As a child, Granny knitted us woolly socks to keep our toes warm on those days when we squeezed the most mileage from even the scantest of snowfall to build snowmen, or indulge in those vicious snowball fights that always ended in tears. Our fingers quickly turned red, then blue from the damp cold seeping through our gloves, until frozen to the bone we ran inside, white faced and breathless, to jostle for the warmest spot by the fire.
My cousins too were mavens of the knitting world; no tangled wool and slipped stitches to hinder their progress, rather the steady click of the needles in precision harmony. Complex cardigans of every hue, adorned with cable, lacing, basket weave and all manner of intricate patterning flew from metal at lightning speed; leaves, cherries and delicate buttonholes appearing with seemingly magical ease under their skilful fingers. I was lost in admiration as I watched them chat and knit; following the most difficult of instructions with a confidence I could only hope to aspire to.
As an uncoordinated, clumsy child; knitting was not an obvious choice; but one day I spied a pattern for a jumper in my mother's magazine, that I just couldn't bear to live without. I had to learn to knit if only to possess such an item........ and so it began, the slow tortuous process; made more difficult by the complexities of awkward left-handedness.
But knit I did; battling through the dropped stitch, tangled wool stage, until I found a fluid rhythm that, although nowhere near the speed and dexterity of my cousins, sufficed to produce a good interpretation of the jumper I had so longed for. Confidence brimming, I took on further challenges, knitting mohair hoops of black and red to provide my brother with a 'Dennis the Menace' delight; and venturing into the pattern book of Norwegian sweaters knitted on circular needles.
As with all things, life moved on, and the knitting needles were put away in the sewing drawer to lie in the dark bereft of the coloured yarns that had twisted and turned around them. But just last week, I stumbled across a cornucopia of wool in a shop that just cried out to be bought; so I did, along with a new set of needles.
They say you never forget a skill once acquired, but knitting is a vicious mistress; and with the echo of chemo and tamoxifen befuddled synapses slowing me down, I found myself back at the tangled wool and dropped stitch frustration stage once more. I cast on, knitted, frowned, unravelled, recast, knitted, dropped stitches, unravelled, picked them up again...... then suddenly, quite by chance, touched upon the smooth rhythm I had first discovered all those years ago. The sheer elation of finishing a small square of cable and stocking stitch took me by surprise; a feat so insignificant marking another dropped stitch picked up, in a life unravelled.