Ravelings: Knitting a World Away

How did you learn to knit? I was a new mom living in Israel when I first learned. I had taught myself to crochet a couple months before with yarn my mother had been sending me from the United States, but I wanted to find a yarn shop in Israel. English-to-Hebrew dictionary in hand, I asked around town for a nice yarn store. Most people had no idea what I was talking about. Was it my Hebrew, or were there no yarn shops? I didn’t know, but I didn’t give up.

One day, I noticed that the postmaster in town wore a very intricate yarmulke on his head. I asked him where it came from, and he told me his wife had made it for him! I knew I was onto something here. I asked him where she bought her yarn, and he told me there was a little shop a few towns over.

He wasn’t joking about the shop being small—it was the size of a walk-in closet—but I immediately fell in love with a baby sweater in royal blue eyelash yarn displayed in the window. My mom had included a flyer with cast-on and knit/purl instructions in her last yarn package, so I followed the illustrations and cast on for a swatch. I couldn’t differentiate the stitches themselves from the eyelashes that were tucked into and under them. I couldn’t tell which stitches were on the needle and which were already knitted. I stabbed hard. I’d think that I’d finally stabbed a stitch, only to find that I’d actually split an eyelash. I stabbed, ripped back, and started over so many times. The yarn knotted up, fatigued from being knit and reknit. It was time for a break.

I picked my swatch up again the next day. I untangled the knotted yarn, cast on to the needles, and struggled with all my might to insert the right needle and knit the first stitch. I noticed that I was white knuckled hunched over, totally stressed out, and it occurred to me: You would get out of knitting what you put into knitting. If I relaxed and treated the yarn more lightly, it might be more gentle with me, too.

Yarn selection can blow the mind of a beginner knitter! Photo Credit dragnab | iStock / Getty Images Plus

I decided to blame the fiasco on the eyelash yarn and looked through my stash for a ball of baby acrylic yarn. I took a few deep breaths and started over again. I cast on the stitches loosely with the new yarn and easily knit the first row of stitches. I turned the work and knit a second row of stitches. Victory was mine! We walked to town that evening. I tossed my swatch into the basket under the baby carriage. We went to a café that evening, and I knit my swatch while enjoying the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea. This particular café was special to me: They made the best Greek salad and frozen mint lemonade I have ever had in my life, and they played my favorite music. Someone came up to me and asked me if I had been to the new yarn shop in town.

“What? A shop here? In our town? Where?” I squealed.
“It’s across the town square from the old yarn shop,” she said.
New yarn shop? Old yarn shop? It turned out I had two yarn shops within walking distance of my house. Each one was the size of a walkin closet and sold only worsted-weight yarn in one fiber. Neither sold eyelash yarn, however, and that was good enough for me.

In the years since, I’ve learned that novelties can be fun to knit with and make for spectacular projects—but when you’re far from home in a learn-to-knit situation, it helps to make the right yarn choice.

Kristin Omdahl designs knit and crochet garments and patterns under her label, KRISTIN. Check out what’s new with Kristin at www.styledbykristin.com.

This article was originally published in Interweave Knits Spring 2010.

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