A Knitting Anniversary

Fifty years ago I was working as a secretary in one of the major department stores in St. Louis. It was near Christmas so on my lunch hour, I visited the toy department. After all, I wasn’t that far beyond the age where toys were important to me.

In the toy department I found a small box with a knitting kit in it. The box stated it was a “teach yourself to knit” kit meant for 7 to 12 year olds. I figured I was as smart as any 7 to 12 year old; after all, I was 18. So I purchased the kit.

Sure enough, I managed to teach myself to knit. The project was a headband that went across the top of your head and tied under your chin. That was the fashion back then. This little project taught you how to cast on, how to do increases and decreases and how to cast off. I was well on my way.

It was also the style back then to wear plaid skirts with solid color sweaters. My sister, who was still in high school, had a lot of skirts and sweaters. But she had one skirt she didn’t have a matching sweater to wear with it. Mom made most of our clothes. She gave me a scrap of the fabric of that skirt and I set off to buy a matching sweater … but not a ready-to-wear sweater, one I would knit.

Back in those days, department stores had Art Needlework departments where they sold sweater kits, various types of embroidery, and other needlework. So on my lunch hour I visited with my fabric scrap. Sweater kits contained all the yarn you needed to knit a sweater plus the pattern. You had to buy the needles separately. I hunted through all the kits on offer and found only one that matched my fabric scrap. So I bought it and set about knitting it.

There was a woman in my department who knitted and she would help me if I got stuck. She gave me a wise piece of advice. “Don’t read ahead in your pattern; it will only confuse you. Read one line at a time and do what it says. Then read the next one and do it.” So that’s what I did.

About four months later my sister’s sweater was complete. Only then did the woman who was my mentor tell me I had bought the most difficult sweater kit the store had for sale. It had cables, a vee neck, a collar, and used a variety of stitches in the body of the cables between crosses. But I didn’t know it was difficult. I just did what she told me to do — read a line and knit it.

After that I was never afraid to attempt a knit project. If I wanted it, I was able to knit it. I’ve passed her advice on to other knitters.

So what have I knit in these 50 years? Skirts, jackets, a couple of dresses, baby sweaters/hats/booties, socks, sweaters, hats, purses, scarves, mittens, afghans — anything I wanted.

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2 Responses to A Knitting Anniversary

  1. Marie says:

    Charlotte, this is a most charming blog today,
    I remember when department stores had needlework departments.
    I just love the story about knitting your sister a sweater and also teaching yourself to knit from the kit.
    I enjoy knitting and am so thrilled to have discovered your blog today. Thank you/

  2. Susie says:

    Don’t read ahead–just read one line at a time and do it.
    Excellent advice at time for life in general, don’t you think? It is somewhat like the old “How do you eat an elephant? A bite at a time.” When I was taking piano lessons at a community college years ago, my instrutor was a marvelous classical pianist who was still giving concerts. He told me once to break down difficult passages into as small pieces as necesaary to master them–even if it was just one note a time.
    I think I just gave myself a pep talk.

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