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27th July 2011

When I learnt to knit

Since I started this organisation based on knitting and crochet, lots of people ask me if I can knit. And when I tell them ‘Yes’, they then ask me when I learnt to knit. So here’s the story.

I was very young when I learnt to knit. It was before I started school and before I could either read or write. I couldn’t find any pictures at all of me knitting as a child and so the one here is of me and my brother, Calvin, on his first day at school. He’s 13 months older than me so this picture is from about 1972 when I was between 3 and 4 years old and that was about the time that I learnt to knit.

Actually I remember that year very well. My brother had just started school and I was still at home and I had my mum to myself for the whole day. She wasn’t a stay at home mum as such, she did some outsourced factory work from home but basically she was around and available for me all day. We lived in Cotgrave then, it was back then a very small village in south Nottinghamshire. We lived in a chalet bungalow with two small bedrooms upstairs and a nice sitting room, dining room and kitchen downstairs and a lovely big garden in a little cul-de-sac. I remember the day that I learnt to knit. My mum was a knitter: she had made the cardigan I’m wearing in the picture. She was sitting in a big dark brown armchair by the window and I sat on the arm of the chair while she cast on for me and then showed me the knit stitch.

I was so eager to learn. Propelled by the idea that this would now be fashion heaven for my dolls. That they, in a short while, could have the most enviable wardrobes. This was my motivation for learning. I do remember it coming very easily to me, and having now taught lots of children of all different ages to knit myself, it is true that some children take to it like a duck to water and others take a little longer. Over consecutive days I then pushed my mum every day to show me more and more with increasing and decreasing and purl stitches – in fact everything I needed to make clothes for my dolls.

Since I learnt to knit at an age when I could neither read nor write, if I wanted to make anything useful I would need to make up the patterns for myself. I remember vividly after only a week or so of practicing making a blue and white dress for my Sindy doll. (remember those! Sindy was big in the 70s). I cast on stitches for the bottom of the skirt and worked in stocking stitch until it was long enough to be a skirt and then decreased for the waist and did a couple of rows in 1×1 rib for the waist and then increased for the bust and then changed to white yarn and increased lots more to make the sleeves all in the same piece and then cast off for a slash neck. And then I did the same for the back but this time also had an opening so the dress would go over Sindy’s head and put a button and little loop at the opening. And then I sewed the pieces together down the side seams and across the top of the sleeves and Voila! the latest in knitted fashion for Sindy.

I suppose because I learnt to knit so young and always made up patterns as I went along it influenced the type of knitter I am today. I buy lots of knitting books because I love to look at them but I very rarely knit from a pattern or follow a pattern. For me knitting has endless options and its that that makes it so much fun. I love to just knit and make up the pattern as I go along and not really know how it’s going to turn out until it’s finished.


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