In which I attempt to write about my life in stitches
The Teddy Bear Scarf
A common question many knitters/crocheters will encounter from other crafters is “what was your first project”? I’m sure we’ve all tried to answer that one at some point!
It’s certainly a question I’ve been asked many times and I have to admit that I have to think back incredibly hard to remember the answer. I really was very young when I started knitting, but lately it started to come back to me in bits and pieces…
It was early on in primary school. In our art classes that year we were doing various crafts, including projects with yarn, and one of the options that came up was knitting. It was a strange time to be at school I think, just in a kind of transition period between quite old-fashioned schooling and the kind of teaching that kids get these days.
I went to a church school and we had a very strict dress-code with a really complicated school uniform system. I remember that, in winter, we girls had to wear navy blue pinafore dresses, with a shirt and tie underneath, so I quickly knew how to tie a tie even at that age. We had navy blue v-neck jumpers (for my transatlantic friends that’s Britlish for a sweater) with a light blue trim around the neck. They were very pricey these things, so my Nan duly knitted the jumpers for both myself and my brother. I even had to wear a particular kind of winter coat, a dark navy long mackintosh, all topped off with a woollen navy beret, with a light blue tassel on top! That was the winter uniform.
Come the summer, at the time I remember the knitting project, we had an entirely different set of uniform, a school dress in a particular kind of gingham cotton in light blue and white. The dresses could be bought ready-made, but again these were expensive. So we bought the fabric for them and a “school-approved” sewing pattern and my dear grandfather (my Nan’s husband), who was exceptionally skilled at needlework of all kinds, sewed each and every one of my school dresses every summer, for the entire time I was at the school. The summer outfit was finished off with a navy blue blazer, with the school badge sewn onto the top pocket. The badge we had to buy from an incredibly old-fashioned “outfitters” down the road where every kind of badge, tie and other strange accessory appeared from rows and rows of little wooden drawers. The summer hat (yes summer also required a particular hat!) was even more showy, a straw boater, with a navy blue grosgrain ribbon at the base of the crown.
Anyway, that year I got to do my knitting at school. I was very lucky, my Nan had really already taught me the very basics of knitting. We would sit down together with our needles, and she’d show me again and again how to cast on stitches and knit them and let me get on with it. I’m very left-hand dominant, and for me what comes naturally is to knit left-handed, working the stitches off the right needle and creating new stitches onto the left. I didn’t realise it at the time, but now I’m several decades older and having heard many other people’s experiences and attitudes towards learning to knit, well I’m really so lucky I had my Nan to teach me. She never made anything of me knitting differently, never insisted I do things her way. She just let me do what was comfortable and natural for me, and was still able to teach me without even commenting on it or making it seem like I was doing anything out of the ordinary (which of course I’m not, it’s still just knitting). She would simply show me what she did and then patiently let me have a go and figure things out from myself, even though she was knitting the other way around to me. We would sit with our needles and wool and have a lot of fun with it. Mostly with us picking out her favourite bright red eye-popping colour to work with.
When it came to knitting at school, I found we were just making a few stitches, casting on and working rows and rows of knit stitches, to make a long strip. This made me happy; I knew I could do that! The teacher was showing those who didn’t already know how to knit and who wanted to learn what to do, while I just had fun pondering what colour to use. I remember that I picked out a really dark green. Perhaps as an antidote to what I would usually use when knitting with Nan. My little tiny strip of knitting grew slowly. It also changed width rather wildly, obtained a few decorative and unintentional holes (dark green makes it quite hard to see what is happening), and gained a decidedly ragged and uneven appearance at the edges. I was still learning and of course not particularly good at knitting yet. But I very much enjoyed it, sitting quietly in class, making rows and rows, with the sunshine peeking in through the classroom windows. It was a good summer.
At some point, after a few weeks, the knitting part of our art class was over and I very slowly and carefully cast off the strip of dark green (something else Nan had shown me how to do). Now I had to decide what to do with my completed project. I brought it home and proudly showed it to my mother, my father, and my big brother, and next time we were visiting with my grandparents I showed my Nan too. She admired it greatly….thought about it for a minute…and then said it would make a great scarf for a teddy. So that’s what it became! I really don’t remember which teddy got the honour of wearing it, my Nan’s house was full of teddies (she collected them as keenly as a squirrel collects nuts), but I think we found one just the right size to look handsome in the “scarf”. I’m really not sure he would have been too pleased with his raggedy neckwear, but perhaps he would have been just a little relieved to be wearing a slightly more subtle colour than usual!
Do you remember your very first knit or crochet project? Let me know in the comments