Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Knitting from Right to Left

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 15 July 2005.

Actually, unless you are one of those talented people who can knit backwards, everyone knits from right to left. But in this case, I am referring to the pattern shown in the photo. This is my first-ever knitting pattern written in Hebrew, and working from it has been an interesting experience. As an added challenge, I've sworn not to use a Hebrew-English dictionary to aid me with unfamiliar terms. I'm not positive a dictionary would help, in any event. Even when I understand the words, I have to interpret their meanings. It seems that Hebrew knitting patterns, like those in English, are written in a special knitting code.

For example, the very beginning of the pattern tells me what I will need in order to create the sweater shown. Two balls of yarn, check. Number 5 "shipudim"... uh oh. The only shipudim I know are skewers, the things you use when you barbecue shishkebab (excuse me, I mean shishlik). Luckily, I am a knitter with over 35 years of experience. I brilliantly deduce that they mean knitting needles in size 5mm (that's size 8 for us Americans).

So far, so good. The instructions tell me there are two different patterns to be used in the sweater. With the help of some more common sense (and a photo of the completed sweater) I figure out that the two patterns used are the two most basic knitting patterns there are, garter stitch and stockinette stitch. It also didn't take me long to figure out that the phrase that, if translated literally, says "put up 60 eyes" really means "cast on 60 stitches." From that point on, there weren't too many surprises.

Now, about a week after casting on for the first piece of the sweater, I am just about ready to begin sewing the sweater together. I also need to knit the button band and buttonhole band. Here, the instructions are especially terse. That means I'll need to do the calculations myself. Luckily, math is pretty much the same in English or in Hebrew (as long as you're not dealing with the names for things in mathematical equations). And I don't even need to worry about whether the sweater will actually fit the intended recipient: I am donating it to charity.

Even though I remain unconvinced that I will ever become a "real" Israeli, I feel amazingly smug at my being able to follow this Hebrew knitting pattern. True, my knitting experience has helped alot, but in fact I have never knit this type of sweater (a raglan) before. The proof, I suppose, will be in the sewing together. Still, I have enjoyed pulling the pattern out of my knitting bag to pour over the instructions, delighted when I can decipher the Hebrew words and interpret them in English knitting terms I recognize.

Silly though it may sound, working this pattern has helped me feel like I fit in. The fact that Rivka, the owner of my local yarn store, gave me the pattern on my last visit makes it even more special to me. After all, she must have figured I could read the pattern and knit the sweater according to the instructions. She didn't try to give me a pattern in English (or Russian). With all the serious, important, even scary things that go on here every day, these simple, positive things can have a big impact. Her giving me the pattern made me feel accepted. My being able to complete it will make me feel proud.

I am looking forward to completing this, my first sweater knitted in Hebrew.

(c)Amy Samin

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