There’s something about being cooped up inside for multiple solitary evenings that makes an enterprising millennial think to herself, You know what? I should really pick up a new hobby. Such is the fate that befell me in the early days of quarantine, and since everything is copy I thought it would be fun to pitch a story about it. As you’ll discover if you read the below account of my endeavor, the thought process of learning a hobby is oftentimes a lesson unto itself.*
*Sorry, ever since I started knitting a hat (sorry again, spoiler alert) my keyboard only speaks in “19th-century governess.”
What. The hellacious hippo. Was I thinking? When I pitched a story about trying to learn a new hobby during quarantine, did it not occur to my little lima-bean brain that this would involve actually learning one?? I must have been high on Austin’s leftover birthday cake, which I’ve been consuming at regular intervals over the past few days. The fact that I’m writing about cake right now instead of writing about my hypothetical cool new hobby is pretty much all you need to know about my progress on that front. The more I consider it, the more terrible the words “new” and “hobby” sound next to each other. Now is not the time for crafting. Now is the time for letting my anxiety about coronavirus and face-mask shortages and the economy and my relationship and the future and how many hours of sleep I got last night (four) consume me in one giant slurp, like a milkshake through a straw.
I decide my “new” “hobby” will be knitting. Which is kind of cheating, in the sense that it’s not a brand new hobby, but I never specified that to begin with! What’s so unethical about a gently used hobby anyways? Truth be told, I learned how to knit when I was in seventh grade, thanks to a math teacher named Mrs. McGatt who hosted a weekly knitting club (the first thing I made was a turquoise teddy bear with button eyes). In my defense, however, I haven’t knitted anything in over a decade and a half, and I legitimately forget everything I once knew about it. It feels like a nice compromise, to indulge in a new(ish) hobby that is simultaneously a vehicle for nostalgia, if I do say so myself. It also doesn’t hurt that I find some yarn in the perfect shade of #stickofbutter yellow. I ordered two balls of it plus some round knitting needles because making a hat seems like an easy place to start.
A haunting period in which I wait for the knitting stuff to arrive while simultaneously questioning whether my new hobby should have involved moving literally any other body part besides my hands.
I put my recently acquired materials on the kitchen table next to me while I check off other work-related tasks. I tell myself I’m going to start knitting during my lunch break, but instead I just make eye contact with the yarn between bites of salad. Ultimately this feels like an important first step in the hobby-learning process. Eventually I muster the courage to Google “how to cast on,” which is knitting speak for “how to put the first row of stitches onto a needle.” I pull up a YouTube video and I’m about to press play, yarn and needle in hand, when my fingers start to move intuitively, looping the yarn around and around until a neat row of stitches form. Muscle memory, I guess? I think about how muscles are kind of like books filled with stories, and I wonder how far back I’ll have to turn the pages after quarantine is over in order to remember habits that were once second-nature: hugging my friends. Shaking the hand of a stranger. Sitting on park benches. Grabbing subway poles. Stealing food off a dinner companion’s plate.
I thought I was making an adult-sized hat for Austin and me to share while we take long, brisk, daily strolls to get our blood pumping before hunkering down for work every day, but it turns out I didn’t cast on enough yarn so the hat is fully toddler-sized, and Austin and I have settled into the unbreakable routine of sleeping until the very last possible second every morning. Best laid plans of mice and quarantined men, etcetera. Knitting in general is coming along pretty smoothly, though I make a few mistakes here and there when I’m not paying attention. I accidentally purl a whole row of stitches instead of knitting them, so I pull all the fresh loops off the needle and undo them one by one. I repeat the same ritual when I absentmindedly knit the plastic loop of my round hat needles into the hat, which tangles everything up. I forgot how satisfying it is to be able to identify a problem and fix it immediately.
I feel like my toddler hat should basically be done by now, but I’ve only knit approximately two inches. I try to industriously plow through a few more rows while I heat up dinner in the oven. Knitting while simultaneously cooking dinner? I know. I am literally Betty Draper right now. I’m not sure whether to be amused or alarmed by this revelation. It’s possible both are the correct response. I should probably go ahead and have a few kids while I’m at it, just to complete the picture of stereotypical 1950s-era domestic bliss. Maybe one of them could wear the tiny hat.
The hat remains a zygote, but that’s okay, because the end goal for the purposes of my story pitch is knitting with no strings attached, including the string of completing whatever it is I’m knitting by the time I file copy. Knitting is soothing but a little boring. I only fully enjoy myself if I’m doing something else at the same time like, say, watching Tiger King, or talking to my mom on the phone. I realize this probably means I’m a “lost cause” when it comes to the art of slowing down, being present, all that jazz. I won’t be penning an essay on how Rediscovering the Joys of Knitting Made Me Finally Relax anytime soon, but I will definitely be spending the next ten minutes trying to figure out how to make the hat slope in at the top. I vaguely remember that I have to start knitting multiple stitches at once, or something like that (pros may cringe accordingly here).
Making an entire tiny hat sounds extra daunting today, but perhaps that’s because I haven’t had any time to knit in the last 24 hours. Nonetheless I am considering alternative options: a blanket for my computer mouse, a halo for Austin and me to trade off wearing every time one of us takes out the trash, or a garter for my left thigh. Please cast your vote in the comment section. If the consensus is “hat,” I’ll do my best to press onward.