Knitting Family Tradition

In an age before television families would spend their days and evenings together. My grandmother told me that the rule of thumb was men took care of the outside of the house and women took care of the inside of the house. These mores of the family unit were passed down father to son and mother to daughter.

            As a single mother, my mother did not have the luxury of time needed to show me the ways of old. I was very fortunate that my grandmother always had the time. At my grandmother side, I learned how to can vegetables, make jelly, and how to knit. This last item became a passionate hobby of mine.      

            I got a whole new appreciation of my grandmother's patience and understanding when I attempted to teach my niece how to knit. Tracy, my niece, was at the time pregnant with her child. I had knitted a few baby things for my prospective great niece. Tracy was delighted and wanted to do the same.

            Knitting patterns are graded with a skill level. This allows a beginner to pick a beginner level pattern. Tracy selected a simple blanket pattern.

            The first step is casting on the first row of stitches. There are several different methods of casting on. I prefer the cable cast on method. This means that you make a slip knot and place in on one needle. This creates the first stitch. Then you take the other needle slip it through the stitch wrap the yarn around the inserted needle and pull the yarn through forming a yarn loop. Place the yarn loop on to the same needle as the slip knot stitch. This creates your second stitch. The third stitch and all the remaining stitches are created by pulling yarn in between the last two stitches on the slip knot needle and adding the loops to the end until you have the required number of stitches the pattern requires.

            The needle with all the stitches will be your left hand needle. Always work your knitting from left to right. There are only two basic stitches, a knit and a purl. To knit, place the right needle slip it through the left side first stitch on the left needle. Wrap the yarn around the right needle and pull the stitch through the back side of the work to the front.

A purl stitch is made when you slip the right needle into the right side of the first stitch on the left needle. Wrap the yarn around the right needle and pull the yarn from the back of the work to the front. Just like with a knit stitch, once the new stitch is on the right needle slip the old stitch off the left needle.

            Now that you know the basic stitches, you need to know how to read a pattern. Tracy's beginner pattern says to cast on 60 stitches. The pattern reads to K1 P1 *K1P1* 4 times. This takes care of the first 10 stitches. This means that you knit one stitch and then purl one stitch. Asterisks in knit patterns means to repeat the stitches in between the asterisks until told to do something else.

            The pattern next says to K10 P10 *K10 P10* 3 times. This means to knit ten stitches then purl ten stitches. This covers the next 40 stitches and you should have 10 remaining stitches on the left needle. The last line of the pattern says to K1 P1 *K1P1* 4 times. This basically means to finish the row the same way that you started the row. Now all your stitches should be on your right needle.

            Now you simply start over. The needle with all the stitches is your left needle and the empty needle your right. Follow the pattern until it measures 55 inches. Once you have the length it is time to cast off.

            Casting off is very similar to casting on. The difference is that instead of putting stitches on, you goal is to take stitches off. To do this knit the first two stitches. Take the stitch farthest away from the needle point and pull it over the first stitch and off the needle. Continue until there is only one remaining stitch on the right needle. Cut the yarn and make that last stitch a little bigger as you take it off the needle. Then pull the yarn tail through the loop and pull tight. This will form a knot similar to the slip not you started with. Weave the remaining tail yarn in and out of the knitted work with a yarn needle. This secures the work so that it won't unravel in the wash. Do the same at the with the yarn tail at the beginning of your work.

            You have now completed your first panel of your first knitting project. Make two more panels. Sew the panels together and your blanket is complete. Just like with the other yarn tails weave them into the work at the beginning and end. There are no true knots in knitting.

            As you get more comfortable working with the yarn and the needles you will learn other terms like gauge and tension. Gauge refers to how many stitches are in an inch of completed work. Tension refers to the tension of the yarn. Too loose and you will have a wobbly material. Too tight and your work will pucker. Ever knitter has their tension preference. The amount of tension used will affect your gauge. As you progress with your knitting skills you will find the tension that is right for you.

            Tracy and I spent many hours together while she knitted her baby's blanket. I learned so much about her, about the woman she grew into. It is a closeness that I will always cherish. There are no words to describe the pride I felt when Tracy brought my great niece, Boston Mia, home from the hospital in the blanket I taught her how to make.

            Tracy now knits with a passion that is close to my own. I look forward to the day when Boston comes over to show me what she has knitted on her own.

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