I learned to knit when I was 8. The whole class knit long snakes of ‘in through the bunny hole, around the tree…’ scarves that we sewed up, stuffed and accessorised into squashy versions of Edward Lear’s Owl and Pussy Cat. We must have been learning the poem simultaneously, but I have no recollection. My granny cast mine off. It would be years before I learned the simple technique myself, now it is one of my favourite parts of a knitting project. Knit, knit, slip – success!
I dipped in and out of knitting over the years, my appreciation for the art growing as I advanced onto more complex projects. My mum taught me to purl, marvelling at how two simple stitches could make a multitude of patterns and designs. As a teenager I knit a striped scarf for my boyfriend – two plain, two purl, navy and blue – for our first Christmas together. Thirteen years later and the scarf gets pulled out every winter, a cosy reminder of our burgeoning life together. Since that first Christmas we have added two sons and a bulging knitwear collection.
When I was pregnant with my first son I spent the winter awaiting his arrival knitting. I knit on the couch, I knit on the dart, I knit in the kitchen. I knit my way through the inevitable anxiety the precludes parenthood for so many. I knit tiny little vests, cute bobbled bonnets and impossibly small bloomers.These tiny things were so satisfying to knit. Before long, my downy, puppy soft baby boy arrived. He was wrapped in a wool blanket, knit by my mother – the construction of which is still a marvel to me. His head was never without a wooly hat, his body wrapped in wool vests, his little feet snuggled into wool booties.
Parenthood is full of uncertainties. I learned early on to control the controllables and try as much as possible to go with the flow. Almost five years in, I think these ideas still hold up. I may not be able to control the weather, the frustrations of learning to write or how much my babies will sleep at any one time (oh how I wish!) but I can always ensure that they are warm. As they grow I am sure they will resist my insistence on ‘itchy cardigans’ and cries up ‘keep your hat on!’ – much to my dismay, it’s already happening with my eldest – but I will wrap them up in wool for as long as they’ll let me.
Wool is warmth, and warmth is love, and love is all I have to give.