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I have given many people in my life the greatest gift and the most heinous obsession: I have taught them how to knit. In the course of doing so, I noticed that the act of knitting provided a window into personalities -- the way each of my friends knit was a reflection of the way they lived. Watching my buddies engage with yarn and needles for the first time was like interpreting their response to a Rorschach blot. Knitting with them gave me an excuse to make grand psychological assumptions about them, and consequently, about myself.

Enter Exhibit 1, my twin sister's first knitting adventure. After an impromptu knitting seminar, she took me to a yarn shop in a trendy area of town where she dropped one hundred dollars on large circular needles of her own and three skeins of beautiful, thick, cotton yarn. I warned her that knitting with different colors could be a little annoying in a first project. As I stared into her determined face, I decided to keep quiet. We went back to her air-conditioned apartment, where she spread out her new supplies on the hardwood floor. I began to show her how to cast on. She figured it out quickly and cast on sixteen stitches. After another demonstration of how to knit and purl and add her second and third balls of yarn, she began her scarf. Two hours later, the scarf had grown to about a third of its finished length, but my sister was unhappy with the few times she had strayed off her rib stitch pattern. I told her not to worry about it, explaining to her about my first disastrous project. She laughed, and I went to bed for the night.

The next morning, I went upstairs to find my sister clutching her work in progress. The scarf had shrunk in size and my sister's eyes were wild. I asked her what had happened, and she told me that she had gone to bed only moments after I had, but had been unable to sleep as she was thinking about the imperfections in her scarf. I began to laugh, but stopped abruptly when she explained that she had already started and frogged her scarf three times that morning; my sister was a woman possessed. She finished the scarf in three days, and though the yarn turned out to be a little too thick for the pattern she had used, (her boyfriend now calls it the bullet-proof scarf), the knitting itself contains not a single imperfection. My sister's knitting evaluation reveals three things: money is no object in the pursuit of her goals, her drive to succeed exceeds her love of sleeping in, and her scarves may prove to be invaluable if its wearer is ever caught in a gang war.

I was knitting a toque when my roommate and best friend approached me about learning how to knit. I was a little sceptical, as I have never encountered a more energized human being. My roommate has two states of being -- full throttle and fast asleep -- so knitting did not seem like an ideal hobby for her. I agreed to show her the basics the next day. I arrived home in the afternoon to find her sitting on the couch, surrounded by three skeins of luxuriously thin mohair wool and a pair of tiny little size 1 needles. Spanish music played loudly on her stereo. She was reading my copy of Stitch & Bitch, trying to pick up the basics of knitting before I came home so she could speed the lesson along. She explained that a condescending salesperson at the knitting shop had fuelled her desire to knit when she suggested that a selected pattern might be a little difficult for a beginning knitter. My roommate's fury had made her choose an even more complicated pattern in a smaller gauge scarf using more expensive wool. I expressed my apprehension about this decision while silently commending the salesperson's upselling skills, but was told to begin the knitting tutorial.

In between her trips to the bathroom, her preparation of snacks, and our lively gossip session, I managed to lay out the basics of knitting with my friend. She grew frustrated with the delicate needles and wool she had selected; the fine mohair unravelled easily and frequently. After two hours of our session, she had only managed to cast on and complete ten rows. To make matters worse, she had decided to stripe her scarf with another colour of mohair, but she did not want to make even rows of the different color. Instead, she chose to use the secondary color erratically: half a row in one place, a whole row in others, one quarter in other places. To this day, I am unsure about the effect she desired. After she told me that her project was beginning to exhaust her, we decided to reward ourselves for a hard day's work by going out. She left her knitting on our coffee table. It sat there for four months. I asked her if she was going to continue and she told me I could keep the wool, as she wanted nothing more to do with it. I added a few more rows then cast off, and used the little square as a potholder. Lessons from my roommate's adventures indicate that everything in her life is all or nothing, that to her advice from learned sources is merely hearsay, and that proving she can meet a perceived challenge laid down by a salesperson is a lot more important than completing a scarf.

Lest ye think I consider myself beyond reproach, enter Exhibit 3, an introspective psychological examination. My first response to knitting does not demonstrate the balanced and secure mental state I would like to assume I possess. I forgot how to knit the first time I was taught and had to ask my stepmother for another lesson. After our second session, I spent the next six weeks compulsively knitting a plain red acrylic scarf earmarked as a present for my stepfather's birthday. I was in university at the time and had, unfortunately, just finished making a batch of homemade wine with my roommate, so a great deal of the scarf was knit while I was sipping our homemade Chardonnay. The end result was a scarf with both lumps and holes in it that could barely be stretched to eighteen inches long but measured about nine inches from top to bottom. Though it was wide enough to cover my stepfather from nose to chest, it barely wrapped around his neck. To add insult to injury, it also arrived four months after my stepfather's birthday. Analyzing my psychological knitting blueprint reveals three things: I am forgetful and slightly scatterbrained, I am strong on action, but a little weak on planning, and I am generous to a fault -- the fault being that I have imposed a misshapen, ratty looking, scarf upon a person I love who must now keep it forever. Though the scarf is battle-scarred with wine induced mistakes, my stepfather has told me he loves it, as it reminds him of me.

Am I overjoyed that the scruffiest scarf in the modern world reminds someone I love of me? Do I wish that my end product represented elegance instead of ineptitude? Am I convinced that the bulletproof scarf, the stripy potholder, and my acrylic oddity are symbolic of parts of my sister, my roommate, and myself that others find both endearing and annoying? The answer to all these questions is a resounding yes. All knitted creations are a showcase for the parts of us that were at the forefront when we made them -- the overachieving parts, the obsessive parts, and the slightly tipsy parts. I could have given my stepfather a perfectly knitted scarf, but I do not think he would have been so strongly reminded of me by a series of immaculate rows as he is when wearing my holey masterpiece.



Amber practices amateur psychology on a rainy island on the west coast of British Columbia.

She could not live without her copy of Stitch & Bitch.