I can hear you chortling out there. Fear of knitting. But consider that within 0.45 seconds of Googling “fear of knitting,” I had more than 24 million hits. That’s a lot of fear of knitting, folks. Good to know I’m not alone.
Because fear is often not rational, its target can be something seemingly silly, like knitting. In my case, I’ve watched and admired knitters for decades, wondering how do they do that magical stuff with their fingers and yarn. So perfect.
I’ve tried a couple of times over the years. Experienced knitters would offer to teach me and I’d get started, but it seemed once I made a mistake or two (as all knitters do), I threw the yarn in. I couldn’t figure out how to fix my mistakes, so I would rip out the simple scarf I had been trying to make, reconstitute the ball of yarn I had just unraveled, and then realize I didn’t know how to “cast on,” which is how you knit on the first row of stitches. I tried to teach myself, but believe me, it got ugly before I tossed the yarn and needles back into a plastic bag and into a closet. I was just not born to knit.
But then I’d see a sweater someone had made and feel a longing. I wanted to know how to make a sweater, or socks, or at least a scarf. I admired the multiple rows of perfect stitches that seemed impossible to have been done one stitch at a time. I couldn’t even get the first row onto a needle. I figured I was too clumsy or hadn’t been born with the arts and crafts gene. You had to be a perfect knitter to create a sweater so flawless.
It wasn’t until later when I began writing seriously that I recalled and reflected on my knitting experience. That first sentence had to be so damn good. The whole first chapter could make or break your writing career, or at least whether an agent or editor would even look past the first page. Everything had to be so perfect. Flaws were not permitted. I’d read a really good book and wonder how did the writer manage to amass so many words into so many terrific sentences into so many fabulous chapters. I figured out they did it one stitch at a time and realized the writer had probably ripped apart more than a few chapters before the sweater was done.
I’d been encouraged by other writers who love to knit. Julie Hennrikus, Jessie Crockett, and Vicki Stiefel patiently answered my questions. Vicki sent me Ten Secrets of the Laidback Knitter, a book she’d written about knitting.
Julie handed me a pair of round knitting needles that terrified me. I accepted the gifts and tucked them away.
The adult education courses in my community offered a class in knitting this spring. I decided to stash my pride away and learn to knit, even if not perfectly. I tackled casting on the first row of stitches with the same tenacity I engage when I try to write the best first sentence in a novel I know how to write. With the patience of an instructor who has been knitting for more than sixty years, I got that first row on the needle and went on from there. This time when I dropped a stitch, I figured out how to fix it instead of ripping out my imperfect project and throwing it out.
I had perfect attendance at my knitting class, which is the only thing perfect about my knitting. I finished a scarf and I’m almost done with a blanket, but I’ve gotten myself into a bit of a mess that I need to figure out. Kind of like when I discover a plot hole in a novel I’m writing. But that blanket is not going back into the closet any more than my WIP is getting tossed into a bin. What I hope is going in the wastebasket is my fear of not being perfect.