half-pun!).

I didn’t knit again until I was a teenager. Don’t ask me what sparked my interest in knitting then. I have no idea what got me going again, but I do recall that the basics my mother had shown me all of those years ago came right back to me (muscle memory is an amazing thing!) and I taught myself the rest by carefully reading patterns, examining sweaters from my own closet, and experimenting.

When I visited my sister a couple of years ago and pulled out my knitting, she recalled my teenage days of knitting better than I. She told my husband (put on a rather thick but still ladylike New York accent when you read this), “Most people decide they wanna learn ta knit and so they make a scarf. Ya know? Kinda uneven an’ wavy at the edges? But not Debbie. She decides to knit and makes an Icelandic sweata.”

And she was right. I remember that. I’ve always liked working with intricate color charting. I made my mother a sweater for her birthday last year with a wonderful, detailed snowflake pattern across the yolk and hem, but other than that I haven’t done much of that sort of thing for quite some time. Maybe that will be something else to put on my To Knit list. I seem to do more planning of projects than I do knitting!

Enough reminiscing for now. It’s time for me to get back to work.

Happy Knitting!

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