Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Backwards Thinking

So, with my recent return to serious knitting (a baby blanket, a scarf, a prayer shawl all completed recently), I have recently started thinking about an odd detail, or habit (perhaps it could even be called a handicap) in my life.

I'm left-handed.

I joined ravelry.com, and immediately signed up for a couple of "left-handed knitters" groups. It's been an issue: I've often wondered if my left-handedness has held me back in knitting. Besides the fact that almost all instructions are written for right-handed people, sometimes I just get the feeling that I'm doing things all wrong. When I went to the left-handed knitters forum, it seemed that there were plenty of people willing to tell me that, too: knitters knit with both hands, they said. You can learn to knit right-handed and save yourself a lot of trouble, they said.

Well, I do play the piano with both hands, so I'm not hopeless, but, I remember getting a pair of knitting needles in my Christmas stocking when I was in the 5th grade. My mother spent a while trying to show me how to use them, but gave up. A patient home economics teacher showed me the basics in 7th grade, but apparently she taught me how to knit left-handed.

I just looked at the cabled scarf I am making, and I realized that the cables I make braid backwards from the ones in the picture. Huh. There's something not quite right about my stitching in places, too, but I'm trying not to get too paranoid about it.

On this web site that I've been reading, I've heard a few stories from left-handed knitters. One woman said that after her daughter was born, when people saw that she was left-handed, said, "Of course, she'll never be able to knit."

So, what does it do to a person's mind when they realize they do everything backwards from most of the rest of humanity? I don't just knit backwards; one of my bosses told me that I filed backwards, too. I iron backwards, and I bat left-handed (that is, when I connect with the ball).

I googled "left-handed" and found out that between 8-15% of people are left-handed. That's a pretty small segment of humanity. There used to be more of a stigma attached to left-handedness. Left-handed people were looked on with suspicion, perhaps even thought to be demon-possessed. Dexterous people are right-handed. Sinister people are left-handed.

Some people say that a higher percentage of creative people are left-handed, but maybe that's just a defense mechanism for people who have been told, over and over, that they were peculiar. Maybe it's a defense mechanism for people who have felt awkward and clumsy, as if the world were not designed for them. Or, maybe we left-handed people don't just knit backwards. Maybe we think backwards too.

But then again:

Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Now there's some backwards thinking for you.


Terri said...

Yes....glad you have persevered in knitting...and that you've shared these thoughts with us.

Lauralew said...

Only Son is a leftie. When I put him into guitar lessons, the teacher wanted him to learn right handed but Only Son said he would not go if that was the case. So we restrung his guitar and he was happy. We taught him how to tie his shoes using a mirror.

I like the way you segued the Beatitudes into this reflection.

LutherPunk said...

I am reminded of my mom's Catholic school days. The nuns called the left hand "the devil hand."

My oldest is left handed and actually revels in being different. He does play guitar right handed though, which i find odd.

Diane M. Roth said...

Laura -- I love how you taught your son to tie his shoes. I was the only kindergartener that didn't know how -- my mom couldn't figure out how to teach me. then the little boy down the street showed me how.

LutherPunk -- that shows you are a good dad! I've never been able to get comfortable with the guitar. tried learning a few chords, but could never catch on. I've heard some left-handers are fine with doing it right-handed, others: not so much.