Six months ago, Ik asked if I could teach her to knit.
“I’m sorry, babe,” I apologized. “I’d like to, but I don’t know how.”
I can cross-stitch and embroider on Aida, linen, and other materials; quilt at the intermediate level (drafting, rotary-cutting, machine- and hand-piecing, applique, setting, machine- and hand-quilting, binding, the works); and do paper crafts – collage, decoupage, origami.
But mastering the art of twisting and winding yarn with long sticks or short hooks has eluded me. I can crochet a chain, but that’s it for that. Knitting I never learned. So when I recently re-connected with Mona, a friend from college and fellow University of the Philippines Journalism Club and Fountain Pen Network Philippines member, I was intrigued to learn that she’s a knitter, and asked her where in Manila one could buy supplies.
Mona told me about Dreams in Glorietta 2 (Quad side), Ayala Center, Makati. “Look for the owner, Mrs. Lilli de Leon,” she urged. “She gives lessons, too.”
I knew about Dreams and used to buy cross-stitch patterns and embroidery floss there years ago. I didn’t know they carry other things now. I took Alex with me there last Friday, and was glad to see that they have nearly everything one might need by way of needlework supplies.
For Ik’s Christmas present, we decided to get her a complete beginner’s kit. Upon Ms. Lilli’s recommendation, I bought a pair of 4mm Lion brand knitting needles in lavender plastic; two balls of lightweight Red Heart yarn, one in pastel stripes and the other plain pink; and a book, “I Can’t Believe I’m Knitting” (Leisure Arts).
When Alex and I got home, I wrapped the presents. Ik’s suspense was torture – for me. She kept asking questions and we kept giving her clues, until we decided to let her open the kit. She was excited. The next day, we went back to Dreams for Ik’s first knitting lesson.
Dreams is indeed a “shop of dreams” for needleworkers. Knitting needles hang from the wall, along with scissors, rulers, other supplies. Bins against the wall are stuffed with yarn – acrylic, wool, silk-tweed blend, mohair. Shelves and racks hold crochet thread, hooks, patterns, books, thread, needles, bag clasps, and other interesting things.
Embroidery floss in many colors reminds me of the stash of thread I amassed as a cross-stitcher. I resolve to bring them out of boxes, check if the tapestry needles are still bright and shiny, the tiny steel-and-goldplated crane scissors sharp. Now where is the alphabet cross-stitch sampler I began eight years ago? It was my first attempt to embroider on linen; I had even added my own embellishments with Kreinik gold metallic and pearl thread.
My excuse for not finishing that piece back then was, “Life got in the way.” But as I’ve come to realize, hobbies and other creative activities are life.
As Ik and Ms. Lilli go through their knitting lesson, I read a beginner’s book on crocheting and study the diagrams for the single-crochet stitch. I weave the hook in and out the loops of variegated yarn, coaxing stitches into straight rows.
The swatch grows; if I keep at it, I’ll soon have enough for a bookmark.
I stuff Ik’s knitting bag with yarn in rainbow shades. But I admit, it’s more for my pleasure than hers. Color makes me happy. That’s why I collect floss, fabric, and fountain pen ink in as many hues as I can.
Yarn is new to me. I wish I had been introduced to it sooner. It’s soft and warm, and if you squeeze a hank it springs back into shape, like a heart that keeps on loving and forgiving no matter how many times it’s broken.
With cold and impersonal technology so much a part of daily life, people are reacting – perhaps subconsciously – by turning towards crafts and other hobbies with tactile aspects. Knitting, quilting, and cross-stitch are now billion-dollar industries, a trend that began in the 1980s. John Naisbitt’s concept of the dichotomy of “high-tech/high touch” in his 1982 bestseller Megatrends first pointed this out.
He develops this idea further in his 1999 work High Tech, High Touch: Technology and Our Search for Meaning. Many of us, he says, live in a “technologically intoxicated zone” where we are drowning in stimuli from TV, cellphones, the Internet. Struggling to be free of it, people turn to religion, self-help books, Prozac, hobbies. Naisbitt’s solution is simple. Switch off your electronic devices, and spend time with friends and family.
Our “real life”, awash in technology, professional concerns, and other pursuits, is no excuse to put off or set aside the simple pleasures that can lift your spirits and bring you even a few moments’ comfort. This is real life, the only one we have. Once you understand that you don’t need to wait for happiness to come to you, rather it is wherever you find it, then you’ve discovered the secret for a wonderful life.
Ik starts another swatch of knitting, to show Ms. Lilli her progress at her next lesson. Using the English method, which suits her southpaw orientation, she winds pumpkin orange yarn around the needles, casting on stitches. I take up my crochet hook again; my bookmark will be finished soon.