Worries Go By The Wayside With Knitting (Contra Costa Times 2006)
Tying strings into knots—it’s child’s play, really. Cat’s cradles, shoelaces, hair bows, all made by looping one end of rope or ribbon around another, then pulling each end through and moving on. Simple enough for children, or knitters.
But anyone who’s tried to knit an intricately cabled Aran vest or a multicolored sweater by superstar designer Kaffe Fassett knows that knitting can be anything but simple. Although knitting replays the basic looping and tying of knots known as knitting and pearling, there are infinite variations. Look at a kitting pattern and you will bell for an interpreter. “K” stands for knit, “P” for pearl, but that’s just the beginning. An actual pattern could read: “K2P3K1bl, sk2, repeat for (14,16,20) K2t” and so on. Knitting is math played out between your fingers.
Ten years ago I was able to work through advanced knitting calculations to produce cabled children’s sweaters. Nordic baby caps and Ralph Lauren vests. But my life was less complicated then. I had one baby with a regular nap schedule and hours to fill. Today with three active children and a busy schedule, I’ve headed back to simple arithmetic by way of a deep purple cardigan.
I picked out the pattern and yarn for the cardigan last summer after reading East Bay writer Susan Gordon Lydon’s thoughtful book “The Knitting Sutra” (Harper Collins, $18). Lydon’s book prompted me to take a knitting project with me when I accompanied my husband on a business trip to New York. Her admonition that “the important thing is not so much what you knit as what you knit” reminded me how restful the rhythm of knitting and pearling can be, especially on a long plane ride. Because I wanted to relax, to enjoy the rhythm of the work without paying attention to complicated instructions, I chose a simple ribbed pattern—K12, P2, repeat to the end—and found a dark purple worsted-weight yarn that would make into a cardigan quickly.
A delayed departure and some bickering cabbies at JFK meant we didn’t arrive at our midtown hotel until 2 a.m. Then we discovered our “guaranteed” reservation had fallen through and New York City was booked solid. The hotel staff apologized profusely as they made call after all in an attempt to find alternative lodging. My husband paced back and forth across the empty lobby, looking at his watch, holding his temper.
Meanwhile, I found an overstuffed chair near a big bouquet of flowers, ordered some tea and pulled out my yarn and needles. As the minutes crawled by I concentrated on the length of knitted fabric flowing from my needles, puddling in my lap, spilling over my knees. Never mind that it was the middle of the night in a Manhattan hotel lobby, I was happily occupied.
Eventually a room at another hotel was found for the remainder of the night. The next day our original hotel made amends by giving us the luxury suite for the week, complete with a dozen apricot roses, champagne, gift baskets and dinner at the hotel’s best restaurant. That night as we sat at our elegant table, weary but delighted with our unexpected gifts, the maître d’ seated romance hunk Fabio, all blond mane and rippling pecs, nearby. I expected Robin Leach to appear at any moment.
Now some would say we were just lucky that our nightmare arrival turned into a dream vacation. I would tell them that our good fortune ensued from my knitting. Because I was so happily occupied during the lodging crises, my husband didn’t have to bluster about on my behalf. Consequently, the hotel staff, relieved that we were so understanding, did us a good turn.
On the other hand, it could be they heard the clacking of my needles and visions of Madam DeFarge cursing the French nobility to their death spurred the to generosity. But I doubt it. I think they were charmed by calm execution of “K12, P2 repeat to the end.”
Child’s play, really.