Knit Training

A Bad Beginning for an Untrained Train Knitter

OK, yes, I’m a train knitter. I have, in fact, since Day One, carried my knitting all around with me. Yes, I’m almost always thinking about the current (or next) project, the architecture of the stitches, the feel of the wool, the play of colors, etc. Yes, I knit on the train, in meetings at my university, in design meetings for shows I’m directing, and at rehearsals, and with friends. Yes, I knit in Starbucks and in the park on the grass and lying on my back deck. With long train commutes from my home in Yokohama in to my university in Tokyo, the train is also a great place to knit. Did I mention that I always carry my knitting on the train? Well, I do.

So, Day One: that would have been about three years ago. Actually, I learned to knit when I was a kid from a great aunt with a hard line on kids with fidgety fingers. After that, Life then intervened, as it does, and I didn’t knit again until the aforementioned three years ago, when the stress of a family health crisis necessitated some outlet for my worry, mortal fear, and existential angst. I wanted something constructive, creative, connective, comforting . . . oh, yeah, knitting. I remembered knitting.  

Yarn . . . needles . . . OK, so I headed for craft complex Okadaya, a multi-story craft plaza in Shinjuku.  At that point my head unexpectedly exploded: so many choices! Fibre, needles, kits, and . . . other stuff . . .too much. Kits, what about a kit? Oh yeah, a kit would have a pattern and needles and the right amount of yarn. I found a kit, a rather pricy kit—all the kits were pricy, in fact, everything in Japan is pricy—one that featured a fetching florescent-green, blunt, large (US 9) plastic needle and its icy-clear, equally-blunt mate. Flash: myself, stitching away with my artfully mismatched needles in pubs, cafes, and galleries. Hardly glancing at the wool— a sort of camel-colored mini-roving wrapped in red, blue, and yellow cotton thread—I was dazzled by those dead-cool needles.  I got everything home and, eager to start stitching, cast on (yeah, I could manage the popular but wonky Backward Loop Cast On) to stitch . . . something. Maybe a scarf? Who cared! I slowly, laboriously, man-handled each loop until it broached the needle. Blunt as pipes, these needles looked deceptively jaunty but made for some hard, slow knitting. But, what did I know? Wasn’t this how it was supposed to be? I was just a beginner. I would learn. Who cared that it took forever to poke through one blessed row? Who cared that the strange hybrid yarn was scratchy and weird- looking (fleshy-beige, blood-red, viscera-blue, bile-yellow)? I was knitting!

A determined, long, two weeks later, I was still methodically, stubbornly, desperately stabbing at my pile of sweat-stained stitches. They were taking shape. I was making . . . something . . . and was getting very attached to whatever it would—I hoped— become. I carried my therapy/project with me everywhere. So, on that day, as I ran for the infamously-crowded-Tokyo-rush-hour-train, my knitting was there, perched at the top of my book tote. The train would be beyond-super-jam-packed (as usual when I left my home a bit late . . .) but I would at least be able to wedge my hand into the bag and pet the fiber. Not a bad compromise. (Actually, I knit mentally—“virtual knitting”?— in lots of cases where I just can’t or shouldn’t knit. Hey, admit it, you probably do, too . . .)

I was late and racing down the platform escalator. Train very crowded and about to leave. Train station staff people-pushers standing poised —po-faced and matter-of-fact—to press stragglers into the packed train and fold in purses and ties, arms and jackets, bottoms and bags as the doors close. I leapt for the opening and just inserted myself inside as the doors closed on my tote. Disaster! Horror! Bag upended. Knitting and needles, falling in slow motion twixt platform and train to the tracks between the wheels below.  The door shut.  Hog-nosed against on the glass, I painfully pivoted my glance downward. My knitting, moments away from becoming one with the track, already looked like roadkill, exactly like roadkill. In fact, it always had. My knitting . . . my therapy . . .  As the train began to slide forward, I mourned . . . and let it go. 

I was untrained but I would train. I vowed to learn, to develop skill and better taste and get better tools, and leave the house earlier. And, another day, I would carry my knitting—yarn with a better pedigree and destiny—on this very train, again!

Yes, I’m a train knitter. Trained and trainable.

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