Stella Young's love affair with needles and yarn began in childhood and continues to flourish today. In the latest of our series on hobbies, the Australian comedian, broadcaster and disability activist, writes about her passion for knitting.
I learnt to knit more than once. When I was about seven, I was taught by my mum. I made a pink and blue striped scarf all in plain garter stitch. It took forever. It was ok but I put down the needles as soon as it was finished and didn't pick them back up for a while.
When I was 11 and in Grade six at school, the ladies from the local branch of the Country Women's Association came to teach us to knit for an hour each Friday for a whole term. We each received a brown paper bag with a pattern, a ball of scratchy horrible acrylic yarn - the like of which I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole nowadays - and a set of needles.
As a kid who already knew how to knit, I was off and away. The pattern was for a beanie and I'd lucked out with scratchy yarn which had a hue of garish yellow. I made a beanie for my Dad but, unfortunately for him, I had not yet mastered the art of consistent tension and the result was more like an enormous Rasta hat than a beanie.
Despite the enormous sloppy result of my first project, I had begun to fall in love with the art of knitting.
I was a bright kid, and very competitive academically. But given I was also a disabled kid, I was no match for my classmates when it came to pursuits of a physical nature.
I jumped up and down in my powerchair and made running movements with my arms as I raced alongside them on school carnival day, I made a big production out of how 'puffed out' I was at the finish line, but I knew deep down I was a wee bit lacking when it came to being active.
With knitting, though, I felt I'd found something physical I could REALLY do. Not only could I do it, dodgy tension aside, I ROCKED at it. I took great delight in helping the other kids when their yarn got tangled, when they dropped stitches and when they confused their knits with their purls.
I knitted on and off as a teenager, mostly on my own during school holidays. Then, when I got to university, I was invited to participate in a group knitting project.
We were making a blanket for a friend's 21st birthday by all knitting squares and sewing them together. We'd agreed to each knit squares that were 30 stitches by 60 rows, and away we went, all using whatever needles and yarn we had.
When we reconvened and shared our handiwork, we had more of a dog's breakfast than a blanket. This is where the lessons I learnt about tension as an 11 year-old came flooding back to me.
For those of you who knit, you know what happened. For those who don't; because we all used different sized needles and different yarn with our different knitting tension, none of our squares were even remotely the same size. Or, for that matter, actually square.
It was then it occurred to me that knitting isn't just knitting, and it isn't just physical. It's scientific and it requires some real thought and planning.
With the help of one of our mums, my friends and I managed to stitch the blanket together somehow, and from that point on I was hooked. Well, needled really. Hooks are for crochet.
I discovered all sorts of amazing yarn - it's not all wool, you see, you can also knit with cotton, bamboo and other fibres - and I even found myself experimenting with non fibre materials. For instance, I once knitted a small bag out of plastic bags cut into strips and tied together.
I found I could make adjustments in order to accommodate my disability.
You know how you see hip young people knitting with huge, novelty needles? I don't use them. Having Osteogenesis Imperfecta, I'm a bit small; I use a wheelchair and those long unwieldy needles get stuck in its sides. So, to prevent this, I use what we refer to in the knitting business as 'circs" - two short needles connected by a long cable. These are much easier for my small hands and limited arm-span.
I also avoid knitting things that are bigger than me. On the few occasions I've embarked on a big project like a baby blanket, I always reach a point where it becomes really heavy, and in order to work on it, I find I have to wear it. This is particularly unpleasant in the hot Australian summer. Yep, I knit through the summer too.
I know quite a few other disabled people who knit, and they have little adjustments they make to their craft as well. A friend of mine who calls herself The Reclining Knitter, as the name suggests, knits while lying down, with her elbows propped on pillows either side. Apparently there have only been a couple of face-stabbing incidents.
If you're a disabled knitter, come and find me on Ravelry; it's like facebook for folks who knit and crochet and my username is "dinogirl". Be warned, sometimes I knit rude things.
Stella Young is editor of ABC Ramp Up, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's disability website.