Why I knit...
I have a confession to make - I knit - almost daily and I love it. Like art, knitting heals. It allows you to experiment with how a two-dimensional structure can be modeled and shaped to fit three dimensions (something that also happens when you sew clothing); to explore how two simple patterns can be combined in an almost an infinite variety of ways. It makes use of your problem solving abilities, mathematical skills, fine-motor coordination skills, artistic inclinations, interest in design and possibly even an interest in history. In the right environment it can be a social activity, but for me it's repetitive quality is also very soothing and re-assuring. Last, but certainly not least, I like the end product. This is why I knit.
Because knitting has given me so many hours of pleasure, I decided to write this is for anyone who has thought about learning to knit, but has reservations about it because they are not sure that they should invest their time and energy in mastering a skill which is well plain and simple, un-cool. They could concentrate their efforts on something more productive and remunerative. Shouldn't they? Well they could, and might, but if they would like to hear the case for knitting, here it is:
Someone who did not know I knit, remarked to me that knitting is for losers of a specific breed - stupid women,who have more time than sense and old ladies who have nothing better to do. Who else would bother to waste their time and energy on knitting when you can go out and buy a perfectly good sweater, or scarf or shawl or whatever for a very little. I am painfully aware that people who endorse this thinking, obviously have never made something with their hands and when that is the case, I have no basis for engaging with them to explain my point of view. Some, will never know the pleasures of walking into a wool shop and that is their prerogative. But if you are tempted to give it a try, but haven't yet, let me entice you...
You don't just walk in. First, you eye the display in the windows letting whatever thoughts that come, arise and propel you inside. Next, you stand in the doorway, weighing up the mohairs and the shaggy wools, cashmeres and tweeds in your mind's eye. After careful consideration, you decide which direction you would like to begin with. What should you do? Stroke the silks, ogle the 4 plys, squeeze the 8 plys, thumb through the patterns, tug at the swatches, examine the needles, or bobbins, or counters, or markers, or all of the above, scanning for something you do not own - yet? After a long, lingering saunter through the shop, when you have sampled its tactile and visual pleasures to your heart's content, you make an executive decision: Based on my skill level, budget, figure and wardrobe, today I will pick up this, this and this. Then, bag in hand, wallet lighter, you head for the exit. Be warned, at this point, something inevitably catches your eye - that little thingo that was made for you to have today. Sometimes you indulge yourself, sometimes you don't, but mostly you do.
When you finally reach home, you pack away the purchases, with the wool stash or the needle pile or wherever appropriate. It could lie there for weeks, months, years, well even a decade or two. It could also outlive you and I can testify to that - I have been to a nursing home store room crammed with hanks of unknitted dreams that still languish in the dust.
But enough of that. Knitting for me is about exuberance, fun and lucky accidents which you can nudge along. Sooner or later, when on a lazy trawl through the internet, you chance upon the perfect pattern, (that you later realise has been sitting on Ravelry for years and years) you save it, print it, highlight it and scale it to your measurements. Then you fish out the needles, the wool and the measuring tape. Now, if you are good, you swatch. If you are bad, like me, you don't and live to regret it, Be warned: if you don't swatch, many long hours of painstaking lace and cabling, inexorably wind up reduced to a wooly tangle ready to be knit up again, this time with the wisdom of hindsight. Then you get on with the real thing - the business of knitting. Finally, after eons, it is all knitted up, blocked and ready to wear. At this stage, you grab a cuppa, a coffee, a chocolate, a red or white or whatever it is that you need to celebrate the pure unadulterated joy of having made a bit of sheer heaven with your own two hands. You wallow in it, letting it seep into your soul and swell you with pride and encouragement. THAT is why I knit.
Of course I could do more "useful", "meaningful" things with my time (and I do), of course I could buy something with a better finish and for better value at a fraction of the price (and I do); BUT I still knit. For many years the results of my efforts were wonky, too large, too small, unsuitable or just plain ugly. But I still knit, because if I didn't, I would lose the opportunity to connect with that intangible something that enhances my sense of well being and feeds my soul. I would never have an object, fashioned by my own fingers and would never know the delight and rightness inherent in the process of creating it.
To those who think that knitting is about throwing a piece of string between a pair of sticks, well you are right, it is, but it is so much more. To produce a customised garment takes many years of trial and error, lots of disasters and near misses. You learn to grit your teeth and try again, you build your persistence and staying skills. You also learn to cheat - I have used mathematical and programming skills to crack patterns which initially appeared beyond my capacity to reproduce - you have to be resourceful and think laterally if you want to complete a challenge. You connect with the army of forebears who have gone before you - some related to you by blood and others by interest.
In this product- and profit-oriented world, we have forgotten to enjoy the small things, we do not put a premium on feeding our souls. I do, and I know a lot of women and men who do too. I have never met most of these people in real life, but I still think of them as my friends - a large-hearted, skill-sharing, on-line brother/sisterhood that I can tap into at three in the morning or in the middle of the day, a community spread across the globe, that shares and supports total strangers, just because they all knit. They are for me the living embodiment of kindness and generosity in what could otherwise appear to be an indifferent world. They are another reason why I knit and I hope you will too..