Atlas Insider: Not Why I Learned to Knit
I didn’t learn to knit because I needed a sweater. I live in the humid mid-south, where even during the coldest streak of January, a Members Only jacket is plenty to keep me warm. I didn’t learn to knit because I needed a scarf or mittens. See above. I didn’t learn to knit to make a crib blanket for a beloved friend expecting a baby (which might indicate my interest in some random baby, which … well, just no).
I learned to knit because I couldn’t drink any more. Or rather—because I couldn’t seem to drink any less. A ruined Thanksgiving, a near-death experience in a kayak, and a particularly, uh, let’s say treacherous camping trip later and bing bang bong, a trip to the nervous hospital was in my sights.
It took a bit, but that time in a healthy, peaceful setting (replete with a breakfast buffet!) helped me order my thoughts and life and gave me a lot of time to think about all the trouble I had caused and, while not a strict program-of-any-sort follower, I did pick and choose some ideas that I thought might do me some good in the weeks and months and years that were to follow.
Some things were, are, tough, though. In particular, simply apologizing to my family—and my sister, in particular—for decades of, uh, difficult behavior on my part didn’t seem quite adequate. As an official sort of “amends” to my sister, I decided to learn something that she knew alllll about and I knew nothing of. In the future, we could talk about it or not talk about it, whatever, but it would always be on tap if necessary and it would be something about which she would always be the expert.
I asked her to teach me to knit. Turns out it wasn’t so much a tap that opened as it was, hmmmm, a floodgate. But maybe not in the way that you might be thinking. I didn’t go nuts about the end results of knitting—the sweaters, the scarves. I like to knit, but I don’t love it. I get bored with it quite easily, so I will sometimes pick up a project that’s out of my league, knowing I’m basically setting up some sibling chitchats about whatever the all-new required skill at hand will be (“Meg, WTF does SSPP2 mean?”) and that’s when the water gets kind of deep question-wise and suddenly we’re two hours into a discussion about which way yarn twists or perhaps The Eternal Mystery: What does DK mean?
Oh, I know what you are thinking! “Poor Sister Meg!” You would be right to think that because I really did have a lot of questions at first. I could barely remember how to bind off while in the midst of binding off. Let’s all have a moment of silence for her. She spent the first year after she taught me just shouting down the stairs, “As I have mentioned a million times, the answer to your dumbass question is on YouTube!”
But still. Learning to knit remains one of the greatest things I’ve ever done—and more than that, being open to learning how to do it was the real lesson learned, something that would have been unthinkable even in the fairly recent past.
It’s not that I can now make a sweater out of string (though that does at times seem faintly magical) but because knitting is always going to be something I have to be humble about. I will never know as much about this thing as my sister does. (Though I would like to point out that I maintain the upper hand in at least one way by not sharing the “unplug the cable box and plug it back in” secret when her television goes on the fritz. I just wave wrenches and pliers and OHM testers around like I’m repairing a space shuttle when all I’ve really done is unplug the box from the wall. “You’re welcome!” I shout, demanding a flowery thank you, thankyouverymuch).
Bonus: there’s no question that learning to knit also salvaged my relationship with my sister. We talk about everything now—dinner, the dogs, Mom, travel plans, mowing the yard, voting. Sometimes we talk about knitting, but as time passes we do that less and less.
My two favorite skills to exercise as a knitter are weaving in the ends and duplicate stitch. One of those cleans up the messy business of knitting; the other gives me the chance to make wrong stitches right. Recovery is rife with metaphor; it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the appeal of those two things. That said, it did take me a bit, and I have my sister to thank for teaching me that the messy, wrong things can slowly but surely be made right again.
The prize? A Skill Set Box of Joy. This kit sets up a new knitter with everything, sparing you the dumbass questions and requests to borrow tools. Seriously, these are the beautiful materials that make knitting a joy. Let’s make more knitters.
How to enter?
Step 1: Sign up for our weekly newsletter, Snippets, right here. If you’re already subscribed, you’re set.
Step 2: Is there someone you would like to offer a moment of silent thanks for teaching you something? Let us know what you learned in the comments (and feel free to name that someone if you like).
Deadline for entries: Sunday, July 31, 11:59 PM Central time. We’ll draw a random winner from the entries. Winner will be notified by email.