Define Pleasure

May 19, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Friendship, Knitting, Vermont

When you move a thousand miles away from the place you have lived the first half of your life, forty years of it anyway, you must make new friends and import the old. We have done a little bit of both making some of the best friends we have ever had in
these last five years, but hanging onto the sweetest ones from all that came before.

Our first summer here we had some thirty-five guests. Our guest wing was always full and we got pretty good at fresh flowers in the guest room and little chocolates on the dresser. We even heated the screened porch on that end of the house so they could have their morning coffee or late night Bailey’s in private looking out at the mountains or perhaps the chickens. Vermont in the summer is pretty much magic with warm sunny days and cold mountain nights that make sweaters a necessary accouterment to the porch swing. People liked it so much that they came back and the best ones keep getting invited.

This weekend we had an old friend who, when visiting last time, tried to teach me to knit. I say ‘tried’ meaning her no disrespect. Hers is a patient and kindly soul. And we were in our second Vermont year when I had the romantic idea that a lap full of knitting would keep me warm in front of the fire on all those long winter nights. Nevermind that I have never been handy or crafty. After all I had never raised chickens either. This was a new era. Anyway she came and we spent about two hours that first day on the errr, umm….slip knot. Try explaining the concept of a slip knot to a two year old and you will begin to get the idea. I mostly did the honking snort laugh where you can’t quite get your breath, and Lynn eventually kinda quietly gave up. I wound up with a little swatch about 3 by 5 inches wide of something which vaguely resembled knitting and hung it on an old Victorian lamp. There it trailed down the silk shade looking almost like an intentional tassel and I pretty much forgot about knitting. We had the horrible quaint country store to worry about and I was busily starting up a couple of new businesses and trying to survive. Knitting didn’t seem very important. I couldn’t run a country store and apparently I couldn’t knit either. Okay, well neither is exactly a life necessity.

But still the knitting rankled. Nothing is open up here after 7 in the winter. Really, I mean it. Nothing. Most of the restaurants are closed altogether and there are a few who manage to keep the lights on til nine. But they stop seating you at 7 so it amounts to the same thing. There aren’t big cineplexes or hopping coffee houses. The sun goes down taking the little bit of winter warmth and light along with it and the people go to bed. This mostly works for us since we like ourselves and each other. We play with the animals, read two or three books every week, and cook big elaborate meals, the kind where the recipe starts… On day one…..

Nowadays Netflix delivers wonderful movies and there is always wood for the fire. But it was on those movie nights especially I would fondly consider the knitting. Lots of sheep farmers live in Vermont and there are always sheep herding demos and fiber festivals to go to in the spring. These have wonderful bluegrass music and women with long hip looking gray braids, silver rings on multiple fingers, layered skirts, and piles and piles of lovely colorful yarns. There is just something about all that yarn and those competent looking women that made me think again that by God I am an intelligent woman and I should be able to do this thing. They didn’t come with a knitting gene. I could learn too by God.

And so with that attitude when my friend Lynn got off the plane my daughter Hannah and I announced that once again we would like to learn to knit. She visibly paled, but she didn’t turn right back around. We took her to one of the small town fiber festivals first to soften her up. Pretty soon she said she supposed we would need some yarn.

We got fat needles and chunky yarn. The bill made me gasp, but I paid it and came home with an image of long trailing shawls, and big artsy hats. We sat down and were faced once again with the dreaded slip knot. i found an odd maneuver that involved making a bow and letting one loop go. But poor Hannah got as tied up in the old slip knot as I had last time. Maybe there is a gene after all. Eventually we got the stuff cast, and the knitting began in earnest. We began with 38 stitches. By the fourth row I had forty-six and Hannah had forty-five. These were supposed to be symmetrical scarves and apparently more stiches in successive rows was a bad thing. Lynn sighed a lot and took our knitting, and got us back on track. We passed a happy half an hour knitting away. Only then she insisted on counting our stitches again. Now I had 46 and Hannah was up to 48. Oh dear. And there were these odd loops which I though had a certain decorative appeal. They were neither quite knitting or purling. Apparently Hannah and I had each managed to create a new stitch picking up hunks of the knitting with our loops creating odd little appendages. There was a rather avant garde feeling about these scarves to my eye. Lynn saw something else entirely if her sighs and worried brow were any indication. Then she told us she’d recently taught a mentally challenged and physically impaired woman at a local nursing home to knit. I wondered at her rather unique motivational aptitude. Something happened that caused a bunch of my er, ummm… knitting to come off the needle and I had to unravel fourteen rows. Then I learned to purl.

Lynn left this morning. Hannah sees purling as utterly irrelevant. I now have six rows of something or other that involves yarn and needles. I don’t quite get that romantic clacking sound of the wooden needles doing what they have done in women’s hands for hundreds of years. I get something more like,

“Shit, what the hell? Okay, okay, up around down and off. Oh shit! How do I get those back on again? Damn it I have 51 stitches here….Oh well, maybe I’ll make a blanket wider at one end for my butt. Oh damnit it to hell…..”

Are these the quiet murmurs of a contented woman? My husband asked me if this wasn’t supposed to be relaxing. I cannot print how I answered…..

Maybe there is a gene after all.


  • TheCynicalOptimist

    Wow, please invite me to vermont. I’m a great house guest, honest! You’re the one always telling me I need a little break!!! 😉

  • the mother of this lot

    Well, I was about to ask you to knit some squares for the hospital blanket, but…..

  • Mighty Morphin' Mama

    I totally believe that there is a knitting gene, and I did not receive it. I know, intellectually, how to knit. But I physically can not make a go of it. There is always a lot of cursing and throwing of needles. not pretty.
    but it is a lovely idea…

  • Tranny Head

    My favorite part is making it wider for your butt. That made me happy.

    It sounds like golf for men – they claim it’s relaxing, but yet they go out there and throw clubs and bellow and curse. I can’t do either one!

  • Kellan

    You are so funny! Knitting is not that hard, but it does take some practice and patience. Fun post, E!

    Have a good Tuesday – see you – Kellan

  • Rebecca

    My grandmother has tried to teach me to knit. My mother in law has tried to teach me to knit. My best friend has refused to try to teach me to knit. And I have finally come to realize that with all these wonderful knitters in my life, there is absolutely no reason for me to keep beating this poor dead horse.

    There’s always latch hooking!

  • Angela

    Hehe! I have wasted a lot of money trying… I do love it, but wow–there MUST be a gene. (I didn’t get it either..LOL!) Have you read “The Friday Night Knitting Club”? It will make you want to knit more…

  • molls

    There is definitely a gene. I can’t do it either. All the college girls do it now and they look so cute and hip in their floppy hats, flip flops and knitting on the grass before the concert.
    I on the other hand get sweaty and mad which is not quite as attractive.
    Loved this essay

  • katiedid

    Give me a beer and a book.
    I am telling you e, you need more beer maybe a little bit of whiskey in that idyllic life you are working out up there

  • nellie

    It is pretty adorable that you and your daughter are trying together, if in a mutually imperfect way:)

  • library lady

    It will comfort you to know that in the hours that I was stranded in Albany, I lost control of my knitting and ended up with 40 stitches instead of 38. I don’t think it’s genetic—I think it’s infectious!

  • Jennifer

    It is possible we share some DNA. There is no way I will ever knit. Ever. Even if Lynn moved in with me, I’m afraid. But, hey, those quaint country stores need someone to buy already knit products, no?! 😉

  • painted maypole

    i had to knit for a show I was in, and afterward the director gifted me with the knitting needles I used. I’ve never touched them again. Maybe it’s because in the show I had to knit a GLOVE, and then each night I would tear out most of my work so I could do it again for the next show!

  • Bia

    Uhm . . . maybe you should stay away from knitting. (*wink, smile*)

  • Kate

    I can’t knit worth a darn. My mom makes socks on gauge one needles (very, very small) WHILE she watches tv. She doesn’t even have to concentrate. Me? It’s a lesson in frustration and disgust. I didn’t inherit her penchant for the handy crafts. I just read. And read. And read.

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