By Margaret Cranford
I was taught to knit as a small child, and although I was never very good at it, I found the process fascinating. The way in which a ball of yarn could be transformed through the use of a couple of needles fascinated me. There is a sensual dimension to this too and I loved the smell, feel and colours of the new yarn. Painfully slowly, with many a slipped stitch and uneven tension, tongue firmly between my teeth in concentration, I worked my way through a scarf.
In the intervening years I knitted not at all. Knitting was becoming less fashionable, along with sewing home made dresses. The patterns that were available were old-fashioned, so there was less motivation to develop my basic skills. In addition it was increasingly difficult to find attractive yarns as the traditional retailers went out of business one by one.
Over the last few years, knitting and crochet have been re-invented. In the UK there are many local shops with fantastic ranges of new yarns, and modern un-fussy designs. Of course the internet is available too, if you prefer to shop that way, and the number of instruction and pattern books on sale is truly breath-taking. The videos available online are invaluable for helping a beginner overcome difficulties in interpreting written instructons.
If you have not knitted for years, or have never learned then I woud urge you to start. Just as I did in the 'old' days, start with something like a scarf. There are many yarns designed especially to make a scarf from one ball, forming elaborate ruffles just by using the most basic stitich. Then you can move onto gloves, sweaters, cushion covers and whatever else takes your fancy.
Knitting is not just for women anymore, and a large number of men are now regular knitters. It is a hobby that can last you a life-time, as you can knit anywhere, anytime. For many older people, the manual dexterity needed to handle the wool and needles can help to keep fingers flexible. It also provides a mental challenge, as you need to puzzle out and master new techiques as you develop your skills and your confidence. The pleasure in making a pair of finger-less gloves, or a pair of socks is out of all proportion to the value of the actual garment. You may stick to these smaller items, making for yourself and your family, or giving them to friends as gifts, or you may progress to larger items such as sweaters.
My next challenges are to master basic crochet, and to start tackling a large knitted project. Why don't you find a pattern and have a go too?
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