By Carrie Johns, Secretary Registrar and Convocation, Registration Centre, VIU

carrie4My grandmother had magical hands.

Oh, she couldn’t move solid objects with a flick of her wrists but she was exceptionally gifted at transformation.  Flour, sugar, and butter were magically whipped into feather-light shortbread; yards of fabric could be reformed into skirts and dresses in no time at all.  Yarns were knitted into a staggering number of sweaters, hats, scarves, and baby clothes, each of them soft and durable, most of them destined for her favourite charities.  And she was more than happy to pass on the secrets of her magic to anyone who wanted to know them.

As I grew older, I wanted to know all these secrets, how to bend ingredients and textiles to my will.  Grandma taught me as much as she could, but when it came to knitting, we got hung up on one little thing: I am left-handed.

In fact,  I am very left-handed, so left-handed that I am forbidden by family to cut bread and set the table because I do it all wrong.  Grandma found it difficult to teach someone so left-handed something she could only do right-handed.  But we tried, sitting down with yarn and needles.  Right became left, left became right.  After a few starts, we got muddled and gave up, and concentrated on other shared passions, like shortbread.

A few years ago, as my girlfriends started having babies, I wanted to create blankets to wrap these wee newborns in.  I found a book in the library that showed me how to crochet left-handed, a skill I mastered with glee.  I churned out a few blankets and other assorted projects in crochet before I decided to look for a book or DVD or something to help me learn how to knit left-handed.  Luckily, the library came to my rescue, and one day, I sat down with a book, ball of yarn, and set of needles, ready to take on the task.

But it felt so wrong.  So, so wrong.

Right didn’t want to coordinate motions with left, left became confused and couldn’t wrap yarn around the point of the needle.

So I tried the other way.  Right was right, left was left.


Needles clicked and clacked together (although slowly and not without error at first); yarn slid through fingers and around needles like silk.  Who knew – I could knit the conventional way!

I was quick to relay the story to my grandmother, and we lamented the lost years that we could have spent knitting together if we had only figured this out sooner.  But when one is so accustomed to doing things one specific way, it can be difficult to try something completely different, isn’t it?