Thursday, November 8, 2007

Learning New Skills

Knitting Girl, 1869 by William Adolphe Bouguereau

When I was a young girl I sat beside my great-grandmother and watched her crochet. The yarn seemed to fly through her wrinkled hands with ease. I was intrigued, and longed to be able to create beautiful things like she did. One day I got up the nerve to ask her to teach me. She set her work aside, took out a hook and some yarn, and quickly showed me how to make a chain stitch. I tried, and failed. She showed me once more, eager to get back to her own project. When I failed again, she ripped the yarn from my hands saying, "You'll never learn!" That was the end of that lesson. Her words stuck with me for years. I never attempted to crochet again until August of this year. My friend Angela sat beside me, and taught me how to crochet a rug. I heard Great-grandma's words echoing in my head, but I was determined to prove her wrong, although she passed away after my sophomore year of high school.

I did learn. I've made several rugs now, and a few dishcloths/washcloths. Nothing fancy, but I can do it, and I'm glad. I still long to make the beautiful doilies, tablecloths, and shawls that she made. I'm confident that one day I'll get there. My girls have learned too. And even Collin has crocheted a rug!

After learning how to crochet, I thought that knitting would be fun. My friend Jennifer arranged for a woman to give the girls and I a lesson today. We were full of excitement and hope as we made our way to the class. Pat first worked with the girls. Autumn caught on right away, and her stitches look beautiful. Abigail was knitting and purling by the end of the afternoon. I waited my turn, feeling more apprehensive than excited. Finally, Pat sat down beside me, and showed me how to cast on. After a few minutes I caught on. The yarn wasn't flying through my fingers, but I was doing it. Time to knit. Ahh, this is not as easy as it seems. I got confused, and had to ask for guidance more than once. After finishing the row, Pat taught me how to purl. Now I was really confused! Loop which way; hold my hands how? I got frustrated, and I admit that I am not the most patient person in the world. I quietly put away my yarn, and enjoyed the sweet fellowship of the ladies that were present at the quilt shop, and the playful antics of an adorable two year old boy. I figured that Autumn could show me once again when we got home.

I continued to feel nervous as I prepared for supper, and through washing the dishes. Although I would rather have been sewing, I was determined to sit down with Autumn, and have her teach me again. The second time was much easier, but I could feel my face flushing, and my armpits getting sweaty. Ladies, I don't usually perspire! I made a few rows, knitting one way, purling the other. And it's crooked. Very crooked. The words of my great-grandma come rushing back once again. "You'll never learn." And then I panic, and feel overwhelmed, and walk away. Maybe I will pick it back up again. Maybe tomorrow. Definitely not tonight.


Sharon said...

I just learned to knit a couple of years ago from a book. If I can do it, you can do it! It does take practice though. My first stitches were so crooked. Lol! After ripping and starting over (several times), it started feeling more comfortable. YOU CAN DO IT TRACY!!!

Ruth said...

Oh, I'm so sorry you had such a deep wound from your Grandma's words. It's such a lesson to realize how much our words affect others.

I'm not the fastest or most skillful at just about anything when I first learn. But, when I stick with it, it really does become much easier, and I actually get "good" at it. If this is something that you WANT to learn and are willing to invest the time, then, honey, you stick with it. You WILL get it and make some beautiful keepsakes for now and later.

diana said...

i had one g-ma who knitted and the other one that crocheted. i never really learned either.

your story is a perfect example of how our words have a profound effect on those we're speaking to. sometimes those words rattle around in our head for a life time.

Becky said...

I am so sad that your great grandma did not leave you a more positive experience with such a lovely craft.

You can learn. You are learning. It's a process. Give yourself some time. It will come easier and you will be addicted. Just wait.

Meanwhile, you are passing something much better on to your daughters ... the confidence to try something new with a positive attitude.

Karen said...

Oh, Tracy, I'm sorry that you're grandmother "ruined" it for you. I think we all (mostly) have people that have affected the way we see things as we get older. Trust me when I say, you can do this. If I can do it, you can. It really does get easier, and makes sense once you keep at it. I was looking through some knitting books yesterday at Hancock's and ran across yet another new term I'm not familiar with....knit back. Huh? I just figure I'll learn in time, or I'll just keep on making dishcloths. Which would be ok!
I taught Christie the basics when she was here, and she's taken off with it like Autumn and Abigail. The one thing that helped me the most was a link from Becky that gives you video to watch. Which makes it easier for me to learn.
I'm so glad you received the packet. I'm sorry it took me so long to send it! I'm not very good at snail-mailing! ;0)
Have a great week-end, Tracy, and keep practicing WITHOUT your grandmother's words haunting you. Life is too short.
Love and Hugs to you and yours,

Anna S said...

Tracy, I know how discouraging it can be to hear "you'll never learn!" You know, my Mom wasn't very patient with me either when she first taught me to knit and crochet. But I insisted, and I did it! If I could, you definitely can do it too! I'm not particularly skilled with my hands, but crochet stitches are really very simple, and all the patterns are just combinations of the same basic, simple stitches. If you ever think written advice from another novice (but slowly improving) knitter and crocheter could help you, always feel free to drop me a note by email.

randi---i have to say said...

I gave up on knitting last year pretty much because it was way too stressful and I think my pulse rate reached aerobic levels when I did it. Since you have Autum to help you, I think you will make it. You CAN do it, Tracy!

Anonymous said...


Please know that as with anything, skills take time to finely hone. Practice makes progress (not perfect).

The first 5 rows or so of knitting always look questionnable. At least that's been my experience. The choice of yarn (some are very difficult to work with and bring about *many* mistakes) and needle (wood/metal/plastic - and size) make a big difference too.

Don't allow your G-ma to get the best of you in this. She was once a novice in things too, right? And if I may say...please, lovingly yet firmly let her know that her comments hurt your hardt.

I think it's wonderful you're learning a new handicraft, Tracy. And just so's ya know...I failed crochet class while the Princess passed with flying colors. ;o)

Blessings to you this day...

(i'll be back on my blog soon)

Tracy said...

Sherry, This wasn't the Grandma that lives with me that told me these things so many years ago. It was her mother. Actually, my grandma who does live with me never learned to sew, crochet, knit, etc. Perhaps her mother wasn't patient with her, or maybe she just never had the desire to learn.

Rebecca said...

You'll get it! I am only able to do a simple plain scarf (rectangle or square) but LONG to do sweaters with cables and stuff someday...but like you, I had a rough go of it at first. I was so discouraged that I put it away for about a year and then tried again. I still have that piece from my initial try. I laugh every time I see it! The second time I tried it was amazing how much better I had gotten-I think because 1) I had a better attitude about it-I didn't start out frazzled and 2)the motions were there so I could focus more on tension and such. Of course, all that said-I can STILL only do a square.

You are totally right about hearing the words "You just can't do it." I have always had a longing to learn to play the piano...but I remember someone telling me once that once you are an adult-it is too hard and really, can't be done-at least well. That was about five years ago and after reading your post, I recognized that I just gave up my dream after hearing those words.


PS. I have always wanted to make my own rugs! Do you cut the strips of fabric and stuff or can you buy them somewhere? Or do you use thick yarn?

nannykim said...

Hey, I learned when I was a little kid--sometimes I knitted too tightly, sometimes too loose--but with a little practice you will do it. However I find crocheting a bit more relaxing....and I hate having to count stitches ;-)

Christy said...

I understand how deeply words can hurt and how they stick with you-and then before you know it they suddenly define you.

YOU CAN DO THIS! Look at how talented you are! Just keep trying and if you need to pray the entire time!

Lori said...

I can crochet...but I can't knit. I can't get my fingers to do it.
I guess I've crocheted so many things I 'm used to crocheting.
I think I will stick with crocheting for now.

Good luck to you with knitting. I'm sure you will get it.

Jodi said...

((Tracy)) ~ I wish I could sit with you while you learn. Just for your consideration: I never teach anyone to do the knit stitch and purl stitch at the same time. I think it's just way too confusing. You can do a lot of projects in all knit stitch (called garter). I know you're entering a busy season and have lots to focus on, but I do hope you'll decide to try again once things have settled down. ((You can conquer those needles.))