"Promise me you will never teach anyone to knit" said Gina one day.
"Er, okay," I replied, "but why?"
"Because you are doing it backwards."
I'm a semi-autodidact knitter. This means that when I was very young my mother taught me how to knit and later in life I taught myself. The memories are vague and blurry but I distinctly remember sitting next to my mum on the old brown sofa with a pair of small needles in hand, trying to knit. I also remember the little French knitting doll.
I think I must have gotten frustrated or bored, especially with the knitting doll. I churned out lengths of multi-coloured cords wanting to know how to turn them into something usable, like a scarf or socks. I distinctly remember wanting to make my own pair of socks but not understanding how this long, thin piece of fabric would ever become anything other than a really long, thin piece of fabric. So I quit.
Later when this blog and shop here started, a paternal family member saw it, got in touch and said my Nan would be so proud as she was a knitter. I don't remember, I was really young when she died and I can just about remember her face. She could have taught me to knit too, who knows? But there, in the back of my mind, was some knowledge about knitting.
Clearly not enough though. I found myself out of university, redundant from my first ever grown-up job and stressed about finding another. I took this anxiety and turned it into learning - or re-learning - to knit. I found a drawn out tutorial online; this was the early 2000s there wasn't even Ravelry. I followed the instructions as best I could and made a lot of dropped stitched, arcylic, curly scarves for everyone I knew. Whether they wanted one or not.
I found cheap wool on ebay and put my restless hands to work between job applications. I carried on in this fashion until I invested in a few patterns. It didn't matter to me that the patterns didn't really make too much sense, I just matched what my hands did to the pictures. As long as the finished object looked mostly like the picture, it was fine for me.
This went on for 5 years when Gina spotted me knitting something for the forthcoming first child. It was then she pointed out that everything I was doing, everything I had learned, was completely and utterly wrong. Suddenly the fact that pattern instructions tended to be ignored in favour of fudging it became understood. I was knitting backwards.
You see back when I read the instructions online all those years ago, I didn't read anything about passing the needle from the right hand back to the left. Instead I knit back from the right hand to the left, and again the left to the right. And so on. Unsure how I'd managed to follow patterns in my own way, I had to teach myself to knit. Again.
I'm quite amused by my own style of knitting but perhaps it is a style best kept to myself. Gina still tells me my knitting technique is a little 'wrong' but not quite so back-to-front. It was only when listening to Karie Westermann talk about how much she gets out of workshops that I started to think about how my unique knitting style might be holding me back.
I don't think I would be quite so confident to ever teach unless I truly mastered continental-style (a skill I am determined to learn this 2017), but like all knitting tales, my style carries with it a part of my history and is something that I treasure.
But this is not a cautionary tale about ensuring your knitting teacher can actually knit; no this is an example of how knitting can be adapted for everyone. That really, when it comes down to basics, we are manipulating thread to create fabric and as long as that fabric is right for the wearer, does it matter so much if the journey to get there was a little offbeat?
Skills within any craft comes with time and practice but that with anything in life, there is always more to learn and plenty to learn from others. So, this is why I've made my knitting confession that I used to knit backwards. I am learning every day about this skill, crochet (that's a whole other story) and all the other hand-crafts out there.
It is perhaps a little too early to start talking about new year plans but for me, I hope to learn quite a few new skills next year and challenge myself. I want to step out of my craft-comfort zone and experience more aspects of fibre work and textiles. If you want to join me, I'll be writing about my progress here and talking about it on a series of podcasts.
Otherwise, please let me know if you've mastered the fine art of backwards knitting.