Art & Crafts

It’s Called a Knitted Brow for a Reason

The knitting gods are laughing.

Many people—too many people—over the course of time, have decided to perpetuate the notion that knitting is relaxing, soothing, a restful way to pass the time.  I have to admit that I have been one of those people.  And it is true that when one’s nerves are raw from sitting in one too many doctors’ offices, it is comforting to have something to occupy one’s hands and mind.  Order can be restored to a chaotic world through the gratifying binary surety of knit and purl.

That is, until you make a mistake.  Okay, one mistake is not so bad.  Everyone makes mistakes; you just go back and fix it.  So what if it means ripping out three rows?  It’s not a big deal.

Until you make another mistake.  Two mistakes is not a lot, but it’s a little frustrating that you weren’t paying better attention to what you were doing so that you could have seen you’re misstep right when you made it.

The third mistake is where it starts to get ugly.  The yarn is starting to fuzz from having been ripped out so many times, but really, it’s okay, you are learning and really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Sure, and after ten years, I’ve made enough mistakes to be a master knitter by now—though I’m not.

I started making a hat last Thursday.  It was going to be a quick, fun project before I went back and tackled the Fair Isle vest I’ve been avoiding since August.  This is the vest that I nearly finished at least twice before having to dismantle almost all of it and start again.  The one that needs me only to knit the neck and shoulders, but whose completion involves picking up stitches evenly which can be a whole other nightmare I won’t even get into.  The one that will probably be too small for me when I actually get up the gumption to finish it.

So I started the hat—a lovely, tweed, cabled tam from the same wool with which I had just successfully completed a beautiful shawl in just over a week and a half.  This should be no sweat, I thought.  But the knitting gods are capricious and really, I think, just a bit cruel.  This past weekend I worked and reworked the hat as I watched the final games of my beloved Mets heartbreaking 2009 season.  Maybe it was because I had become a little cocky.  Maybe St. Augustine is in among the knitting deities and has insisted that I be purified of my ignoble sin of pride, but that hat that should have taken only a few hours to make is still yet to be finished.  I made a grand push Sunday night.  By the end of the Jets/Saints game, I had begun to decrease (knitter speak for “I see a light at the end of the tunnel!”), and I thought, I’ll just stay up until I’m done.  Three national parks later (Ken Burns The National Parks: America’s Best Idea on PBS), I realized that I had made yet another error.  I put it down, resigned.  This is something I have learned during my knitting tenure.  After a certain number of missteps, it’s best just to let it rest awhile.

And so it sits on my ottoman in the living room, waiting.  I will finish it, probably this week.  I don’t know what it’ll end up looking like, but another thing I’ve learned is that if you want to create something beautiful, you have to be willing to crash and burn—a lot.  I’ll finish the hat.  And I’ll make peace with the knitting pantheon, because I know in my heart of hearts that they are only trying to do me a favor.  They know what I need to be doing right now (write now!) and knitting is not it.

Art & Crafts

Long Live the Queen!

    Whew.  Yesterday was page out of The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday!  We celebrated my mother’s 65 brave and generous years on this earth—an event well worth a little morning-after syndrome.  This, of course, makes it sounds like we went on an alcoholic bender, but au contraire—we were able to overdo it solely on birthday tartlets, Thai food, and jigsaw puzzles.  We are very talented this way.

    A few months ago, I saw a cardboard crown at a local stationary store.  It was very exciting—with lots of color and sparkles and the words “Birthday Queen” stamped on it.  I loved the idea so much that I decided to make one similar to it out of leftover cardboard and to decorate it with magazine clippings and colorful paper scraps I have saved over time.  The result was quite loud, but also, I think, rather spectacular.  My idea was that it could be passed among my family and friends to be worn on each of our respective birthdays. 

    I presented the crown to my mother yesterday morning, and I was impressed when she decided to wear it on our walk . . . but I was also pestered by a niggling sense of uneasiness as we paraded around the neighborhood.  I couldn’t help but ponder that most horrible (and un-audacious) of thoughts, “What might the neighbors think?”  I didn’t want my mother to be embarrassed, for anyone to make fun of her or snicker, especially since I was the one who had started the whole thing!  I wondered too whether I would have the nerve to wear it on my birthday a month from now. 

    Given the fact that it was before 7 a.m., the only person we saw on our early exercise was the lovely, aging, Asian woman who stepped out of her east-facing front door and greeted the morning by reaching her arms above her head and swinging them in a circle around her body a few times.  She did not see us as we watched her perform what looked to be a daily practice, and I wondered how she felt when she finally noticed us and realized that she had had an audience during the execution of her private rites.  Did she feel self-conscience?  Or was she so comfortable in her own skin that she didn’t care?  Or did our friendly good mornings and the fact that my mother was wearing a lurid, paper crown mitigate any notions of sheepishness? 

    I fervently hope she felt no discomfort because her actions, which, in her mind, could so easily have mutated into a cause for embarrassment, were such a gift to me.  As I witnessed her expanding her lungs, inhaling the dawn, as I beheld her face directed gratefully toward the sun, her arms opening to embrace the world, I felt my own self expand, my own sense of gratitude enlarged by her communion with the sunrise.  How much would both of us have lost had she seen us as she stepped out of her house and had, as a result, demurred?  What a shame that would have been—certainly for me, but also, I think, for her and for my mother.  I like to think of that beautiful woman doing it again this morning—and every morning.  The idea makes me smile, lends me that sensation of openness and appreciation once again.

    And I like to imagine that my mother’s wearing of her birthday crown made the other woman smile too.  Maybe she thought of it again today as she opened her front door.  Maybe, in that moment, she was thankful for my mother and for the color she has brought to the world.


Birthday Queen Crown