Knit One, Purl Two, by Carole Howard

It’s astounding what you can do with 26 letters: billions (trillions?) of books, poems, essays about summer vacations, shopping lists, letters, book reports, emails, texts and tweets, greeting cards, blog posts, and a whole lot more.   Knitting, with only two stitches to its name, may be a tad less astounding, but it’s still pretty impressive.

The two essential stitches, knit and purl, have only one fundamental difference.

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With a knit stitch, (the wooden needles), the old loop falls behind the new one; with a purl stitch (plastic needles), the old loop falls to the front of the new one. (In both examples, the needle on the right holds the new stitches.)

This may not sound like a big deal, but neither would a recitation of the 26 letters of the alphabet. The combinations are where it’s at.

Those two-and-only-two stitches, like the letters, can be combined and varied endlessly to make gobs of different patterns. If you’re a newbie, you might not be able to identify which stitch is knit and which purl, but you’d definitely notice there’s a difference between garter stitch pattern (knit every single stitch) and stockinette pattern (knit one row, purl the next).

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My grandmother taught me to knit when I was about ten years old. It wasn’t the warm and fuzzy kind of experience you might be imagining. She spoke Yiddish, I spoke English, she was crabby, I was, well, kind of bratty, she was the dictionary definition of “old country.” I mightily regret my brattiness toward someone who had the unimaginable courage to get on a boat and sail to a place where she knew no one and nothing. But knitting is a little piece of Grandma Sadie I cherish. And I passed it along to my daughter.

My first creation was a bunch of colored squares, all in the garter stitch pattern, in different pinks and purples, sewn together into a sweater for myself. I wore it proudly. Unfortunately, neither the white V-neck tennis sweater I made for my boyfriend in college nor the ski sweater I made for my husband was worn, proudly or otherwise. Sigh.

Then I stopped knitting until my granddaughter was born. Baby clothes are different, I soon realized. Baby clothes are great! You can do them in a fraction of the time it would take to make a sweater for a boyfriend or a husband. And if the child outgrows it faster than you can say “knit one, purl two,” no problem, because you’ve just made three more. Plus a few hats. And teddy bears.

Besides producing things, the process can be quite meditative. Try, try, try to concentrate on one stitch at a time and not how many more stitches until the end of the row, how many more rows until you change colors or patterns. Not as easy as it sounds. Like meditating.

If you don’t have any babies to knit for, try knitting for your local hospital’s newborn wing, or for a charitable organization that distributes hats to new mothers. You’ll find hundreds of patterns here.

Any knitters out there who want to share patterns, tips, or encouragement for the newbies?

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Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing.

3 Comments

Filed under musings, writing

3 responses to “Knit One, Purl Two, by Carole Howard

  1. The apple hat you knit for Celia makes me happy every time she wears it! Despite being a “baby” hat she managed to get it on through last winter (her 5th!). It reminds me of The Apple Valley, of course, but mostly the summer I spent with you all in Italy when you TRIED to teach me to knit:) I still need work on that front, but crochet and I have become good pals. Having something homemade is the best of baby gifts. Thanks!!

  2. I just love it that Celia loves that hat, and that it makes you happy when she wears it! Thanks for posting that, so now it can make me happy too. Next time you’re in my neck of the woods, we’ll sit and knit. Really. (BTW, I’m in Tuscany now — not far from where we were that summer.)

  3. Pingback: The Power of Story | carolejhoward

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