anti-materialism, family culture, gifts, minimalism, motherhood, personal development, reflections

Knitting Nana

Written by: Kendall A. | Umm Iman

It’s getting cold here in the neck of the woods where I dwell. The cold announces the need for proper winter gear in enjoying the outdoors (we are outdoorsy people believing in the notion that “there is no such thing as ‘bad weather;’ simply ‘bad clothing’ for the weather”), and this year, I wanted to make the matching set of hats, scarves, and mittens/gloves for my littles!

As I sit down with my knitting needles and yarn, I can’t help but think back on my first introduction to the craft. Believe it or not, it was not an elective at the time, but rather a “gift” that had been chosen for me. You see, my grandmother–“Nana,” as we called her–took it upon herself to purchase me a set of knitting needles and crochet hooks, complete with tutorial books and two spools of yarn. Of course, my eleven-year-old self was gracious in accepting the gift, though I had no interest in knitting or crocheting at the time. Don’t get me wrong, my mother sewed and so I was quite familiar with that craft and produced some hand-made products of my own, but knitting and crocheting were things that I just didn’t feel drawn to.

Time passed from having received the gift. I did open it, looked through the pages of ideas of handmade trinkets that I could create, dreamt, and then returned it to the shelf, fearing it too complicated to begin and too timely to complete. Some months passed, and it was during an evening that my Nana was babysitting me that the first lesson began. Making the audacious comment that I was “bored,” she leapt at the opportunity to have me retrieve my gift of knitting needles and yarn from my home (which was around the corner from her own) so that she could teach me the skill. (I later learned that I was not the only granddaughter to participate in these unasked for knitting lessons! Though I’m sure we all appreciate them now in retrospect.)

It didn’t take long for me to catch on to the stitching process–the repetition of creating loops and watching the swatch grow was mesmerizing. Once I had mastered the knit stitch, she taught me the pearl to experiment with. Over the years, I would pick up the slow, but ever-growing chain that increased over time. I dropped stitches; tiny holes were created here and there; and the pattern changed between knit and pearl with no creative plan in mind. It was never really meant to be anything in particular–it was simply a hobby, something to do and work on when I felt like it; something mindless to keep my fingers occupied when boredom crept upon me. Approaching my daughter’s third winter, I decided it was time to end the long chain and make it into something useful–a scarf to cover her neck in the cold. And that is exactly the function it served. One of the holes that I mentioned above became an impromptu button-hole with a flower button to close it around her neck!

Nana never saw the final product of what that simple tapestry had become, but I was very proud to know that a simple remedy to boredom on a cold winter evening many years ago, lead to something practical and useful in my later life. Nana passed away earlier this year, and as I sit down, this time intentionally and very much of my own volition, to prepare knitted outerwear for my children, I’d like to think that she would be proud of me–that she would be happy to know that I am using the skill that she both enjoyed and felt was necessary in raising her own children. She was incredibly talented in creating. She sewed, knit, and crocheted clothing for her six children in their childhoods, and then also for her grandchildren. Many of my holiday dresses were sewn by her, and I can remember all of the grandchildren being called over to the house for fittings and measurements to take place. She truly had a talent and eye for fashion and presentation.

This autumn, as I lay the final stitch in my daughter’s scarf in preparation for winter, I think of you, Nana, and I am hopeful for what my knitting and crocheting journey will lead me to, in sha Allah! Thank you for teaching me to knit =)

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