Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Inspired to knit an Eyelet Sweater for Miss Strawberry Shortcake

I had first tried knitting when I was a child. All I remember is the cold needles against my small, warm hands. I hated the feeling. And holding two needles at the same time and actually slipping a stitch from one to the other was a really difficult task. So, I tried crocheting. Which seemed a lot easier - since there was only one hook as opposed to two giant needles. However, when my rectangular swatch turned into assymetrical, growing diagonally-at-the-ends mess! I threw my hands up and returned to play with my Barbie dolls, and decided that neither knitting nor crocheting were for me.

Flash forward several years ahead - and my interest in knitting was sparked again because of a fellow lab mate who would show up in these gorgeous sweaters and cardigans that she knit for herself. I was so impressed and inspired by her that I wanted to try it out.

She offered to help me and encouraged me to try something that excites and interests me - as opposed to a boring scarf or baby blanket. She brought some books in for me to look at, took me the yarn store and I was on my way to knitting my first project! I decided to knit an eyelet vest for muh man's niece - I will call her 'Miss Strawberry Shortcake' coz she looks and behaves like an absolute doll. (Coming from someone like me who isnt always too fond of or impressed by children, this is a quite a compliment).

I quickly realized that knitting is an expensive hobby. And this eyelet vest I had picked was neither an easy nor inexpensive project for a beginner. So, I was really taking the plunge here giving myself no room to dislike my fresh, new hobby. To top it all, muh man (who is usually very supportive) began mocking me for wanting to knit. He thought that I was too uncoordinated and would poke myself in the eye with the needles. So - in order to kill THREE birds with one stone - I decided to knit something for his darling, adorable niece - Miss strawberry shortcake. This way not only would he be obliged to be supportive of my new hobby, he would also have to admit he was wrong about my hand-eye coordination AND I could learn how to knit. Where else could I find a better deal than that?

So, I started working on the sweater vest end of November '09. I started from the bottom-up and the instructions say 'knit st st for 9 inches'. Firstly, deciphering patterns for a beginner is like trying to decode some special, top-secret language that perhaps only the Mayans were equipped to do. So, I misread the instructions and knit garter stitch instead of st st. Yikes! Oh well, I realized my silly mistake after about 6 inches of knitting. And I wasnt going to go back and redo the whole thing! I had limited time and was supposed to gift it to Miss Strawberry Shortcake when I visited muh man's family in Germany after xmas, in January.

Fortunately, I was visiting my parents in India over xmas. And my mom is an expert knitter. Her skills and stories about knitting deserve a blog of its own. She is super talented - so when she heard that I had taken up knitting - she was super excited to help me out with my first project. And lord knows I needed the help.

My plan of action was - I would do the front and back of the sweater - 9 inches in garter stitch and then stop before the eyelet row would start and the difficult shaping for the chest, arms and shoulders begin. Mommy would step in then.

So, I take my project on my 24 hour plane ride. As always I had the misfortune of sitting in a one of those 4 row seats - between two people. So, I tried to tune out all the unpleasantness associated with planes and flying and am knitting my garter stitch away to glory. Just when Im feeling pleased with myself - the lady next to me says, "It's pretty slow-going there huh?". I defend myself by saying Im a beginner but Im also a little taken-aback since in my little head I thought I was doing just great! Then she goes on to announce that she is a knitting teacher! And that she has been teaching knitting for over 20 years. Holy moly! what were the chances? I figured I could pick up some tips from her. So she goes on to showing me the "european" way of knitting - which is a lot more elegant, graceful and faster than my ghetto way of knitting. I had been warned by my crazy cat lady friend about this method - that although it is a lot faster - it can hurt the fingers quite a bit. I tried it and my word - it was killing my fingers!! I just wanted to go back to my ghetto way of knitting - but I didnt want to offend the knitting teacher so I tried to go along with it. After a couple difficult and tedious rows, I pretended to be tired and put my knitting away. When I noticed that she fell asleep, I brought my knitting out again and continued knitting in my ghetto style and felt quite pleased with my sneaky, yet polite plan.

When I arrived at home, my mom took over and helped me understand why we were increasing or decreasing at certain places and what I was looking at was ultimately going to be the collar or the arm hole etc. This tutorial really helped - I mean not only can my mom cook, teach physics, math and hindi literature, drive like a rockstar, stitch and knit things impeccably well - she can also do it in a way that's encouraging and nurturing. My supermom also fixed all those terrible dropped stitches that were staring rudely back at us. Phew! Finally, the project was over! Supermom added a lovely golden ribbon and blocked the piece, packed it and I was ready to present my first project to muh man's niece.

The eyelet vest fit Miss Strawberry Shortcake beautifully. Although it was more like a sweater dress than a sweater vest. I guess I should have curbed my enthusiasm while knitting those 9 inches of garter rows. Should have made it more like 6 inches but improvisation is every knitter's best friend. As I watched Miss strawberry shortcake walk away in my first creation, I felt a little tug on my heart. I wasnt ready to see my sweater walk away - not right now and not so fast! But I consoled myself with the idea that this will for sure not be my last knitting creation.


  1. so well written... u are amazingness! I did not know about the knitting teacher... so funny.

  2. Hahah - thanks! I thought maybe it was too long and I was just rambling. But then I figured it will be a fun way to remember my experiences - i know - the knitting teacher was actually really nice. but i was just so heart broken when she thought I was doing poorly by being so slow! oh well - to each his own. it doesnt matter how u hold the needles or how fast or slow you go - the end product is the same!! so there...