I was quite small when I asked my Mum to teach me to knit. Dad carved my first pair of knitting needles out of two wooden chopsticks. He made sure they were not pointed so that I wouldn’t hurt myself. We were poor at the time so Mum could only let me knit with jute threads, which were not as soft as woollen ones. Neither as smooth. Very often, the threads got caught on rough surface of the handmade non-polished needles. Knitting was so slow and painful then, but I loved it. I admired my mum’s fast and effortless way when she did magic with the threads. “One day I would probably be that good.”
Things changed very fast in Vietnam in the 90s. Soon enough, I was able to get hold of soft woollen threads and polished needles. I was good enough to put my personal touch on different knitting projects. When I had my first boyfriend, I knitted him a scarf with his favourite football team’s name and color – scarf Juve. I was pleased. So was he! Then I moved on to a more ambitious project: a sweater. I started slowly. A winter had come and gone. Mum got impatient when I took out my kit on forty-something- degrees summer days. She stopped knitting things to sell as soon as we had enough money for food and everything else. She did not knit at all then. That summer also passed. I had been with him for five more summers, but the project sweater never came to an end.
I picked up knitting again when I was in the middle of crisis in England. I clung to it to keep my mind at peace. I learnt to follow knitting patterns. I bought needles of different sizes, luxurious yarn, and pattern books. I planned projects. I finished them. They were less about achievement and more about mediation. When I broke up with my first bf, I even knitted another scarf Juve as an odd way of moving toward closure. I missed Mum picking mistakes over my shoulders on scorching summer afternoons when I had to wipe sweat off my nose more often than knit. I longed for such summer afternoons when I felt the warmth coming from soft wool on freezing English evenings. I knew that I needed to go home to fix dropped stitches.
When I left England, I couldn’t take the knitting kit with me. I had to leave behind so many pieces that once made up my life there. I didn’t regret. l learnt to let go. I came home to see Mum become a grandmother. I hope she will pick up her knitting needles again, because our little Gau will need some sweaters.