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Stitching in a New Language

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The hardest my hands have worked in the past three and a half years is washing baby bottles, noses and bottoms.

But a few months back, I found myself at a table with five other women, trying to make my fingers loop and twist yarn into something that resembles knitted fabric. When my sister-in-law, Dana, and I decided to take a knitting class, it seemed like a fun, quaint hobby. If celebrities like Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz could do it, so could we.

We squealed in joy when we first spotted the gorgeous knitted sweaters, hats and scarves on display as project examples in Knit Knack, a new knitting shop in Olde Town Arvada. We vowed to practice every day to get good enough to make one of those by Christmastime.

Then the first lesson began.

“Try not to hold the needles like pencils,” my teacher and shop owner, Gerri Bragdon, gently reminds me.

She’s already told me that, but my hands don’t seem to respond to the commands in my head. Learning to knit is like learning a new language, and I’m way past the age they say your mind soaks it up.But when we first stepped into the shop, I felt as though there had been a secret party going on among girlfriends, and I’d just been slipped an invitation. Close to two dozen women filled the small boutique, some gathered around a large round table in comfy chairs, chatting and stitching away. Others were browsing the cabinets of cubby holes filled with myriad types of yarn — ranging from inexpensive, machine-washable synthetics to pricey, delicate bamboo, alpaca and cashmere.

Bragdon even breaks from our lesson at a table in back to steam a cappuccino for a customer from her full coffee bar.

Who knew the knitting crowd was so hip? Who knew there was even a knitting crowd?

I love it.

I’m struck by all this creative energy, by young and old, by black, brown and white. And then I wonder what all of these modern women are doing here, in this 21st century quilting bee. It’s not that they’re all cold. For that, you could spend 10 minutes at Wal-Mart to buy a sweater made in China for just a few bucks.

Even if I’m still not a master yet, I know there’s magic in picking up two needles and string and crafting something beautiful to wear or wrap up with.

In our techno age, most people mainly use their fingers to type email on their computers or punch out text messages on their cell phones.

Knitting is a craft that takes time, and heart. I still cherish the bright pink-and-white striped crocheted afghan my Aunt Maxine made for me when I was a little girl. If my house caught fire, my afghan is one of the few possessions I would try to save. That blanket is a tangible reminder of my beloved aunt.

And so it goes with all the handmade items these women are making. These aren’t the things you just cast off to Goodwill. They are special.

Many in here say they learned to knit from the women in their families when they were young and they are now revisiting their pasts, a time when people used their hands to make useful things. Bread. Quilts. Socks.

These days, my fingers are starting to speak a different language, now that I’m four scarves and two Christmas stockings into it. My digits still do more mothering than knitting, but I’m looking forward to my first sweater, even if it won’t be finished by this Christmas.

Jennifer Starbuck is a freelance writer who lives in Centennial. She is a former Denver Post copy editor and page designer.

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  • comment avatar Amber December 8, 2007

    This post almost got me excited about knitting. But then I remembered I am domestically challenged and should just stick to buying things from the store. 🙂

  • comment avatar Eva December 8, 2007

    I took up knitting in college and have loved it ever since. It is almost therapeutic. Great post!

  • comment avatar Eva December 8, 2007

    P.S. I will have to checkout that store in Olde Town Arvada. It sounds really cool!

  • comment avatar Crunchy Domestic Goddess December 8, 2007

    the crunchy part of me think it’s so cool that knitting is hip now, but i still don’t know how to do it. i’ll have to see if there are any classes in my neck of the woods. maybe i can get some girlfriends together to check it out. 🙂


  • comment avatar imaginary sarah December 9, 2007

    Yay for knitting! I really need to get back into the knit/purl groove again since I had my baby.

  • comment avatar Gerri Bragdon December 11, 2007

    Great article, Jennifer (and not just because it mentions my humbe shop–but thanks for the advertising)! You captured the here and now and the grand past of knitting, especially the therapeutic nature of producing something lasting and beautiful. You proved to be a high-achiever, and I know that your first sweater will be beautiful. I’m looking forward to that class with you and Dana!

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