Saturday, March 1, 2008

East meets west.. via knitting lesson

I recently saw this hat knitted up in the yarn market here in Seoul, South Korea.
I rarely wear hats and am one of those unfortunate few that REALLY, REALLY does look dorky in hats.. however, I really did like this hat, the unusual but simple stitch pattern, and I thought that I might have finally found a hat that I would actually wear. Maybe?

When I first saw the hat and bought the yarn, I had tried to ask how many stitches were 'cast on' for the hat ribbing. After pointing and gesturing the shop keeper finally understood what I wanted and wrote down 80 (stitches).

Earlier this week, I cast on 80 stitches and did 4 rows of ribbing for the hat so I would be ready to learn how when I went to the market on Saturday morning.

When I got to her 'yarn stall' this morning,.. no one was there. While waiting, I picked up the hat and counted the stitches because the knitted hat on display seemed so much 'looser' in size, even allowing for stretching, than the ribbing that I had on my needles. Sure enough, I counted 100 stitches instead of 80 stitches that were on my needles. Darn it, that was too big of a difference in stitch count and there is no way to add that many extra stitches and fudge it. It would be about an extra 3-4 inches of knitting when it was all said and done. There was nothing to do but to take the ribbing out and start over.

I was in the process of removing the stitches, when the 'yarn stall/shop keeper' returned to her stall. So, there I was.. explaining as best as I could in my ENGLISH to her KOREAN that I had returned to get her to show me how to make the hat. Fortunately, she recognized me and the yarns that she had sold me.

To help pass the time away, I showed her the lace scarf that I was knitting out of this lovely Italian mohair yarn.

Isn't this a nice lace stitch pattern? By this time, word had spread, and a few other 'yarn stall owners' had stopped by to see the American lady knitting in the cramped 6 foot by 6 foot or smaller yarn stall; stacked with texured and colorful yarns. Each time someone new approached, I could tell that the reason that I was there was being explained and each time.. she would show each new person my lace scarf. And, as all knitters do.. they examined the stitches carefully, fondled the yarn, and smiled their approval.

Actually while this was going on a couple of individuals that I usually purchase yarn from also came by, saw me knitting in the stall, and stopped to greet me.

One of the 'yarn vendors' that I purchase yarn from was talking to the other ladies and I heard her say: Christmas in English and I remembered the 'goodie package' of holiday treats that I had brought down to the yarn market and gave to my favorite yarn vendors. I realized that she must have been telling them about the Christmas goodies that I had given her. I had even included some of my grandmother's special home-made fudge in the packages that I passed out. I felt like one of 'the gang' by the time the morning's lessons were all over.

While I was casting on the 100 stitches, I had noticed that the 'yarn stall' owner had been watching my 'casting on carefully' and then I noticed that the others, that had gathered, were also staring at the way that I was doing my cast on.. and I eventually realized that they were trying to figure it out.

So, I got my scarf, that I was wearing that day, and showed them the right and wrong side of the 'long tail cast-on' and how there is a clear and pretty front side. They 'oohed and aahed' their approval and soon there were 4 ladies watching me do this particular cast on. I was going slow and saying the words in English.. and finally one of the ladies wanted to practice the casting on technique on her own. She picked it up really fast and spoke some English. She told me that this looked good and it was good to know how to do this way of casting on.

They started showing me the edges of some of the finished garments that were hanging around and I'm not sure what type of cast-on technique that they had used- but, it looks nothing like any of the other 'cast-on' techniques that I have done in the past.

Here is the hat modeled by one of the shop keepers that I know.. he was being silly.

I mastered the hat 'knit stitch pattern' and I did the cast-on for some practice stitches to show the shop keeper the 12 row lace stitch pattern for the lace scarf that I had with me. I noticed that a few people came by and she would show them my lace scarf and apparently tell them in Korean that I was going to show her how to do the stitch pattern.

Due to our limited ability to speak each other's language; we weren't able to 'talk' to each in other in a conventional sense; but, the fact that knitting is a universal and visual skill... we were able to show each other how to do new stitch patterns. When I showed her the complicated lace scarf 12 row stitch pattern; I got my scarf out and showed her the front side 'knit' stitches and drew a V on the paper to represent the 'knit stitch' on the front. I then pointed to the purl stitches and wrote a 'P' and drew the purl bumps.

I went through row by row.. and wrote out the pattern.. using 'v's to represent the knit stitches and came up w/ a YO symbol, and knit 2 together and all the other stitch patterns. I had to do the SSK and PSSO stitches too... but, once I showed her that part of the stitch pattern- she completely understood what I was saying-- since, she spoke 'knitting'.. like I did. She was even saying the steps with me as I said them in English.

I was there for almost 2 hours... teaching and learning new stitch patterns. Neither one of us spoke each other's language.. but, we spoke the common language that has bound generations and cultures around the world.. the language of KNITTING.

It is indeed a small, small world and kindness does abound... even if you have to create it yourself.


The Crafty Gnome said...

That is a fantastic story. You should submit it to a magazine for publication sometime.

iwouldratherbeknitting said...

*blush*.. :D

That is so nice of you to say.. thank you!

sweetp said...

I read this earlier today*ahem Sunday ;0 * and have been thinking all day what a gorgeous story this is. And I agree. You should submit!

iwouldratherbeknitting said...

But, are you SURE it was SUNDAY? :D

And thank you! I had gathered quite a crowd. I have managed to knit 3 pattern stitch sets on the hat and it looks like the hat that she had in her shop.

Christine said...

What a fantastic story that is, and a wonderful example of just how "universal" people really are!

...and I love your lace scarf!!

Mandi (a.k.a MissMandiGirl) said...

Language bariers frustrate me so your very patient :) Sounds like a great tim was had by all!

iwouldratherbeknitting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.