Posted by: cassymuronaka | October 20, 2011

The old girls who knit

Some months ago I began attending a Friday-morning group of women that knits, crochets, and makes fun of men.  This group is listed as a “class” at the senior center, and while it has a very fine teacher, half of these women stopped needing instruction in knitting or crochet about half a century ago. They are there to socialize and help the newly yarn-challenged.

I joined the class partly to head off the loneliness I feared might wash over me when my son transferred up north to college, and partly just to get my ass out of the house occasionally. I noticed that after my son left home that my conversations with my dogs became more extended and complex.

This is the second time I have shown up with shown up at the senior center with with yarn  and an uncertain smile on my face. A little less than four years ago, I became obsessed with making a felted baguette purse. I can trace this spontaneous but intense desire to viewing an episode of “Sex in the City.”

Once I completed the bag, I realized that I had gone temporarily insane.  I have never in my life carried a purse with handles — I’m a committed strap-over-the shoulder girl — and how I would ever incorporate such a purse shape into my casually ratty wardrobe continues to be one of life’s great mysteries.

The baguette remains unlined, without handles, and minus a zipper.  After I knit and felted it, I disappeared from the class at the senior center and dropped the idea of any further knitting projects for the next 3 1/2 years.

I do not have mad knitting skills.  I learned how to knit over a period of several days at age 9, when my paternal grandmother came to visit her nomadic son, his wife and their children, then residing in Illinois. My grandmother lived in Los Angeles, near her daughter’s children. The only person who knew her well was my father.

My grandmother was supposed to celebrate Christmas with my sister, brother and me,  but left in less than a week, because, as my mother later told me, she “missed” her California grandchildren more. Nice.

I don’t remember what fantastic lie my parents told their bewildered children, but this one event gives you just the barest hint of why my grandmother and mother never got along.

At any rate, no doubt because of my crash course in knitting, I developed a mutant technique that is neither Continental nor English, but both.  I throw to the left and I have no tension whatsoever.  True knitters will know that this goobly gook means. I also never have moved beyond basic knitting (which I apparently do backwards) and purling (which, by pure accident, I do correctly).

I have dropped and picked up knitting several times since my grandmother paid her brief but memorable visit. Until four years ago, my greatest burst of energy with yarn occurred at the beginning of my college years, when I began knitting a patchwork “quilt.”  My sister, to whom I promised the blanket, has been waiting for me to complete this work of art since 1969.

This time, I think I am going to get beyond knit one, purl two. For one thing, my teacher lets me take photos and short little videos of the techniques that she demonstrates to her lamest student.  I look at them on the computer, slack-jawed.

I’m also knitting easy scarves. None of my family members or friends who read this blog have to worry about getting one for Christmas; not to panic. One of the group takes our scarves to hospitalized cancer patients who keep warm during chemotherapy treatments.

The biggest surprise of this class has been enjoying the company of the female elderly. The class is heavily populated by women who are 10-15 years older than me, and I am no spring chicken.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far about today’s old ladies:  they are a lot snarkier than you think, and they’ve got plenty to teach you, not all of it knitting. The most enlightening conversation I’ve heard of late was delivered by a  flame-haired crocheter named Marilyn, who boasts a profound Jersey accent and talks freely about the old neighborhood. This was a neighborhood populated by Wise Guys and wannabe Tony Sopranos, none of whom would consider using a knitting needle for anything but a weapon.

During her entertaining stream of consciousness, a wonderful name slipped lightly from Marilyn’s lips: Baccigalut di Sisio (pronounced BAH-chee-galoot dih SIS-see-oh).  I’m thinking of naming a dog Baccigalut one day. We’ll call him Galoot for short, and we’ll have long conversations.



  1. What a lovely idea for scarfs. Very charitable. 🙂

    I’m only 24 and at my knitting group I’m the youngest by at least 20 years. The majory of them are 40+ years older than me. And I love each one of them! That’s one of the fun things about knitting, isn’t it? Encountering people you wouldn’t usually meet.

    • Thanks, and you’re right; it brings together a fascinating group of people.

  2. Most of us start knitting the exact same way. My grandmother taught me when I was 8, and I’m pretty sure the unfinished scarf is still floating around my parent’s house somewhere.

    The scarves are actually really cute, I know a lot of people that would be over-joyed to receive one!

    Keep it up!

    • Thanks, let’s hope the hospitalized patients think the same!

  3. The artists at the Transit plan on knit bombing the parking meters out front of the building to protest the parking changes that came about because the parking ramp is falling apart and had to be closed. I just might pick up my needles for that and give it a try.

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