Not Knitting for Me

I knit very few items for myself – it just seems pointless. For me, a project isn’t complete until it reaches its recipient, and giving a scarf (or bag or whatever I conjure up) to myself seems rather anti-climatic. I spend quiet, intense moments with a creation from its conception to weaving in the ends. Keeping the item for myself is the end of its journey – not a continuation.

When I knit for someone else, however, it’s different. Finding a perfect person-pattern-yarn combo is a recipe for a great outcome. Whether going to the LYS without preconceived notions, or with a specific fantasy project in mind, the hunt for my next fave yarn is not unlike putting together a puzzle. The pattern fits in, too, though sometimes I select a pattern after I find a great skein or two of yarn (backwards, yes, but it works — sometimes).

Now to put the pieces into practice.

When I knit for someone else, the process itself even changes. The stitches themselves seem more distinct, stronger, more robust. Do I want a project for myself to look good? Of course. But a gift for Grandpa, my best friend, or my brother deserves special attention. Each stitch requires extra caution, and if I have to unravel backwards and correct a barely noticeable mistake, so be it.

Beyond the physical technique, I believe (and I’m probably preaching to the proverbial choir) that a knitter doesn’t just stitch yarn or weave in ends – I sew in more than a button, and SSK is a minor detail. My thoughts of and wishes for the recipient slide from my soul, through my fingers, down the needles, and intertwine with the yarn.

Giving an item made for someone else is a new beginning.

Since I’m fairly inexperienced, my knitting repertoire is limited. So far I’ve made a pouch for eyeglasses (complete with breast cancer awareness charm) for my boyfriend’s mom, a fuzzy purple purse for my cousin, earflap hats (one of my favorite projects) for anyone willing to wear them, and other miscellaneous items. What continually surprises me, though, is that no matter what the season or the occasion, the simplest project is a perennial favorite: scarves have earned the most acclaim, even in a simple rib stitch.

The yarn was on sale – a store brand colored with shimmering vibrant red and white. Ridiculously fuzzy, it was one of the softest yarns I’d ever touched. As silky as it was, I wasn’t taken with the synthetic fiber. It looked pretty cheap, but it was unusual (and the price matched the look), so I bought a couple of skeins. Surely I’d find some pattern it would be perfect for. I had dozens of skeins with the same hopes, and it sat in the closet with the rest of my stash, waiting for a match.

Grandma had been in the nursing home only a short while. Fall had arrived – the leaves started to float to the ground, and grain trucks and combines methodically ran back-and-forth across the rows of golden corn stalks. The first frost was yet to come, but, being elderly, Grandma was already feeling the chill.

A fuzzy red-and-white scarf was born.

The cheap yarn I had purchased months ago finally had a destination, and an important one at that. “It’s ‘Husker red,'” I would tell Grandma, as she was a fan of Husker football and volleyball. With a plan of surprising Grandma volleying in my brain, I worked on the scarf furiously, racing against Nebraska’s fall chill and Grandma’s discomfort with every stitch. My family talked of going to the nearby town’s discount store for a shawl or throw for Grandma. I furrowed my brow and worked faster – no way is my Grandma going to wear some store-bought wrap!

I finished in record time and made a bee-line for the nursing home, vibrant fuzzy scarf in tow.

Grandma loved it.

In fact, she wore it every day, allowing my mom to take it home to wash but once. I’m not sure if she was happier when I graduated from college, or when I finished the scarf. At the nursing home, both nurses and residents admired it, and Grandma beamed. She broadcasted to everyone who would listen that her granddaughter knit her that pretty scarf. The nurses joked that the scarf was so popular, I should make enough for everyone at the nursing home – including the staff. I’m not sure they were completely joking.

Partially because I was afraid the red and white scarf’s novelty would wear off, I fashioned her another scarf in baby blue, using a slightly more complicated pattern. It was a pretty eyelet stitch, and I knew which shirt of hers would match the furry confection nicely. It was a casual project; some yarn I had on hand that “needed” to be used up, and would “probably” work with said pattern.

I think I saw her wear that scarf once.

Grandma is gone now, but the legacy of the scarf made of cheap red and white synthetic yarn lives on. After she passed away, the scarf was set aside. What to do with it? It was so special to her, but what do you do with a handmade gift that meant so much to someone who is gone now? The scarf has so much sentimental value, but it doesn’t feel right to casually wear it. Our family still hasn’t come up with a solution, so the scarf sits, somewhere, in seclusion.

Yes, that bothers me, but I can’t bring myself to use it, yet I can’t bring myself to donate it to charity. It feels like Grandma. She’s there – proud of what I made, and, most importantly, excited about my learning an art too many have lost. Maybe that’s good enough reason to keep the fuzzy scarf; just to remember how much she appreciated it.

Because of Grandma’s encouragement since the beginnings of my knitting adventures and her appreciation for the gifts I made her, what brings me the most joy is discovering the person-pattern-yarn balance of knitting for others, and sharing that joy with others.

Especially if scarves are involved.

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