Saturday, 3 January 2015

Things I don't do anymore: Knitting

The earlier posts in this series are: kite-flying, skiing, skating, fishing, archery, mushrooming, celebrating New Year, gambling and party games.

Knitting was a necessity rather than a hobby when I was young. Clothes in stores were uncomfortable and ugly; clothes on the black market were expensive, but you could knit things that were original and to your taste. The problem was getting hold of yarn, knitting needles and patterns.

The indigenous yarn came in two variants. The less expensive was coarse, the more expensive was very thin so it took ages to unwind skeins, and then you would put three to five threads together for suitable thickness. The dye was of poor quality so you had to treat yarn with vinegar (or pee if you were less fastidious) and then wash again and again until the dye stopped running. The colours were typically dull, but you can still knit nice stuff in dull colours.

The black-market yarn was lovely. Soft, bright – a joy to knit. Expensive, yes, but worth it. Decent needles were only available on the black market. Patterns were worth their weight in gold. The lucky few who were allowed to travel abroad would bring ladies' magazines with knitting patterns which would then be shared and bartered. You couldn't copy a close friend's sweater, but you could borrow ideas. All ladies knitted, and it was a good way of being useful while chatting or listening to music.

It took me a long time and many tears to learn how to knit. For some reason I just couldn't get it. My granny, who was the family's great knitter, would lose patience. I got lousy grades in school. Eventually I learned during a prolonged illness when I was forbidden to read. After that, I would knit sweaters, cardigans, dresses, two-piece suits, trousers, scarves, hats - anything, although I never mastered socks and mittens. My wardrobe became unique and varied. When I got access to libraries' "closed" collections through my work I could find patterns in Western magazines, considered by authorities dangerous for average citizens.

I went on knitting when the children were small, but very soon they reached the phase when home-knits were frowned upon, and I stopped. I also stopped knitting for myself, although in Sweden there was of course no shortage of needles, patterns and yarn.

Both our daughters are passionate knitters, and Julia's knitwear is amazing.

The closest I ever came to knitting in the past ten years was a vest for my granddaughter's stuffed hippo. I felt really appreciated as a granny. 


Of the many things I don't do anymore, knitting is something I can consider taking up again.

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