I learned to knit in CGIT at the age of 12. It was a difficult time in my life. Our family had just moved across the continent to British Columbia and all that was familiar was gone. My parents were deeply preoccupied, and I was a stranger in a strange land at school, distanced by the slang I used, by my fear and my tears. My mother breathed a sigh of relief when the Baptist Church down the road started a group for young girls my age.
I had gone to Sunday school in Ontario, dropped off by my parents in front of the Brantford Baptist Church at quarter of 10 where I went into the school building and sat, confused, while a picture of Jesus knocking on the door of my heart hung on the wall. At 11am I would go sit in church with my grandparents. Often I was hungry, not well dressed, and the pursing of my grandmother’s lips was the message that never got home to her son.
I did not understand fundamental Baptist religion, but I did love Christian Girls In Training. I had a uniform to wear; a white with navy trim cotton tunic that was mildly nautical, with a beanie to match. The sleeves were plain white, waiting for me to fill with badges of accomplishment. Cooking, cleaning, sewing, and knitting were among the badges I remember getting. There were badges of gardening and camping, outdoor activities, and I never seemed to be able to achieve those badges. I do remember learning how to knit. There was some discussion among the leaders on how best to teach me as I was left handed. I was desperately afraid they would come and tell me it was hopeless and I would never learn; I even went to them and said I would learn how to knit right handed. However, they shushed that plan and found a left-handed knitter to show me. Curiously enough, I knit right handed.
My needles were red plastic. I had green and yellow Phentex yarn, a bag of each colour, bright and promising. I loved the feel of it, modern acrylic, and marveled at the mystery of making slippers, laid out before me. I remember the church basement on Glenmore Drive in Kelowna. I remember the woman that taught me how to knit; I did not stray far from her in those first few lessons as she showed me how to cast on, and change colours, and carry the yarn across the back of the fabric. I was consumed with that first project; switching colours back and forth, ensuring the squares were of equal size and that each slipper was like the other. I produced checkerboard slippers that I had sewn together with a pink plastic needle, borrowed from the woman who taught me how to knit. She gave me that needle, I remember, and I guarded it with my life. The sense of accomplishment was palpable. The slippers eventually wore out; I remember my mum washing them and then I would sit down to darn the bottoms with the pink needle and leftover yarn. I don’t know if I ever made another pair for myself, or made some for my sister. I don’t even recall knitting again until I was pregnant with my first child at 22. But I do remember learning to knit.