Ruth Bass: Knitting isn't just knit one, purl a couple
Five-year-old Hannah thinks grandmothers can fix anything, so she brings along the pink backpack that has a messed-up zipper, a hand-knit hat that mysteriously sprang a hole and a miniature china sugar bowl that she accidentally dropped.
When her cousin recently had a major role in "The Music Man," Hannah trotted up at intermission to display a bare knee. Her tights had popped during Act I. She was crestfallen when informed that repair was not possible. She blithely assumes that she can do about anything that anyone else is doing. So she has tried to play badminton with her older cousins and rolls a perfect chocolate crinkle cookie.
Balls of yarn delight her almost as much as they please me. One of the entertainments here is to get out the under-the-bed tubs and dump out all the yarn remnants, sort them out, wind up the loose ends and put them all back.
The activity includes requests for hats made with the blue, the red, the pink or the purple. Indeed, these leftovers are destined for new life as hats and scarves, some of them hers. So it was inevitable that this child who wants to try everything, often several things at once, would decide she had to learn to knit.
She was 4 at the time. When you are 6, I said. She waited a year and renewed her demand. We sat down to the task shortly after she turned 5.
My grandmother and mother taught me (and my brother) to knit when I was 8. Among us, we turned out dozens and dozens of six-inch squares that we took to school and contributed to blankets that were given to the Red Cross for World War II soldiers in hospitals.
The center of each had five red squares to make a cross, set off by four white squares, and the rest of the blocks could only be described as a motley collection. But five? I was dubious. It takes a lot of patience to teach knitting, and that's not my long suit.
But I did teach one of the other granddaughters, who proudly presented her finished scarf to her first grade teacher. And I remembered my high school friend who wanted to make argyle socks and whose mother couldn't stand or understand her difficulties, to the point where my mother had to take over the teaching.
It seemed the process for Hannah would have to be broken down into small parts, something funny that would keep her attention. So I gave her a chant: Stab (poke the needle into the next stitch), Circle (bring the yarn around), Hook (catch it) and Dump (move it off).
The words made her giggle, but she remembered them. Using needles nearly as large as telephone poles and thick rainbow yarn, we proceeded.
The visit ended, and the project has been under the desk in a jazzy knitting bag for some months now. But this week she'll turn six, and when she sees me knitting, she'll probably want to get at it again.
It's to be hoped. The creator of the brain teasers I enjoy on my Game Boy says knitting is good for your prefrontal cortex or something like that. With millions of stitches stabbed and dumped, mine must be in fine fettle.
It's also quite good for the soul - family members received fewer items this year because my pre-Christmas knitting blitz sent a small pile of things off to Hurricane Sandy victims after Pittsfield's wonderful yarn shop, Twin Hearts, provided a contact in New Jersey. The handwritten thank you was heartfelt and heartwarming.
And knitting is an excellent way to survive television. I treat it like radio, and my husband helps out when needed. Like saying, "She just took a gun out of her purse," when he knows I'm watching the needles, not the screen.