My school experience of craft work began quite early, as in Grade 2 (begun at age six) we girls were all expected to knit a small doll’s bonnet. It was the simplest design made up of one plain piece of straight knitting measuring about four inches by eight inches (10cm x 20cm).
This knitted rectangle was then supposed to be doubled over, stitched along one edge and then two more long, narrow, knitted pieces added to the front corners to make the under-the-chin ties.
The first thing that had to be done was the shortening of the knitting needles to enable small hands to manage them. So far, so good. Dad was able to achieve that chore, by cutting down some plastic needles and, by use of a candle, softening the severed ends and replacing the little knobs that supposedly stopped the stitches from falling off.
My knitting efforts were pathetic. The straight edges began expanding at a rate equal to the amount of rows I managed to knit. It was all a mystery. Where did all these extra stitches come from? And the holes? How did they happen? It was all too much for me as a just-seven-year-old.
I abandoned the knitting as soon as it seemed possible. That is, many weeks after most other girls had completed their dolls’ bonnets and after poor Mrs Peters (our teacher) had given up asking me how my knitting was progressing.
To this day, I still don’t know whether the other girls were actually able to knit a completed article or whether their mothers did most of the work.
But I seemed to have it in my head that if we were expected to do something, we had to do it
- and do it ourselves. I don’t think I even thought to ask Mum to do mine for me.
It was my first real failure at school work and I was terribly ashamed of the mangled and
dirty tangle of blue wool that was my first attempt at knitting.