My Grandma was a connoisseur of knitting. She had three rules to her craft as a weaver.
First Law to Knitting: Start with a good ball of wool. The last thing you want is to wear an itchy scarf.
Next: Never ignore a dropped stitch. It will leave a hole in your scarf.
Finally: The Double P’s. Practise and Patience.
Let me cast you back a few stitches. It was the winter school holidays of my childhood. The endless rain had come to stomp on all my outdoor adventures. But there was one adventure my Grandma had planned for us.
“I have a surprise for you, Miss Em.”
Many people called me Em but only Grandma called me Miss Em. It made me feel special having this nickname that only my Grandma and I shared. It also made me feel smart, especially the Miss.
She handed me a brown paper bag and inside were three gifts. Pink knitting needles. A rainbow-coloured ball of wool. And a children’s book.
My Grandma had a passion for storytelling. She always volunteered to read me bedtime stories. She used to tell me how as a kid, she longed to have a full bookshelf like mine. Books were scarce growing up for her in rural Ireland. But the children of her county shared their few novels. Letting each child experience the magic of those stories. The magic of reading.
“Are you going to read me a story Grandma?” I asked. I was excited by the idea of spending the day with her. Practising my knitting while she read me a story.
“No, Miss Em,” she smiled. “We are going to read a story together.”
Determined for me to experience the magic of reading, my Grandma applied her first Law of Knitting. Like a good ball of wool, she enlisted the help of Roald Dahl’s classic tale The Witches. Everyone in my class had been talking about this book. The terrifying witches and their violet-coloured eyes. I didn’t want to spend the day reading but the illustrations of The Grand High Witch piqued my interest to open the first page. The Grand High Witch didn’t look that terrifying and I was curious to see what everyone was so scared of.
The Second Law of Knitting: Don’t continue without fixing your dropped stitch.
“You read a sentence Miss Em, and I’ll read a page,” my Grandma said as we sat down on the couch. She began to cast off the rainbow-coloured wool onto my new knitting needles.
The rain poured on outside as I stared at the first sentence. My eyes focused on two words I didn’t know how to pronounce. This was why I didn’t enjoy reading. Books were nothing more than a maze of black and white.
I looked up at my Grandma and made a silent request for her to tell me those two words. “Sound it out,” she encouraged.
I began stumbling my way through the first few sentences, sounding out the vowels as I read. My Grandma would drop stitches in her knitting when I stumbled. Her hands pulling back the row of wool to fix the dropped stitch.
When it was my turn to knit, I listened intently to my Grandma’s narration. She devoured the words on the page, reading at a fluent speed. To my surprise, she stumbled on a few words too. Her accent catching as she flicked between the voices of each character.
‘Even Grandma makes mistakes,’ I thought.
This felt like a revelation. My Grandma had fumbled her words and yet, she still enjoyed reading.
Finally, my Grandma’s last Law of Knitting. The Double P: Practise and Patience. You must give yourself grace as you practise something new. Allow yourself to become acquainted with the steps.
We continued in this dance of swapping knitting and reading. I graduated from reading a sentence, then a paragraph to finally, a whole page. I even began to play with different voices for the characters. There were words I still stumbled on here and there, yet it didn’t deter me like it had before. When we finally finished reading The Witches, my Grandma helped me bind off the scarf we had made together. It was the fourth gift and mine to keep.
Using her Laws of Knitting, My Grandma helped nurture my love of reading. You can’t expect to knit a scarf in one go. You’re going to be slow as your hands learn how to move and thread the wool. You’re going to have to backtrack if you drop a stitch.
It’s ironic that a child who detested reading would grow up to pursue a career as a creative writer. My Grandma helped weaved my love for reading that day. She also taught me that it’s ok to slip up and drop a stitch every now and then. Just like she did with her knitting.