Heather's knitting

Knitting (Lockdown Day 90)

About six months ago, I decided to take up knitting.

Heather's knitting

It was January, a time for new beginnings and all that. I had just gone through a breakup — number six of seven (or thereabouts) in an endlessly on-again-off-again relationship. South Africa was experiencing regular bouts of loadshedding (planned rolling power outages). I was desperate for a hobby that: 1) doesn’t require electricity or internet; 2) keeps me off my phone; and 3) allows me to shut off my noisy brain.

I asked my friend Fiver, who is basically a professional knitter, if she would teach me. “Yes!” Fiver cried, clapping her hands with joy. Fiver loves teaching people things.

A few days later the two of us went to Arther Bales, the famous haberdasher in Linden, on a rainy Saturday morning. Despite the terrible weather, the shop was packed — Arthur Bales was having a huge sale and everything was 30% off. Fiver helped me choose a pair of needles and two balls of elegant, multi-colored yarn in shades of green and blue.

I remember standing shoulder-to-shoulder in line at the checkout, clutching my purchases excitedly, when the cashier coughed. The guy in front of me chuckled and said under his breath, “I hope it’s not coronavirus.” I chuckled with him. If only we’d known.

Fiver showed me how to hold the needles and wrap the yarn around my first and fourth fingers, looping the needle awkwardly under and over the yarn. It was hard. I’m easily frustrated when learning new things, and the going was slow. I made a mistake every time I reached the end of a row. On more than one occasion I drove downtown to Fiver’s art studio in the middle of the day, just so she could bail me out of a knitting emergency.

After a week or two, I had the messy but solid foundation for either a short scarf or a loose cowl. I knitted at home by candlelight during loadshedding, just as I’d planned, and in the evenings during my weekend trips away. Knitting calmed my mind, as I was hoping it would.

Pandemic Knitting

In March, COVID-19 arrived in South Africa. That joke I’d chuckled at in Arthur Bales back in January suddenly seemed a lot less funny. President Ramaphosa announced an impending travel ban, and Fiver and her husband had to leave the country unexpectedly before their visas expired.

I rushed over to their flat the night before they left, so Fiver could help me “cast off” my first ball of yarn and “cast on” to the second one. I didn’t want to be stuck without my knitting during lockdown.

I figured knitting would become one of my go-to pandemic activities. What better time to knit than a lockdown? But while I did find time to knit occasionally during those early pandemic weeks, it didn’t happen as often as I expected. Somehow I was too busy blogging, cooking, scrolling through social media, and whatsapping to knit. I couldn’t slow my brain down enough.

And now here we are, three months into lockdown. I’m still at home. Breakup number seven of seven (the last one — I’m certain of it) is in the bag. I’m feeling a lot more sadness and panic, especially when I contemplate the future.

I found myself on the couch earlier today, in pyjamas at 11:00 a.m., listening to Fiona Apple for the 100th time this month and crying while reading an article about global trauma. I looked around, almost desperately, for something to distract myself. My eyes fell upon the knitting bag.

Yes, I thought. It’s finally time. I knitted for the rest of the day.

knitting on a Basotho blanket

I’m almost through with the second ball of yarn. When I get close to the end, I’ll have a video call with Fiver so she can help me work out how to finish it off.

It took six months and it’s certainly not perfect. But soon, for the first time ever, I’ll have an article of clothing that I made myself. I have another ball of yarn waiting for the next project.

I knew knitting would save me again, eventually. Thanks Fiver.

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  • Reply Maarten June 24, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    Can i order?

    • Reply 2summers June 24, 2020 at 7:02 pm

      Hahaha! I don’t think I’m quite ready for that but I’ll definitely let you know 🙂

  • Reply Nancy June 24, 2020 at 7:15 pm

    Knitting in the garter stitch is very therapeutic. Sort of like meditation.

    • Reply 2summers June 24, 2020 at 7:19 pm

      I was also thinking that today.

  • Reply Charmain Lines June 24, 2020 at 7:37 pm

    If you need help, let me know. I’m not Fiver, but at least I’m in the same city as you and I love knitting too.

    • Reply 2summers June 24, 2020 at 7:38 pm

      Oh, thanks so much Charmain! Do you also go to Arthur Bales?

      • Reply Charmain Lines June 25, 2020 at 7:57 am

        I do! Love going there.

  • Reply Dibbs_ZA June 24, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    My father’s retirement hobby is furniture woodworking, so in boredom I have pitched in.
    I have found it an extremely satisfying alternative activity to sitting in front of a screen full of code, even though we sometimes disagree on the ‘vision’ we have for a particular piece.

    The smell of sanded and sawed wood is also quite nostalgic, and we spend way too much time in Leroy Merlin these days 😉

    Wish I could post a pic of my new office sleeper couch. Very proud of that.

    • Reply 2summers June 24, 2020 at 7:52 pm

      That sounds like a wonderful lockdown hobby!

  • Reply Catrina June 24, 2020 at 7:54 pm

    Well done, Heather! I was just wondering what would happen if you needed help, and there you are, Charmain to the rescue! 😊
    I’m surprised you were not taught knitting at school. We had to learn all kinds of handiwork stuff. And cooking. I’m not still very good at it! 😬

    • Reply 2summers June 24, 2020 at 8:01 pm

      Thanks. My school didn’t teach us useful things like that. Not even typing!

  • Reply Nancy McDaniel June 24, 2020 at 8:12 pm

    When I took “home ec” in school in the USA thousands of years ago, we sewed a frilly apron (!) and what, in the 1950s was called a “bikini scarf”..usually in madras. Very practical , right? The boys took “shop” class instead and I have no recollection of what they made – probably a wooden key holder for the wall. AIYEE

    • Reply 2summers June 24, 2020 at 8:16 pm

      A bikini scarf! Hahahaha. Love it.

  • Reply Brenda R June 24, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    This brings back dark memories of school in South Africa. The only thing the knitting class at Redhill School taught me was that I will never ever be desperate enough to try knitting again. They didn’t actually teach it because it was assumed that– of course!– our mothers knitted and I suppose most did, but not mine. The teacher called her in for a special conference because “Brenda isn’t getting on with her knitting”, apparently a serious matter. I can still see this knitted object in question in my mind’s eye… a pale blue, lumpy “vest” (undershirt to yanks) being made for poor children……poor WHITE children. Guess what year?

    • Reply 2summers June 24, 2020 at 9:27 pm

      Hahaha. You are not the first person to tell a story like this about being forced to knit in South African school! Seems it was a thing 🙂

  • Reply Caroline June 24, 2020 at 9:36 pm

    Wondering how Fiver directed you to the right wool at Arthur B’s. Am not a knitter but bought some yarn just before lockdown for my friend to knit me something – was totally knocked out by the choice. Then she when she found she was a ball short it took me 3 visits to actually get into the shop and buy it – the queues!!! During frigid weather in lockdown !!! Should take up knitting myself … it’s clearly very soothing. Not to mention productive ;). Enjoy your ‘article’ – it’s looking good!

    • Reply 2summers June 24, 2020 at 9:59 pm

      Hahaha. Yeah I guess knitting is kind of like bread-baking in that way.

  • Reply knotfancyknitter June 25, 2020 at 4:09 am

    I also started knitting in January and have completely fallen down the rabbit hole. Congrats on finishing your first thing!

    • Reply 2summers June 25, 2020 at 5:43 am

      Thank you! Not quite there yet but close.

  • Reply Jen June 25, 2020 at 7:12 am

    Whoohooo, and there’s your knitting! I love the holey bits. Knitting is a tale in itself. That’s why so many designers name their patterns, I think? Stay calm and knit on. 😀

    • Reply 2summers June 25, 2020 at 8:17 am

      Hahaha thank you. I’ll keep knitting on.

  • Reply Cynthia Ryan June 25, 2020 at 7:29 am

    Hi Heather, Chris Green told me about your blog and I’ve been reading with pleasure for about a month. I hadn’t commented yet and it felt a bit rude, and your knitting prompted me to say hi. My grandmother taught me to knit, she knitted all our jerseys growing up. She got samples from a German company Nomotta and we chose our colours. She received skeins of wool and we held them in our hands while she rolled them into balls. Now I go to Arthur Bales. These days I prefer to crochet. I live in Melville too.

    • Reply 2summers June 25, 2020 at 8:19 am

      Hi Cynthia, thanks for the comment! I’m so pleased to hear you’re enjoying the blog. Maybe I’ll see you soon at Arthur Bales 🙂

  • Reply Fiver June 25, 2020 at 9:06 pm

    You’re welcome 🙂

  • Reply Denika July 2, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    This was such a touching entry. Yarn and needles have saved me from all kinds of things. And now its definitely a MUST. I reside in the United States and things are definitely definitely scary. So I’m knitting and crocheting and now getting back to my blog to keep my mind at ease. So happy to stumble upon yours.. Looking forward to binge reading and commenting 🙏🏽 stay safe God bless.

    Oh and by the way… As much as it is soothing and relaxing.. It is also adddicting and you will dind yourself surrounded by a ton of beautiful balls of yarn haha. I told my hubby its the best addiction anyone could pick up!!

    • Reply 2summers July 2, 2020 at 2:22 pm

      Hi Denika, thank you so much for this lovely comment! I’m getting close to finishing this ball of yarn – update to come soon. Thinking of you and everyone back home in the US.

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