Why don’t you go do something constructive?

I remember hearing that a lot as a kid – “Why don’t you go do something constructive?” It was at the same time a reprimand to get out from underfoot or stop watching so many cartoons as it was an effort on mom and dad’s part to mold me into a productive individual. It’s great advice, and I wish I had heeded it even earlier in life.

My early crafty experience was not that satisfying. My grandmother taught me some simple crochet stitches when I was quite young, but I don’t believe I ever finished that scarf I started. In home economics class in junior high school I learned basic sewing skills. Again, I think I completed a pillow case and then had my grandmother take over when the skirt and shirt I attempted had frustrated me and I lost interest.

About 17 years ago I learned how to knit. I was living in Stuttgart, Germany, at the time. I had made the move for a job that sounded more interesting than what I had been doing in New York City, and I welcomed both the adventure of moving overseas and the opportunity to use some of what I’d picked up when studying German through college and grad school. And it was a fun adventure at times. But it was also a bit lonely, as I moved there only knowing a handful of executives from my office – not really the kind of folks who were going to call me up on a weeknight and ask if I’d care to go out for a beer.

A colleague I became friendly with brought her knitting to the office to work on at lunchtime. At first I’d thought it oddly quaint – someone around my age doing something so matronly as knitting. But then I’d see her wearing these gorgeous garments, which only weeks earlier had seemed, at least to me, a perplexing jumble of yarn and needles in her hands. She agreed to teach me, gifted me some leftover yarn from various projects and a pair of extra needles, and off I went, filling the boring nights in front of the TV with something productive.

I still have that first, misshapen, too-colorful scarf I made out of my colleague’s remnants. I wear it with great joy. Even get some compliments on it. Though she and I are no longer in touch, I’ll be forever grateful that she introduced me to what’s become a major passion in my life.

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