Stitching a sisterhood

My nana taught me how to knit when I was 11.

She's been a fibre artist for most of her life. She made wall hangings for every occasion, quilts for charity and baby blankets for my cousins, my siblings and me.

She taught me how to crochet and knit in the same sitting, and being honest, I didn’t get either right away. Working with my hands in that way was unnatural to me. I got less cramps in my wrist while knitting, so I preferred it to crochet; but even then, I wasn't very good. It took me about five years until I was able to actually complete my first project — a pair of neon blue leg warmers for an '80s costume.

After that, knitting became part of my everyday life. The clack of needles, the feel of a finished pattern, the flow of working with my hands — it continues to be a peaceful process for me.

When I was 17, my nana gave me a mega-set of aluminum knitting needles. I keep them in Vancouver because they remind me of home.

Because of that, I knit every night. I'm making a blanket on those same needles for my sister (who also learned fibre arts from our nana). I take an hour before bedtime to sit with my needles and yarn. When I do, I feel more connected to home.

I've never been in a knitting club or sat around a room with other fibre artists, but that's because most are closer to being senior citizens than my own age. I find fibre arts, knitting in particular, to be a dying art. When I tell people I knit, I usually get the same response: I wish I knew how to do that.

That cements that I'm in a sisterhood of sorts — albeit dispersed in space, I’m connected to others who share this knowledge that many others don't hold. Especially in an era of excessive screen time and societal standards of perfection, I appreciate that I have something resistant to that. Although I’m a part of society, I’m also a part of a practice that defies those norms.

It also shows me how social knitting can be. I see more knitting influencers on my Instagram feed every day. The blanket pattern I'm using is from a knitting magazine (and although books are individually consumed, I’d argue they are social agents). I've made washcloths for each of my friends that move out of their parents’ house as gifts, and we chat for an hour about changing phases in our lives and how we'll keep in touch.

I knit English-style (meaning I hold the yarn in my right hand) because that's how I was taught. I could easily look up a YouTube video to learn continental-style (where you hold the yarn in the left hand) which is usually considered “better,” but I won't, because I think there is something special about having a history around how certain tasks are done.

It's called English-style because it's popular in England, which is where my nana's family is from — where her family learned to knit, where her cousins sat around a circle knitting the same way that I now do alone in my dorm room.

Nowadays, there are looms and machines and ways to knit better and faster, but I will choose to do it by hand because it's part of the cultural practice I know. While my final projects sometimes show dropped stitches or split yarn, these imperfections remind me that I'm still learning. To me, every finished product is a reminder that there is more to the garment than the garment itself — there is a practice of knitting and fibre arts that not only went into the piece, but will also live on through it.

And even though I've never worn those neon blue leg warmers since, I don't think I'll ever get rid of them.