When a PR company approached me to get involved with Innocent’s annual ‘Big Knit’ in aid of Age Action, I’d love to say I didn’t hesitate, but I did. Though I couldn’t remember exact memories, I knew I was terrible at it. Again, I’d love to tell you that feeling was just ‘knitting anxiety’ (I think I’ll trademark that), and I got on fine with it, but I didn’t.
My brilliant mother pulled out my last efforts at knitting from about 15 years ago and my suspicions were confirmed, I was a knitting failure. I could get neither my head nor my fingers around the plain stitch, never mind your fancy purl. Despite admitting that I had never managed to succeed at the seemingly therapeutic work, my mother endeavoured to teach me, again. With the same needles, the same wool and the same challenges facing us.
The word ‘ciotach’ in Irish is an adjective meaning awkward or clumsy, is it any wonder then that a ciotóg (left-handed person) is at a distinct disadvantage when learning something new?! Being taught to knit by a right handed person is like being taught to drive on the left side of the road and being expected to be able to drive perfectly on the right, thereafter. It just doesn’t work.
However, I trundled along my knitting journey, wanting to improve, and interested in the idea of the ‘knitting party’ as part of my involvement. On this little island, a get together that doesn’t involve or in fact, revolve around drinking is a unique one and knitting is one thing that doesn’t lend itself to the demon drink, and for this I was glad.
I invited friends and family and promised them baked goods and a good laugh. Holding the party on a Sunday afternoon worked like a treat, such is the nature of the weekend that Sunday is often a couch day, so instead of sitting on their couches, I brought them to mine! Cutesy cakes-stands, saucers, sugar bowls and milk jugs were provided by my well-armed sister to ensure maximum levels of girly.
I was both delighted and slightly depressed that everyone could knit a little hat, except me. Try as I might with expert guidance, I got lost in the bunny hole, knocked down the big tree, never returned from said dark bunny hole and ended up in a mess of tight stitches that resembled something a nurse might pull together after a particularly bad incident in the trenches in World War II.
The hats that the ladies created were gorgeous, all shades, shapes and patterns. The happy little hats illustrated the varied personalities that sat on my couch and enjoyed brownies, peanut cups and a baked cheesecake. I lost patience and retired my needles. I was both relieved and disappointed. Irrelevant as it may be, knitting had defeated me, and it was both frustrating and mildly upsetting.
I fared better with making bobbles for the hats, and eventually graduated onto some form of advanced bobbling, when my guests had packed up and left.
It was only later on that evening while reading (something I am good at!), that came to understand something I never had before; learning difficulties. The more I think about it now, the better the understanding I have of the challenges facing those who cannot ‘do’ something, be it Irish grammar or long division. It’s not like I’ve never experienced the feeling before, you should’ve seen me try to do Maths, but with age and education, I have moulded my life around things I can do; neither maths nor knitting feature prominently. I’m not sure if either ever will but I have most certainly learned more than I thought I could while trying, and most importantly, failing at knitting.