Rubbish at knitting? Join the club, says lifelong rubbish knitting enthusiast Lucy Sweet.
Despite being almost completely crap at it, knitting has followed me around my whole life. My first experience was with one of those depressing French knitting dolls that produce a long woolly turd from their bottom. But unlike a real turd, there was no satisfaction after it. You couldn’t even flush it away.
Soon afterwards my Mum taught me to knit with a large ball of 70s brown and orange random wool, and I was fascinated, frustrated, absorbed, relaxed and tense all at the same time. It felt like magic, even though what I produced was, again, a long woolly turd, albeit a rectangular one with more holes in it than a UKIP manifesto.
With lots of help from Mum I eventually managed to knit a teddy bear, which was presented at my Brownie Christmas Fayre. I later found out that Brown Owl had passed off the teddy bear as HER OWN WORK. I left the Brownies soon after – I had been betrayed. Knitting and dancing around a toadstool singing awful songs about sprites were dead to me. She didn’t even give me my knitting badge, the devious old bag.
Then, in my late 20s, I started knitting again: scarves, squares, and things that weren’t really square or scarves; just shit lumpy things. I found myself hooked because it was meditative and absorbing and there was the vaguely thrilling possibility of something going wrong. Like skydiving, really, except you’re completely safe and warm on a sofa in front of the telly with a glass of wine next to you.
I think I probably also started using it as occupational therapy. If your mind is a great churning cesspool of worry, couldashouldawouldas and rehearsed conversations that will never happen, as mine is, I thoroughly recommend it.
It’s the perfect antidote to anxiety. There is absolutely no way you can worry about global warming/cancer/whether that woman on the bus looked at you funny when you’re working in st st for 4 inches, K16 on RS, k/b of next st, sm, knitting to end of row and then working in rib for 2.5 inches. It just ain’t gonna happen. You’ll be too busy peering at that knitting pattern like an ancient sage, wondering whether BO means “Bind Off” or whether someone’s trying to tell you something.
Anyway, after many wonky squares, I got more adventurous. Meanwhile, people who were actually good at knitting started making stranger and wackier stuff. I got books for Christmas featuring knitted pints of Guinness and knitted sandwiches. Inspired, I made a woolly cigarette, some woolly sushi and…the pièce de résistance…a FRY-UP BAG from a pattern in the 1976 Jackie annual. Sexy or what?
Then, like a playful kitten with a ball of wool, along came Gabrielle Grillo, a French lady who collects photos of weird and psychologically disturbing knitting on her Tumblr, aptly called Fucked Up Knitting. Here, there were turds with faces, flattened frogs, tortoise hats, meat, skeletons, boobs, Bee Gees and a sock monkey with a massive wanger.
It was a visual treat for a woolly headed amateur knitter like me. So I jumped at the chance to write the captions for the WOOLARIOUS picture book based on the blog, called WTF Knits http://www.transworldbooks.co.uk/editions/wtf-knits/9780593074442
So now my personal knitting circle is complete. I’m still terrible at it, but who cares? It brings me great joy and I’ve got a knit-tastic book out there with my name on the front. So all I can say is…FUCK YOU, BROWN OWL.
WTF Knits by Gabrielle Grillo and Lucy Sweet is published by Transworld and is out now.
Lucy Sweet is a writer and incorrigible lard arse. Her nursery school teacher said she would never be a proper lady, and she was right.