“Knit, purl, knit, purl!” plays in my head repeatedly as I sit cross legged on the couch watching The Great British Baking Show. My hands move rhythmically as I wrap the shimmery-tinged green yarn around my 3 mm thick bamboo needles. I look down with pride at my uncompleted flappy hat, happy that my tight seed stitches are consistent and that the hat’s shape looks exactly like the tiny picture on the pattern.
I began knitting regularly in 2020 when I was bored over quarantine and itching for a creative outlet with which I could challenge myself. The prospect of hand making useful and stylish garments excited me, and the ability to use beautifully colored and textured yarns was an added bonus. My great-aunt who resides in Mill Valley and conveniently works at a local knitting store provided me with all the advice and materials I needed to get going.
Prior to the pandemic, I spent little time with Aunt Rhona. Upon moving to the Bay after decades of living in Los Angeles with a successful career in the movie industry, she had hoped that our new geographical proximity would lead to stronger relationships with me and my family. But with my parents juggling to take me and my brothers to school events, soccer games and violin lessons, this hope never really came to fruition. Once the pandemic hit, however, a new opportunity arose for Aunt Rhona and I to get to know each other better with needles in hand.
My brother and I would drive to Mill Valley nearly every weekend. I distinctly remember the time when we came to visit, and my aunt gave me a purple drawstring bag with a variety of new knitting supplies she had bought for me: a tape measure in the shape of a sheep, little needles to weave in loose ends, and foldable scissors that are extraordinarily satisfying to open and close. She even got me a beginner’s knitting book that has been my go-to for learning new techniques. With this bag in hand, I was officially ready to begin.
Using recycled cashmere yarn or merino wool in pastel yellows, pinks, or blues, I became a knitting machine. I knit while watching TV, or right before bed, or swinging in my hammock and listening to podcasts. I could not even keep my needles away during Zoom school. It became a way for me to divert my attention from my new life stuck at home and the chaos of the world around me, a form of meditation and calm contemplation. The repetition of my hand motions, or the smooth glide of my bamboo needles, were both mesmerizing and mindless. Of course, Aunt Rhona would be on speed dial for any knitting emergencies. And there were many. In a world where technology has become the only means to do nearly anything, knitting allowed me to let my strained eyes rest and suspend the distraction of constant social media or New York Times notifications. It was my escape.
Even though my life is busier now as I juggle school, extracurriculars, and now college applications, I find myself gravitating more and more towards knitting. This summer, I decided that I wanted to get back into it after I took an impromptu hiatus during junior year. While I unfortunately do not get the chance to visit my aunt as often anymore, knitting brings me back to our many times together over the pandemic and all the wisdom she instilled in me, not only about knitting, of course, but also about youth, friendships, and navigating a world in such disarray.
I am currently knitting another hat. While I have been working on it for nearly four months, the act of knitting feels more enjoyable and fulfilling than getting to the end product itself. As my life drastically changes in the coming year, I hope that I can hold on to that feeling. With my purple drawstring bag by my side, I feel ready to navigate the range of new experiences to come, one stitch at a time.