Learning to knit by Anne Gleeson

From when I was a very little girl I wanted to learn how to knit. I think this was because I saw my mum and other important women in my life consumed in this activity. I remember mum giving me a lesson when I was about six or seven, but giving up in frustration.

When mum went to hospital to have one of my sisters, perhaps when I was eight or nine, we were not allowed in to visit the maternity ward. One evening a neighbour, Mrs Lawrence, came to care for us while dad went to visit mum and the new baby.

Mrs Lawrence was a knitter of great skill and I marvelled at her ability as I sat beside her at the dining room table. She asked if I would like to learn, and a couple of lessons had me on the path of being a craftswoman of some skill before mum came home.

Mrs Lawrence found needles amongst mum’s knitting basket and provided me with two balls of yarn. One was orange, the other was white. Each was a different ply (thickness), but this did not matter to an eager learner.

When my own four children were little, the skills passed on by Mrs Lawrence came in very handy. They each had layettes (dresses, matinee coats, bonnets and bootees) all matching in very fine wool. Jumpers, cardigans, dresses, pram covers and the treasured shawls. These shawls were a work of art in their own way right, knitted on fine needles with intricate patterns.

Not all of my endeavours were successful. I recall as a young bride knitting a cardigan for my father’s birthday. My father was a big man but it did not take too long till the garment was completed. Dad’s birthday arrived and I proudly presented him with his beautifully crafted gift.

To my great disappointment, the cardigan would have fitted Dad twice. So not wanting to waste the yarn, I pulled apart the entire garment and re-knitted it. On the second run through I had even less success, as this time the cardigan would not go anywhere near fitting my father’s frame!

I stopped knitting for a number of years while I was studying and attending to my career. About 15 years ago, following a total knee replacement and subsequent recovery, I took up the craft again and have had needles and yarn close at hand ever since. 

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