I decided to learn to knit.
The idea seemed simple enough so I trudged off to
the craft store to find a knitting book. I flipped
through the pages of the first book I found and laughed
at the dated photos of the models. Big hair, big bangs,
and dark make-up clearly indicated a 1980's flashback.
I chose to buy a very generic "How to Knit"
book that looked like it would teach me the basics.
You're probably familiar with the type: It's
the dusty neglected book lingering on the bottom shelf
at the back of the craft store.
I tried to figure out the
knitting instructions and diagrams. Swearing and
knitting don't normally coexist, but in my house
at those frustrating moments, they certainly did.
I don't know if the instructions were poorly written
or if I was too tired to start a new project, but
some vital piece of information was definitely not
making it to my brain. The knitting keystone was
My husband took the book
away from me. I wasn't sure if he wanted me to stop
polluting the air with my words or if he wanted
to keep me from damaging myself with the needles.
He flipped open the book to see what I fussed over
and took the yarn and needles away from me. To my
dismay, he figured out how to knit. I have
a degree in physics, but apparently, the physics
of knitting was beyond me.
My husband tried the perilous
task of trying to show a frustrated woman how to
begin knitting. Needles flew across the living room
and nearly missed the dog a few times. I assure
you that no animals were harmed during the process.
I cast on numerous times.
I also took all the yarn off the needle, unraveled
everything, and started over numerous times. The
first row of knitting was difficult. I soon wondered
why I didn't understand the diagrams before. Eventually
we amassed a small collection of squares knitted
from the cheapest white practice yarn the craft
store had to offer.
Soon enough, I had knitter's
muscle memory and could get into my knitting meditation
stance. I often didn't remember knitting a row.
I had finally learned the basics.
I'm ambitious and known to be somewhat crazy, I
decided that my first project would be a sweater
for my over-stuffed, long-haired Chihuahua, Panda.
I bought a skein of a variegated purple yarn that
would hopefully turn into a little wrap to make
our princess happy in wet weather. Panda turns into
a Chihuahua sidewalk statue when the grass is moist.
No amount of coaxing will get her onto the lawn.
I looked at sweater patterns
for ideas and created my own dog sweater plan of
attack. After measuring Panda, I determined that
I would need to make a ten inch square for her back
and sides, a six
inch by ten inch rectangle for her neck that
would fold down into a turtleneck, and a tummy cover
that would certainly be a task for a beginner. The
tummy piece would be my last task and would involve
increasing stitches. The chest area needed a triangular
piece that became a narrow strip between her front
legs and then widened after her chest to cover her
Poor Panda. When I started
the project, she acquired the nickname of "Floppy"
Panda. I was unsure of myself, so I'd repeatedly
approach her with the measuring tape. She'd turn
into an amorphous lump of fur when she saw me.
Trying to accurately measure
her was a difficult task. If I wanted to measure
the length of her back, she'd roll over and give
me her tummy. I'd try to stand her up and she'd
flop over like a stuffed animal that had lost all
its stuffing. The measuring tape wrapped around
us. She flopped around some more, and I'd wonder
if small beads were coming out of her beanbag-like
I perfected the art of knitting squares, the neck
and body of the sweater went well. When I had free
time, I knitted a few rows. Then, I'd go after Panda
with the section I knitted, still attached to the
needle. I'd hold the section up to her back to make
sure I had measured correctly and wasn't fooling
myself. Panda eventually figured out the routine.
When she saw me, she'd hide under the coffee table.
If I could reach her, she turned into a beanbag
The stomach and chest pieces
were a challenge for me. I started over several
times. Each time I increased my stitching, I'd have
a sloppy mess of uneven knitting that stood out
between the neat rows of knitting I'd already done.
I wasn't sure what I was doing wrong. I decided
to knit the piece backwards and decrease. This worked
out for me. I knitted the wide stomach piece. As
I approached her chest, I decreased stitches and
wasn't fighting with the yarn and needles anymore.
hurriedly sewed all three pieces together,
leaving two unstitched areas for her front
legs to fit through. I was excited to give
Panda her new sweater. When I called her,
she actually came running over without a tortured
look on her face. I slipped her new sweater
over her head, slipped her paws through the
armholes, and adjusted the sweater around
her waist. Panda ran around the room showing
off her new purple sweater. Of course, her
proud mama followed her around and shot photographs.
I finished my first project
without injuring my husband, my dog, or myself.
I'm cringing thinking about putting the sweater
in the washing machine for the first time. If all
that comes out of the washer is one very long purple
string, Panda and I agree that we'll purchase a
dog sweater instead.
And, if you are a beginner,
make a scarf first. Don't try to dress your dog
or make your own pattern when you are still delirious
over the fact that you've finally figured out how
to knit a bunch of coasters.