Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Invitation to Knit
Years ago before I practiced Tai Chi, I knit for meditative and creative benefits rolled into one.  Knitting helped me open my logical mind to a stepwise process from start to finish and balance my runaway right brain's wild spontaneity.

My Mom patiently (I almost typed "painfully") taught me at age nine.  She knit sweaters with (gasp) buttons, lace patterns, and V-necks  and learned to knit argyle socks.  Connie, my Mom, made a huge patterned white sock as a model before she attempted the finer sock yarn in gray, red, and navy patterned colors on small double pointed needles. 

I stumbled about with size 8 needles and 4 ply knitting yarn.  My favorites were white plastic needles with large red hearts on each end and the hot neon pink thick yarn for a beginner to see clearly!  I felt all thumbs, and I had many unplanned holes in my work!  Gradually, very gradually, I learned to cast on, knit, purl, and bind off.  Mom declared, "These are skills you will need to knit anything!"  

"Really?" I thought skeptically.

Fast Forward to my life as a young mother of three.  My husband announced one morning he wanted me to knit him an Aran (Irish) Patterned sweater!  "How?" I questioned.

"I can do it!  I'll start with something small."  I bought a basic Arans for Children pattern book and started a simple cap with plain basic 8 stitch cable.  What would I use for a cable needle?  Of course, one of my Mom's double pointed sock needles to hold the yarn in front or back of the work for the desired twisted look!

Childrens' sweater patterns still looked way too complex so I "converted" the "beyond my comprehension" patterns into the simple basic cable pattern I had used on the hats and began to "design!"  I liked it!  Knitting fit the times as I could knit and be with my young kids while interacting, listening to music, and having fun. 

Knitting could be put down and picked up at will.  With painting I needed a quiet place and an art room for paint brushes and canvas, pastels and illustration boards.  While (If) the kids rested, I worked on paintings. 

As I got more and more into complexities of sweaters and traditions, I designed our Aran Family pattern and made sweaters to fit growing children.  Adult sweaters with classic styling, wear like iron and and are still in use today!  I even learned to knit while watching TV!

                                             Traditional Aran Design

Every Sweater Tells A Story!
Aran patterns tell stories in the stitches.  For example, in the above sweater my mother designed for herself, the center panel is called the blackberry or trinity stitch.  The raised effect gives the appearance of round blackberries and trinity denotes the way the stitch is made: make three stitches out of one stitch and then on the reverse row, make one stitch out of three. 

"Shipyard Ropes" frame the cables.  FIshermen's Rib graces the hem, neck, and cuffs of sleeves.  These cables and ropes suggest strength for the wearer.  Diamonds filled with single moss stitch are prosperity symbols for an abundant life filled with blessings.  A sweater, living art, is born!

Every Irish village has a basic pattern and individual families knit their own additions into the sweaters.  This way, if an accident at sea happened, the village and family could be notified.  A "mistake" stitch is purposely knit into each sweater, as physical life is not "perfect."

The Guernsey ("Gasney") sweater has a flatter look knit with finer yarn.  There may be lace-like open work as in the zigzags or fountains of stitches.  These are flanked with flat elongated cables (strength) and double moss edge stitching (prosperity).  Compare this sweater with the traditional Aran, knitted sculpture, sporting thick yarn and chunky patterns resembling Celtic knot work.

Years wind forward and I taught my daughters to knit.  One daughter taught our granddaughter!  My mother and I "team knit" by knitting on the same projects!  Mom and I knit exactly alike in tension, stitch gauge, and appearance.  I cast on stitches, and my mom knit the middle part (stretchy ribbing) of headbands for Special Olympics.  I bound off the stitches.  Together we made over 200 headbands to donate over the years!   

We also team knit sweaters.  Mom helped me with the straight knitting, and I added the shaping and color (intarsia) work, patterned areas around the cuffs and necklines of Icelandic designs.  We joined a local knitting club.  Fun!   The clicking rhythm of needles and soft yarn slipping through fingers is a gentle way of quieting the mind, a hypnotic effect much like relaxation music or the sound of a purring cat. 

Enjoy "going within" with creative traditional art forms.

Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, & Arans, Fishermen's Sweaters from the Brtish Isles book by Gladys Thompson  Red Heart Yarn, free patterns, learn to knit and crochet video, yarns  Lion Brand Yarn since 1878, free patterns, illustrated lessons and video, help available, clubs, yarns including Fishermen's Wool, 100% pure virgin wool containing natural oils.  Free E-book 40 Tips for Knitters of All Levels.  "Make Time for Yarn Everyday,"  Knitting Daily program  Learn Knit and Crochet, free download and more

Wind and Mountain relaxation music by Deuter  Lucy, a purring cat, and nature sounds promote relaxation at 50-70Hz  Paul Lam, M.D., Tai Chi: relax while exercising and music for Tai Chi for health and harmony  Joel P. Bowman, Ph.D and Debra Basham, NLP, CHTP, HTt, RMT Debra's New Blog, Yellow Brick Road Your Path to Heart and Health, "If I Were Brave."  Free E-Book Silver Butterfly, Create A Vision

photos:  Invitation to Knit, by Emilie
Traditional Aran Design and Guernsey by Dahlis Roy