I finally finished knitting my first baby blanket! It wasn’t a fancy pattern, but I didn’t mess up too many times, and I like how the blues, greens, and grays of the yarn meld into each other. It’s not expensive organic yarn, but it can be machine washed and dried when it gets dirty, which baby blankets often do.
It was a little over a year ago that I was still working on knitting my first dishcloths – in all honesty, this blanket is the same pattern, just bigger – and I feel proud of myself for accomplishing a more extensive project and having it turn out well enough that I was actually comfortable gifting it to someone I love.
I started the blanket last fall, not even knowing who I was going to give it to, but I’m at that stage in life where there is always another baby around the corner, and I was not disappointed. When my friend Lauren told me that she was expecting her second baby – a little girl – it made me feel good as I knitted to picture the blanket snuggling her daughter. As I got further into the project and started to believe that I might actually be able to finish it, I became even more excited. A handmade blanket seemed like coming full circle somehow, a little token in a web of sisterhood.
Lauren and I met 21 years ago at the tender age of twelve. We both attended Catholic grade schools, and every Friday a different Catholic school would host a dance for all of the 7th and 8th graders in the area. I was in a toxic class at my own school and things were about to get ugly, but one night I noticed Lauren standing by herself – wearing a super cool hat with a gigantic flower on the top – and so I introduced myself and after that we were friends. I was always short in grade school, but she was even shorter, and I think we both enjoyed running around the dances, engaging in all the middle school drama, with somebody who didn’t tower over us.
A few months later, things built up to the point of outright bullying in my class. I wasn’t the initial target, but my refusal to participate quickly put me in the crosshairs and it culminated at a dance one Friday evening. It’s fuzzy now, but I remember girls from my class saying hurtful things as they walked past, and at one point one girl actually ran by and pulled my hair clip right out of my hair. It’s the type of stuff that’s hard to completely empathize with now at the age of 33. Now my reaction is, “What the hell was wrong with them?” But I distinctly remember that as an insecure twelve-year-old it felt much more like, “What the hell is wrong with me?”
Like most crying girls, I retreated to the bathroom. Frankly I was scared to be around my classmates anymore at that point. I would have felt like the single loneliest person on planet earth except that Lauren was there with me, holding vigil as I cried and worried about how I’d ever go back to school with those girls. It’s too long ago to remember what I said or she said. All that’s left is a feeling of extreme gratitude that she was there, steadfast, as my self-esteem crumbled around me.
I ended up switching schools on Monday, and it’s one of the best choices I ever made. I didn’t switch to Lauren’s school, which was on the opposite side of town, but we stayed friends throughout high school before losing touch in college and our early twenties. Then, when we were 23 or 24, we ran into each other at a bar and have been friends ever since. We were both bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.
That would be reason enough to gift my very first baby blanket to Lauren and her beautiful daughter Amelia. But there are actually more connections. Sisterhood is funny like that. There is very rarely a single connection – it’s more like a web.
When Lauren got married, I briefly met her sister-in-law, Kelsey, who lived out in Seattle and had a daughter who was only a couple weeks younger than my son Jonah. We talked briefly and the babies, who were only about four months old at the time, cooed at each other, but that was about it. Then a couple of years later I was contacted by Kelsey, who had moved back to the Green Bay area and was looking for a doula. Lauren told her to contact me.
We met at a coffee shop for our initial interview, and I immediately noticed the beautiful handmade knit dress her daughter was wearing. I got overly excited and said something really awkward like, “Oh, my gosh! You knit! Oh, my gosh! I want to learn how to knit soooooo badly, and I can’t find anyone to teach me. Please, please, please will you teach me how to knit?! Please?”
It was, admittedly, not my most professional moment, but Kelsey laughed and explained that she was not actually a knitter. Her mother, however, was extremely experienced, and Kelsey was sure that she would be happy to teach me when she was in town visiting the new baby once he or she arrived.
So, I worked as Kelsey and Dan’s doula, supporting them through the birth of their second daughter. And when I visited her for her postpartum appointment a few weeks later, she assured me that, yes, her mother would teach me how to knit. And so I returned again and received a knitting lesson from her mom, Kaarn, a master knitter who patiently walked me through the basics of casting on, basic knit stitch, yarning over, knitting together, and binding off, all of the basic skills I would need to complete a dishcloth (or a simple baby blanket). She gave me the gift of knitting, as well as the gift of her daughter Kelsey, who is now a friend.
I’ve been quietly knitting away ever since. Sometimes I set it down for a while, but not too long. And once I could do it without paying too much attention, it became one of my favorite things to bring along to births when I worked as a doula. It was silent, but it kept my hands busy while I’d keep watch on a laboring mama who didn’t need hands-on support. While she caught some much needed sleep after receiving an epidural or rocked through the early pains of labor that don’t require massage, I would knit away at a simple dishcloth, holding vigil as she did the sacred work of bringing new life into the world. Nurses would notice what I was working on and in between contractions the whole birth team – mama, nurses, doula, and sometimes partners – would chat about crafts.
And there it is, full circle: From 12-year-old Lauren who stood by me when I otherwise would have been friendless, who is now a mother to her own infant daughter. To her sister-in-law, Kelsey, who invited me to support her during her labor and is now a friend. To her mother, Kaarn, who taught me how to knit when I was completely flummoxed trying to figure it out from YouTube videos. My blanket certainly isn’t anything exciting – it’s mediocre at best – but it was 21 years and several layers of sisterhood in the making.
As for baby Amelia, who is the recipient of my humble knitted creation, I’m sure that life won’t always be easy and perfect. That’s just not how life works, and quite frankly it sounds boring. If there is anything I hoped and prayed for as I diligently knit Amelia’s blanket, it’s that she’ll always be surrounded by sisterhood. That someday, when some middle school girl gets bitchy and hurts her feelings – because let’s face it, it’s inevitable – she’ll have a sweet and compassionate friend to sit next to her on the bathroom radiator while she works it all out.
Blessings to you, little Amelia.
P.S. If you’re looking for simple, beginner-level knitting projects I highly recommend this dishcloth pattern from Luminous Vegans or the knit diagonal pattern baby blanket pattern from Lion Brand Yarns.