On Knitting and Finding Magic

She asks me to knit her a pair of fingerless mitts.  A special request for Christmas.  I say, of course, and hope she’s forgotten about the request, hope it will be a surprise.  I knit a few rounds in the morning before she comes down; I knit a few rounds when she’s recording her Spanish homework; I knit a few rounds when she’s texting her friend in the other room.

Stolen moments.  Found moments.

Using a pattern I’ve used before (twice), this should be easy.  Her pair is my third pair.  Isn’t third time a charm?  But there’s no charming here.  Just slow progress.

This morning, I’m ready to close off the thumb hole and am cursing.  I’ve turned the needles as instructed and am trying to cast on three new stitches.  I have to look this up.  Though I love knitting, I don’t knit often and I forget how to do everything, save knit and purl.  So I look it up.  (As I said, slow progress).  I’m doing something wrong.  The stitches are too tight; I know it shouldn’t be this hard.  I’m nervous because if I screw this up (if I can’t bind off the thumb hole, if I drop stitches) I’ll have to pull everything out and begin again.  I imagine myself in tears.

Other than the cursing, it’s a lovely morning with twinkle lights and soft Christmas music and still-sleeping teens.  Eventually I figure out what I’m doing wrong.  I feel my shoulders release.  I might have smiled.  I stop cursing.

I have no idea how anyone designs knitting patterns.  Who figures out gussets and binding off thumb holes?  It’s more than a little amazing to me.

All that’s left now is a few rounds of straight knitting.  It looks good.  It looks like I know what I’m doing.

Except that I don’t.  I’m simply following someone’s excellent instructions.  I read each section of a pattern before knitting, and I feel blank.  Friends of mine can read a pattern and they nod their heads in understanding; they picture it clearly.  Not me.  I read it and think gobbledygook.

But I trust.  I make the stitches and hope and hope and hope it’ll turn out right.  And then there’s the moment when I reach a critical point in the project (say, closing off a thumb hole), and it’s like magic.  I think this every time.


It is magic to me that I just created a thumb hole.  Just like that.  Never mind the momentary anguish and the curse words.  Never mind the curious aspect that I claim to love knitting but sometimes struggle mightily.

Knitting does not come easily to me.  And yet.

And yet the magic finds me.  Or I find it.

And so I keep on.



always the love, m


Last chance to join us for the holiday edition of Just Five Things.  Click image below.  We start Monday, Dec 7.

22 thoughts on “On Knitting and Finding Magic

  1. This is how I feel every time I try a new knitting pattern or technique and it works–pure magic. And I’m usually kind of surprised, to be honest. :) I have a hard time picturing what a pattern is supposed to look like, but part of my job sometimes involves editing knitting patterns so I’ve been trying to get better at it. (There’s always a technical editor who goes over the pattern first, so it’s never my sole responsibility to make sure it’s correct, but I have to know enough to query it if something doesn’t seem right, even if I have no idea what it should be instead.) I have a lot of respect for pattern designers!

    1. yes! I’m always a little surprised too, which is kind of lovely…there’s joy in the experience for me :)
      and I already said something about this editing you do, down below…but, again, how interesting and fun that you edit knitting patterns…and try them out :)
      *much* respect for pattern designers…I have no idea how they imagine/design a pattern. It’s very mysterious to me ;)

      1. I kind of fell into editing craft books–a few years ago I emailed a publisher with some corrections for a book of theirs I’d just read, in case they wanted to correct them for any reprints or in the ebook (and it turned out I was just in time for the paperback edition!) and I asked them if they used freelancers. They asked for my resume, and I ended up getting on their roster of freelancers. That publisher has turned out to be my favorite client, mainly because I get such interesting projects from them. I’ve edited books on knitting and other fiber arts, flower arranging, paper crafts, Central Park, interior design, and more. It’s never boring, and I always learn something.

    1. you’re someone I think of when I think of experienced knitters! thanks for the reminder that every time I knit, that’s more experience under my belt. I’m gonna keep that in mind.

  2. Grace has basically said it all already, so I’ll go with “what she said” :-)
    I’ve recently dug out my knitting bag but am lacking ideas for a project. I was quite happy to see your post today and was wondering whether you’d share the pattern for these fingerless gloves. I bought a pair and was thinking it might be easy to knit a pair myself (although maybe not so easy as you described haha).
    Btw, a friend’s mother is what I call a “superknitter” and she detects mistakes in many written patterns, so it might not be our fault after all :-)

    1. hey, Kiki! I’d be happy to share the pattern I’m using. here it is:

      it’s a simple pattern; you honestly just follow the directions and the welts and thumb gussets magically appear! if you try this pattern, the instructions for the gusset increases were slightly confusing to me and I did puzzle over it myself (but figured out)…if you get confused at that part, feel free to send me a note and I might be able to explain it in a different way. otherwise, it’s straightforward and makes lovely fingerless gloves.

      and good to know that last part. thanks for sharing that!

    2. I hope your friend’s mom sends the errors she notices to the pattern designer or publisher so they can publish errata! I sometimes copyedit knitting patterns, and I can say that while everyone involved makes every effort to get it right, sometimes the mistakes slip through, and we appreciate knowing about them so we can fix them!

  3. Michelle, I found myself nodding yes over and over again as I read this. I so badly want to be a proficient knitter, to read a pattern and know exactly what they are talking about, but the skill eludes me. And yet…every so often I succeed in creating something and feel this wonderful sense of accomplishment and, yes, magic. : ) What a beautiful scene you have written here, I feel as if I am looking through a window. xo

    1. yes, with you on this Grace! such a sense of accomplishment! (I’m probably far too proud of the thumb gussets ;)

      and thank you for that last bit. that’s lovely. xo

  4. Life has been so busy with COVID. It has sped up, not slowed down, things for me because of my work with families and isolation and virtual learning and 16-20 hour days and all of it. So I haven’t commented in forever, didn’t do your wonderful gratefulness week or 5 small things or make lists or anything . BUT I do read everything that comes through your feed and, like today, you inspire hope, respite , comraderie and like today, a warm glow of magic through your fingers, the knitting, the writing it down (or up). Mahalo Michelle GD, one of my 23 Michelles, for sharing your gifts so steadfastly. I value you. I’m searching for a title for a poem I wrote I’d like to send you. Much aloha from the islands, Jamie

    1. I’m glad to know you’re reading and following along, Jamie. thank you for telling me, and thank you for your very kind words.

      your life sounds very, very full right now. I hope respite comes your way soon.
      (and a poem you wrote? I will love to read it.) aloha. xo

  5. oh, oh! how good it is to hear that i am not the only one! i love to knit. but i’m a super slow knitter and only know the basic knit/purl stitches. i’ve been working on a sweater for myself for two (maybe three) years. i keep messing up and getting so frustrated. i’ll remember this and keep on trying to enjoy the magic of it.
    love, kisses & magical wishes…

    1. ohmygoodness not alone!!!! we are kindred slow knitters :)
      it seems funny to love it and not have it come more easily…but therein lies some of the magic, I suppose. happy knitting on that sweater…I love that you haven’t given up yet. I hate to mess up and start again, but it’s kinda awesome that you can pull stitches out just to knit them back in. xo

  6. I haven’t knit anything for a few years now, but like you, I am amazed EVERY SINGLE TIME that wrapping yarn around sticks makes anything at all. it’s definitely magic!

  7. Ah Michelle, you are a brave soldier! I have knitted once in my life, a 13 foot multicoloured scarf à la Dr.Who TV programme. Never touched it since! I am sure the gloves will be awesome, full of love, and magic.

    1. you make me laugh! at least you tried it and know it’s not for you ;) (also, 13 feet?! that’s a mighty scarf!)
      and I hope the love and magic I’m feeling are appropriately woven into these mitts. I think it’ll be so.


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