Mid February means mellow winter sunshine and a definite climb in temperatures. The night sky has wisps of warmth flying through the chilly frost, the sunrise has spectacular orange and pink hues highlighting scurrying clouds, and on the forest floor, yellow flowers emerge from shy weeds. Acacia trees burst into acidic yellow flowers, and the yellow jasmine pours its sunshine flowers over walls and parapets.
Mid February also means taking stock of one’s woollens– washing and cleaning the pullovers which have been kept me warm and comfortable, pulling out the lighter woollens which have hardly been worn in the past two months and doing a little bit of loving repair and care.
Every year, with a few episodes of ripping and remaking, I have been knitting one pullover for myself. Each one of them has been a long labour of love and learning. I have learnt FairIsle techniques, knitting top down, seamless knitting and buying online patterns and messing them up. Correct measurements, the philosophy of ease and the debate about swatching–I have meandered through their swamps and ended up parting with some of the nicest sweaters which looked much better on other happy folks..Its a good way to live!
Today morning, I spread out my five pullovers and got down to checking them for signs of wear and tear and for pilling. All of them had been washed with care and were gleaming gently on the bed. As I touched and folded my sweaters, each one of them shared their story of emerging from my knitting needles. That point where the grafting was a little tortuous, the neckline which was wider than the prototype, the crafty hemline with one row of purl stitches…. It felt like spending time with old friends.
When I wear these sweaters and the fabric slides into body contours which have become a part of them, there is this feeling of having come home. The knitted pullover knows exactly where it will be stretched, where it will lie gently and where it will be standing on its stitches. Its a feeling of comfort and ease which is something else altogether. Add to that, the recurrent thrill of remembering that my two hands and my muddled brain have crafted this pullover from hanks of yarn, and you will empathise with that wide smile which emerges from the top of the neckline.
I am not the only knitter who feels this way about her hand-knits. My cousin married into this huge family where 3 brothers lived with their families…3 hulks of men, 3 rapidly growing boys, 2 tom-boyish girls and 3 fashionista wives. My cousin and her co-sisters knitted non stop. They churned out cables and stripes and fair-isles and school sweaters and coats and caps and socks and everything else in-between. She tells me stories of her knitting through the night to give her brother in law a new pullover to take on his Europe trip, or of wool being bought as part of the winter traditions–the same shop in Connaught Place, the same knitting needles, the same knitting patterns from Woman’s Weekly. Decades later, when I see one of her sweaters adorning my niece, my cousin gets this distant look in her eyes and tells me the story behind that sweater.
Its going to be the same with me…no, its already the same situation now. I can never wear a sweater and not give its past a few seconds of fond reminiscing.
Its like taking a slice of my life-story with me into the cold morning walk , the evening tea at the golf course, or to a leisurely lunch with friends.
Its like finding a bit of me in every knitted stitch, like displaying a little bit of the gifts which have been bestowed on me by my genes and my Divine Provider.
Its like wrapping a fine cloak of self confidence around me on dull, despondent days. I can then knit my way through the darkest forests of doubt and despair and emerge on the other side, with pride and a completed hand knit sweater!