When I was 14, my mom’s friend, an older auntie*, sat me on a chair in her living room and taught me how to knit. I don’t remember if I had requested to learn or if she had decided it was a necessary skill for young girl like me.
Either way, I found myself on a Saturday afternoon, trying with little luck to pick up some dropped stitches. All the while auntie reclined on her loveseat and chatted about her nephew.
“I knitted him a hat,” she declared proudly. “He’s so busy with work and things, but when I knit him something he always calls. He’s a good boy.”
Auntie went on to describe the hat she had knitted in great detail: it was made with pure virgin wool, mail-ordered from a shop in New England or maybe Virginia. One of those east coast states. Either way, it was sent from a woman who knew absolutely everything about wool. Poor thing. Her husband had just passed away, did I know? Virgin wool is much better than non-virgin wool, by the way. Was I taking notes? This was important to know.
I nodded vaguely and knitted as she talked, making the appropriate noises: “Uh-huh, that’s interesting” “Oh, really” “Mmm-hmm.”
At some point, auntie realized that I wasn’t paying attention. This did not please her. She set down her knitting and frowned, surveying me from her recliner.
“You are very young,” she said. Auntie was an authoritative, matriarchal type with small glasses that she squinted through. When she squinted at you, you wilted a little.
She walked over to my chair and put her hands over my knitting. “When you are older,” she said, squinting down at me, “You will understand what it means when someone knits something for you.”
Here she paused while I stared up at her, saucer-eyed. “It means that they love you.”
Auntie thrust the needles back into my hands and showed me the places in my knitting where I had pulled too tightly. “This is not good,” she said. “This does not say I love you.”
Over a decade later, I still remember this auntie. If you’ve ever wrapped yourself up in a hand-knit scarf or a hat or – lucky you! – a sweater, you’ll understand the complete truth of auntie’s statement.
“When someone knits something for you, it means they love you.” Tweet this
All those knits and purls hand-pulled with a needle, hours scouring your local yarn shop for that perfect yarn, not the mention the search for the perfect pattern. All this work to make a wondrous little thing… for you! To keep you warm and protected. If that’s not an expression of love, then I don’t know what is.
If you’re a knitter, I’d love to know your knitting origin story. Who taught you? And why? Did you have your own version of a stern auntie?
* The “auntie” in this real life story isn’t actually my aunt. In Asian culture, we youngsters call older men and women “Uncle” and “Auntie” as a sign of respect regardless of blood relation. So, there’s your fun fact of the day!