Knitting Through the Tour de France

I am a knitter.

There, I’ve admitted it.  I’ve been knitting for the past 31 years and almost no one knows that about me.  I also sing and hum constantly, watch a soap opera, and fall asleep in the middle of movies.  Before it became cool again, I took a lot of grief about my love of knitting.  My ex was visibly and vociferously embarrassed if I ever dared to pull out my knitting needles in a public place.  He told me it looked so “old” (I was 35 at the time).  Sheesh.

Knitted sailor's cap

Simple sailor’s cap

I learned to knit when I lived in Switzerland.  I was newly arrived from Texas and was soon to be married.  Switzerland was a lot colder than Texas.  Sweaters looked like a good idea.  Everywhere I looked young girls were knitting: at the movies, in coffee shops, and standing on the bus on their way to school.  I couldn’t believe anyone could knit standing up, and everyone knitted at lightning speed, talking and laughing, and rarely looked at their fingers.  I was in awe.  I watched.  I wanted to learn.

Knitted mohair twisted cable sweater

Something I knit while living in Switzerland

A very patient Swiss schoolteacher friend named Gabi Schoenenberger got me started.  Since I didn’t speak German or French, didn’t understand anything on TV, and had only my father-in-law’s James Bond books to read in English, I had lots of time to practice.  I was pretty good at knitting and made scarves, sweaters, and baby clothes for my  daughter and son.  I loved the meditative nature of knitting, and it gave me something to do when I got bored of sitting around not understanding what was being talked about around me.

I came back to Texas seven years later and brought my knitting needles and wool with me.  I still tried to keep up my knitting, but eventually realized it rarely got cold enough to wear much of what I made.  Even worse, who wants to sit through a Texas summer with wool in their lap?  Knitting became a winter-only activity, and it was something I loved to do in the evenings while I watched TV.

That is, until I discovered the Tour de France two summers ago.

Knitted chunky wool sweater

Knit in the US from wool I brought over from Switzerland

I’m not a cyclist, but many of my friends are.  I was a girly girl tomboy when I was a kid, and was always outside on my roller skates, skateboard, or bike.  I could patch the tires and put the chain back on my banana seat Huffy and ten-speed bike without any help from my dad.  I rode my bike much farther than my mom ever knew, sometimes in places a little girl should never bike alone, and even used to plan out long trips across town from places I had seen out the side window of the car on our Sunday drives.

I loved biking in Switzerland, but those hills were tough work.

In Dallas, home of the world’s worst drivers, I can barely run without getting hit by a car, so I don’t bike very often.  The last time I did I tried to run my dog on leash next to me and we wiped out when she darted after a squirrel.  It wasn’t fun.

Knitted cashmere cap with cables

Cashmere cap with cables

But in July, le Tour de France . . .  perfect!  I can sit on the couch in the air conditioned heaven of my home and knit for hours as the riders speed through a country I visited many times.  I can look at the castles and chateaux and reminisce about the beauty of the French countryside and the trips we took to the south of France.  I can go back in my mind to the evenings we drove across the border just for a good meal (white asparagus and morels) and skiing in the Jura mountains.  I never have to worry about peloton crashes, broken collarbones, or getting swept off the road by a careening car.  All I have to worry about is not dropping a stitch.

Knitted lace wrap

A wrap I wear often in our Texas winters

I’m relieved that knitting has achieved a new renaissance in the U.S. and that I no longer have to hide my dirty little secret.  I never understood what was so “grandmotherly” about it in the first place (as if anything about being a grandmother is a bad thing).  I was so excited when my daughter asked me to teach her how to knit, and humbled by the knowledge that I was passing on an art form that countless women (and men) have perpetuated for hundreds–if not thousands–of years.  I also loved that she got knitting advice last Christmas when she went back to Switzerland to visit her dad, just like I did all those years ago.

My knitting has come full circle.

Knitted baby blanket

Cotton baby blanket

So, pedal away Contodor, Cadel, and Cavendish as you bike your way towards Paris.  I’ll sit here and knit one, purl two through France and all those memories.  At the end of the day one of you will have a new yellow jersey.  Me, I’ll be a few more rows closer to the cast-off, and the end of another summer knitting project.  Vive le Tour de France!

Knitted lace wrap

My current project, a zig zag pattern lace wrap

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6 comments

  1. skippingstones

    I’ve been wanting to learn how to knit, but I’m afraid it’s like a lot of things I “want” to learn how to do – so many things, so little time to accommodate them all, and especially so little patience to learn.

    I loved all of your pictures – I’m no expert, but it looks like wonderful work to me!

    How do I subscribe to this one? I clicked the button, but it was gobbledygook me. I’m subscribed to Walls with Doors, but I don’t know how much longer that will be up.

    • Mind Margins

      Believe me, I know what you mean about finding time to learn how to knit. We’re all way too busy! I really haven’t knit much this summer, even during the Tour, but I have every intention of changing that this week. Also, some of my knitting projects tend to take literally years to complete (and I’m not exaggerating). I guess knitting is a good lesson in patience.

      If you like to make things, you should learn. Find someone who’s willing to start you off, or check with a local yarn store. Some people even learn from books and the internet, but it’s always good to have someone you can go to who will help you out when you have a question or a problem.

      As for subscribing, I’m so glad you made me aware of the subscription problem. I will need to download and install a subscription plugin, so stay tuned . . . I will keep posting on Walls with Doors for awhile anyway, but I’ll try and get that plugin installed within the day. This is all new to me, so please bear with me!

  2. michelle

    I LOVE that cashmere cap with the cable rows. Want to knit me one?! Just kidding (sorta!). I’ve never had the patience to learn how to knit. My mom knits and sews and creates some pretty unique and creative things

    • Mind Margins

      Thanks! You will have the perfect opportunity to learn to knit when you move to Germany. If it’s anything like Switzerland, you will see lots of knitters all year round.

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