Monday, December 24, 2007

Why I Knit

I'm not knitting much these days. My elbows are still pretty sore, and I'm trying to stick with the therapy of icing, stretching, resting (a variation on my kids' track coach's treatment of RICE - rest ice compression elevation) to get them back to normal. If you want to feel old and decrepit, try having trouble lifting the coffee cup out of the cupboard in the morning.

Anyway, not to whine about aches and pains, or at least not in public, not knitting has me thinking about why I knit. No pictures here, just a list, and it applies to weaving and cooking and sewing and just about any activity where you create something tangible:
  1. I love the feeling of achievement. You pick out a project, you stick with it long enough (an average of three to four months for knitting, one year for weaving), and you have something. How many things in life can you say that about?
  2. I love color. It's ironic, because my wardrobe used to be entirely black, white, and blue. But the longer I go, especially through these endless gray Chicago winters, the more I enjoy seeing color. Yesterday, I remembered my very first weaving project at the arts center near our house in Pittsburgh: hot pink, very deep teal green, and bamboo sticks to separate the sections. Wow, very 60's.
  3. I love using things that are hand-made. I'm not religious about this, but it does give me pleasure. Way back before I discovered Mason-Dixon Knitting and their talent for knitting dishrags and blankets and rugs, I focused on weaving things that could be used every day. I started with kitchen towels and baby blankets, then migrated to napkins and pillowcases. The pillowcases are my favorites. And the more that you use them, the softer they become, which is a nice side benefit.
  4. Control. Life is messy and full of unresolved questions. But your knitting? You choose the pattern, the yarn, the needles, the outcome. Even when a project is going wonky, you get to decide whether to bail or persevere. And there's no drama to knitting; what a relief.
  5. Control #2: a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  6. Community, what is called sanga, in Sanskrit: a group of like-minded individuals who support one another. I love walking into my local knitting shop, where the staff welcomes me by name, I can hang out at the table and knit when I'm at loose ends, and there is a sense of fellowship.
  7. A way to pass the time. I've spent many years being very busy, and I missed the lesson on how to sit still and enjoy doing nothing. I was thinking about this yesterday, and I remembered that family vacations were very planned, down to where we would eat each meal and what plays we would see and where we would shop. On the other hand, my best friend's family would wing it completely: you start out the day doing something that you want to do, and things just follow from there. So I'm still trying to learn to sit still and relax. Knitting gives me a sense of doing something while I try to do nothing. Better still would be to relax while doing nothing, but I'm working on that.
  8. Patience. This is the toughest one. Call it Control #3, or an addendum to Reason #7. The hardest thing for me to learn is to wait. To not control. To let things evolve as I observe. To not try to force life into a rational development. To feel from the heart instead of thinking everything through the mind. Making stuff by hand takes time. Stitch by stitch is a slow process. And things go wrong. And you change your mind, or make mistakes. But it's okay. You make a change, and then you keep going. And as frustrating as that it, I think that it's trying to teach me to be patient, to try to learn to enjoy the process instead of jumping ahead to the end result. Erg. Even writing about patience makes me impatient.
  9. Creating a fiber time-line: I can look at the little coat that I wove for one daughter [Harrisville singles ina tweed pattern, lined in blue, with little frogs for closures) or the first sweater that I knit for my younger daughter (washable yarn in a mix of pastels) or my first color work scarf (1824 wool, lots of changes, and it fell apart the first time I washed it because I didn't know how to secure all of the ends), and remember where I was and how I felt and what I was trying to accomplish. And when I do that, I feel good, even for just a moment. I made something, it's beautiful, I did it out of love, and there it is, solid and touchable and real.

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