Sunday, April 3, 2011

Not My Knits: Newborn Sweaters

One of the things that I loved about my old teaching career was the creative environment that was always present. No matter what subject (even math!) there were numerous creative possibilities hanging about, only waiting for the teacher or student to grab them.

The school where I worked thrived on creativity, and I remember many a workshop tapping into the creative side of the faculty's mind. There were many challenges associated with my pre-baby career, but there were also a lot of psychic rewards like this.

One such creative outlet was started by the school art teacher. One year she thought it would be a good idea to participate in Warm Up America. Like Crochet a Rainbow, participants knit (or crochet) squares which are then joined together to make blankets. Warm Up America benefits various people in need. 

The students and some faculty members set to work making their squares. A lot of us didn't know what we were doing and came together as a community after school to learn this new skill.

I had a little experience with knitting (not much) and a little more with crochet. I remember the school librarian asking me for advice on her knitting. She had never picked up needles before in her life. I offered the little knowledge I had and didn't think much more about it. The Warm Up America project had ended, and we all moved on with different things.

The following year I noticed the librarian carrying around a tote with knitting needles sticking out of it. I asked to see what she was making and she shyly showed it to me. It was a gorgeous pink baby blanket with cables and bobbles (in a beautiful cashmere-like luxury yarn, I might add). The blanket was stunning and I was overcome with awe. "Wow, you made this?" I gushed. She nodded proudly. It was for her soon-to-be-born, first grandchild. I was shocked that this woman who had never knit before the year prior, had taken to the craft like a pro. It was very inspiring. It made me want to knit like never before because I had clearly seen how far she had come in so little time. People learn how to knit, I finally saw. It wasn't a skill people are just born with, I told myself, so what was stopping me from trying it too?

All throughout that year I saw the librarian's prolific work: a knitted shell and cardigan set she wore to work, a fisherman's sweater with aran cables for her husband, a felted purse...Everyday she toted in her bag of knitting; it was a daily reminder that I wanted to do it too.

Our roles reversed as I questioned her about her needles, her yarn, how did she know what she was doing (she asked the ladies at her local yarn shop), when did she find time to knit (in bed at night or early in the morning), how did she keep her place in the pattern (she wrote down notes and pinned them to her actual knitted rows). My old co-worker doesn't know it, but she was a huge influence on me and why I wanted to start knitting.

For various reasons, I never quite made the time to delve into knitting wholeheartedly until after I had Little C. and left teaching. Maybe this is part of the reason I have so much stock-piled yarn. I bought the yarn back then with the hope that I was somehow also buying the time to use it, much like buying books you want to read from the bookstore and then having them sit on your shelves at home unread.

There are things I miss about teaching, but one thing I don't miss is the prep work and grading that filled many of my evenings. Not having that looming responsibility has freed up a lot of time and allowed me to jump into this hobby and finally learn about the craft. It feels good to be the student right now instead of the teacher.

About the pattern:
These sweet little garter stitch sweaters look like they are made from the One-Piece Baby Kimono pattern in Mason-Dixon Knitting. My old coworker graciously made these for me and presented them, along with a matching baby blanket at my work baby shower. They are made in a soft (organic?) cotton and fitted with cute little bow ties at the side. One is tan and the other a steel blue. It's hard to decipher the colors b/c the pictures are so dark. It has been pretty overcast lately, and the light has been terrible.

The first days of having Baby C. were kinda rough (he was wonderful; I was pretty beat up though) so he never got to wear these. He spent his first weeks in comfy sleepers and play sets; I did not have the ability to play dress up with him. Instead these sweaters hang over his changing table as part of the nursery decor. Incidentally, I've been able to see and enjoy these little sweaters every day--a daily reminder of knitting inspiration.

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