Have you read The Kite Runner? It's one of those novels I'd been hearing about and knew I should read, but it took me a long time to get around to it. This is partly because having children cuts into the time one has to read, but mostly, I was a little afraid to read it. I knew that it is a novel set in Afghanistan, and that it came out shortly after the Americans started [another] war there in 2001. I knew it would be depressing, and I guess I just wasn't ready for it.
Well, my friends, I finally read The Kite Runner, and it is a terrific book, but I was right that it was difficult. It takes place in Afghanistan, after all, a place that has been gutted and ravaged by war for decades. In it, terrible things happen, and they happen to children. The Kite Runner is a wonderful, unforgettable book, astonishingly well-written, and the ending is hopeful, but I still had to read it in small chunks, a little bit at a time. There were parts that made my heart ache so badly I had to put it down. I'm not sure why this book hit me so hard, though it might have something to do with the tender emotional state of new motherhood combined with my continuing distress about the destructive nature of my country's foreign policy.
I often feel helpless when I think about all the wrong and unfairness in this world. I also feel protective of my family and vaguely guilty that I don't truly deserve the comfort and security I have. I am lucky, but not deserving.
(or make that very, very lucky)
I believe, though, that a good way to combat feelings of helplessness and despair is to try and alleviate someone else's suffering. Furthermore, I believe in the healing power of creating something with your own two hands. Andre (he's not a knitter, but he's a composer and a swell guy) left a comment with a link to a really good essay about that very thing on NPR (here's a link). So after I finished reading The Kite Runner, I checked the Afghans for Afghans website to see what they need: hats for newborns and, as always, baby blankets.
Last spring, several people contributed to a beautiful baby blanket that I sent off to AFA in May. I have the sense not to attempt such an ambitious project this time around (that was a lot of seaming). But now that I again have a new (7 weeks old) baby myself, the need for baby hats struck a particular chord with me. I've been going ape on baby hats.
(I've made five since Wednesday)
Babies in Afghanistan aren't concerned that I make these hats cute or clever. They don't need flowers or frills or adorable animal ears; in fact, as I understand it, representational images are not okay for some Muslims. They do, however, need to be warm and durable, so I'm knitting the fastest and simplest hats I can out of random leftover wool I have around. I can easily whip through one in an evening, and depending on how needy Daniel and Anya are, I can get part of a second one done during the day. (These are so simple they practically don't need instructions, but I'm including the "pattern" at the end of this post, if anyone's interested).
Pattern for super-simple garter stitch baby hat:
You need: about 80 yds worsted weight yarn and size 7 or 8 needles
Gauge: anywhere from 4 to 5 stitches per inch for a hat 12-15" circumference
CO 60 stitches
Knit every row (garter stitch) until the hat is an appropriate length before decreasing, about 2.5-3". If anything, guess long; you can always fold up the bottom for a brim (and extra warmth).
Decrease 6 times every other row (k8 k2tog across, k one row, then k7 k2tog across, k one row, etc) until you only have a few stitches left. Pull yarn through remaining stitches, sew up the seam, and you've got a hat.
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