As I write this post, it’s in the 50s here in Chicago, and the leaves of many trees are turning yellow, orange, and red. Fall has arrived in the Midwest, and for many knitters that means a return to our favorite pastime. Lots of knitters take a break from knitting in the summer months because of the heat, but cooler temps mean we’ll welcome that pile of merino on the lap or the alpaca snuggling close by.
I grew up in Texas, where “fall” was never a season that meant much. September and October were (and still are, I imagine) simply an extension of the summer months, the only difference being that the kids returned to school. Temperatures often reached into the 90s Fahrenheit. Aside from the occasional red oak, there were no colorful leaves to speak of. Fall was a non-event for most of my childhood.
For college, I traveled to upstate New York and settled in for my first semester. Instead of immersing myself in my studies, however, I was mesmerized by the fall foliage. The colors were so bright and deep; vivid reds, oranges, and yellows. I spent my free time outside, photographing leaves on the ground and simply reveling in the colors, earthy scents, and cool, rainy weather. It was a revelatory experience.
Although my mom taught me to knit when I was eight years old, my love of the craft didn’t bloom until college. I only spent one year in upstate New York before transferring home to the University of Texas, but I’d been bitten by the autumnal bug. I felt the need to knit a sweater, even though by returning to my southwestern homeland I was guaranteed a short sweater season each year. I sought out yarn stores in Austin in early summer and found two, both welcoming and friendly places. The ladies in those shops helped me pick out a pattern suited to my beginning level, and also guided me to a wool/silk yarn, which would be lighter and possibly have a longer wearable season.
I worked on that sweater all summer long, knitting primarily in my student cooperative’s un-air conditioned TV room. Many of my 100 housemates were intrigued by the project and while I got some ribbing (oof, yes, intended) for *knitting* a *sweater* in *Austin, Texas* in the *summer,* I got a lot of support and encouragement, too. People wanted to check in on my progress each day and started a pool on how long it would take me to finish.
By the time I did finish, it was September: technically fall, although it still felt like summer. I finished seaming it up and weaving in the ends and brought it to dinner in the co-op’s common dining room; after the evening meal each night was the designated time for news and announcements. When I held that sweater up to show the crowd and announced “It’s done!” I got a huge round of applause. It was a defining moment in this knitter’s early career. Who wouldn’t be inspired after a reception like that?!
It’s been 20 years since I left Texas, and I’m often homesick for one thing or another. But every year when fall rolls around, I feel that pull to pick up the needles if I’ve neglected them over the summer. The coolness of the autumn days that I’ve grown used to here in Chicago, along with the colors of the leaves, takes me back to that first real fall I had my first year in college, and I’m eager to get started on something(s) new. Three cheers for fall.