With an instrument that looked like a needle, only much bigger, a seemingly endless ball of yarn, and two hands that we thought must be enchanted for all the precision and elegance of their movements, she knitted the most beautiful clothes, scarfs and bags. That is what most of us on the couch at Grandma's house saw, and that is what knitting became in our minds: an old skill that grandmothers have. We loved it and wanted to watch it, but it wasn't for us. It was only for the grandmothers.
My thoughts on knitting were not any different, but even that stereotype did not stop me from asking my grandmother to teach me this "magic" -- and indeed she did. I learned some basics, which were enough at the time to knit a simple scarf, and that satisfied me.
But there was something that always made me feel that the skill was limited, and that it doesn't really fit with the flow of this day and age. When I started researching online for images of various knitted designs, I was constantly wondering, Why don't the results of what I knit match those of the pictures I see online, even though these knitted designs were made by girls just like me? Those pictures were so beautiful! They were perfection itself.
We have to admit that in the Arabic society, for reasons that would take too long to explain, we don't pay attention to details. We don't really care for the actual facts, and instead settle for a very low standard of proficiency. It's like time stopped with us and with it everything in all fields stopped too, for that beautiful stitch I saw on the Internet does not exist among us. We claim that it's "machine work," and don't even want to admit that that technique that makes knitting much easier is necessary for us. As for that tool that saves hours of work and gives precise and perfect results, we consider it a strike of lunacy and unnecessary extravagance, and the answer I always get when I ask knitters around me is: "All our lives we have worked like this."
And that's how change started in my crafting world. I was no longer satisfied with the techniques of grandmothers, even more so when I found out that Western knitters have devoted a large part of their time to teach the rest of the world their skills over the Internet. They have created what resembles a revolution in the world of knitting, for they worked on developing and unifying it, and organizing its language in classifications that are extremely meticulous. Even greater, the teachers were not only old people, but also the young, women and men. And, indeed, I started learning from their teachings at a faster rate and with fewer mistakes, thanks, in part, to their methods of explanation. They have turned it into a complete science that uses reason and yields logical results: "You want that effect, then use that combination of threads," "You want that pattern, then use a different tool that will do it better."
But the real event that made me completely switch to learning through the Internet was when I decided to visit an institute that teaches knitting in my neighborhood. That was a big wake up call! What they presented to me as advanced stages by professionals was not even adequate enough to be a beginner's imperfect project. So I said to myself, If one of the most famous institutes for knitting does not rise above "this is what my grandmother taught me" then what, really, am I expecting from them?
In fact, after that incident I depended completely on the Internet, and I learned all I wanted to learn in English, and sometimes Italian and German. I didn't understand everything, but I gathered what they were saying through the pictures and videos, and even through my general understanding of what they wrote, thanks to the unified language of knitting.
After almost two years, I have reached a stage where my products match the pictures I wanted to recreate from the Internet, and as time passed, my expertise and love have only increased for this craft and so has my knowledge of its history. I expanded even more by manufacturing the threads by hand and dyeing them either naturally or artificially. I badly wanted to project the message to our Arab world: "Let go of grandmothers' knitting and learn modern knitting!"
I tried different methods to produce that message. I didn't find a better way than the one I learned through, the Internet, and specifically an educational channel on YouTube that I called "Shal," which is spoken in my language (Arabic), targets my society and attempts through different methods to rise to the magnificent level of that which I learned. Today, my channel has over 50 educational videos and 6,000 subscribers. My road is still long on all levels, especially technically, but I believe that I reach a new stage everyday. My goal is to be one of the pioneering teachers in this elegant field in which we once thought we had reached the highest point anyone can reach, without realizing the immense development that has made it the number one craft in the West.
This post originally appeared on HuffPost Arabi and was translated from Arabic.