Thursday, 06 December 2012


Knitting? No thanks, said bestselling author Jane Green. Then, one fateful day, her mother-in-law handed her a pair of needles – and 17 scarves later, she is now an addict

There are certain hobbies I once vowed I would never take up; they were for old people only and I would never be that old, nor that uncool. Chief among them were gardening, golf and knitting.

Suffice to say, I am now an avid gardener. I pride myself on being able to wander round the garden and recite the Latin names of the plants. My favourite compliment of the last year was when my landscaper friend looked at the espaliered apples, not knowing it was my work, and announced they had been ‘thoughtfully pruned’.

But I would never, ever consider golf. Or knitting. Until last year, when my mother-in-law nonchalantly offered to teach me. By the end of the evening, I was several rows into my very first scarf.

I am known for having such tremendous amounts of energy, I very rarely sit down. How can I, when there is food to be cooked, dishes to be cleaned, rooms to be tidied. Knitting made me sit down. I could take part in conversations, listen to television shows, even sit in a car (passenger seat only), and knit away to my heart’s content.

I once took the overnight flight from New York to London and spent the entire six hours knitting and watching movies. It was heaven. I was smitten. The local wool shop became my refuge, filled with smiling women, perched on sofas, sitting round tables, all clicking needles and gossiping quietly, the occasional roar of laughter piercing the air. Delicious balls of wool line the shelves, like a woollen womb-like wonderland.

But I am discovering there are some fundamental problems with knitting. The first is that you need patience and I, as my husband will attest, have the patience of a fruit fly. The simplest of scarves requires time, but, by the time I reach halfway, I’m already bored.

At the last count, I had 17 half-finished scarves, dropped in baskets all over the house. My first scarf, the one started with my mother-in-law’s help, was particularly lovely. Or would have been, had there not been dropped stitches all over it. My mother didn’t mind the dropped stitches; she claimed to think it the most beautiful scarf she’d ever seen. So I gave it to her for Christmas. I am a little nervous about progressing from scarves to something more ambitious.

I have found myself looking at patterns for chunky Aran sweaters and it may as well have been written in Double Dutch. I don’t understand the little boxes and lines. They all look like guitar chords to me and I was never very good at reading those either. I have many skills, but reading knitting patterns, it seems, is not one of them. I’m also not very good at remembering to use the markers. Nor at counting stitches, nor all the things you need to do to progress from scarves to anything more elaborate.

Things started becoming a little embarrassing. Every time someone exclaimed with pleasure at my quickmoving hands, I knew the dreaded question was on its way: what are you knitting?

I only ever had one answer. Scarf.

Two weeks ago I decided it was high time I extended my horizons. I have a beautiful poncho that I decided to copy, in a different colour. The lovely lady in the knitting shop showed me the stitch she thought it was, then advised me to flick through the pattern book to find one, supplementing my stitch – K2, *K1, YO, PSSO* repeat almost to end, finish with K2 – for the one in the pattern.

Pattern? For a poncho? Was she mad? Yes, yes, I smiled, waiting until she went into the back room before darting out, patternless. How hard can it be? I thought. I have spent the best part of the last two weeks knitting, yarn over-ing and passing slip-stitch over-ing. I have been knitting in the morning, afternoon and in bed. I wake up in the morning and my dreams have been filled with skeins of wool.

I knitted until my eyes were double-crossed, excitedly finishing it by sewing up the sides and half the top, careful to leave enough room for my head to push through. It was stunning; exactly what I had hoped for. I pulled it over my head and froze. There was a problem…

I couldn’t move my arms.

The poncho was perfect, as long as I was going for the straitjacket look. Failing that, it needed at least another six inches. I didn’t have another six inches. I didn’t have the wherewithal, the patience, or the inclination to ever see that darn poncho, the bane of my life for the last two weeks, again.

My friend Twig came over. I used to call her The Chestnut because she is always very brown, even in deepest, darkest winter, but she is also scarily skinny, so now she is just Twig. ‘Twig,’ I said, digging into a basket. ‘I made something for you.’ I handed her the poncho, she slipped it over her head, where it wrapped around in the deliciously enveloping way it was supposed to wrap around me.

‘I love it!’ she exclaimed. ‘You’re the best friend ever!’

I’d like to tell you I’m starting another one, this time for me, but my poncho days are now over. This morning, browsing through my patterns, I saw a very nice shawl. Surely a shawl won’t take that long? Although the golf course across the street from me is starting to look suspiciously inviting…

Jane Green’s latest book, The Patchwork Marriage, is published by Penguin, priced £7.99.

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