Monday, August 27, 2012

Working Strands Together

A woman of a certain age sits alone by the fireside, quietly plying her needles.  The anachronistic ticking of a clock keeps time with the supple movements of her hands.  The obligatory cat nestles at the woman’s side.  Like her owner, the cat is languid and plump, ignoring the yarn that feeds the project, its sinuous motion no longer tantalizing, as it was when she was a kitten.    

This image is one that is evoked in the minds of many people when they contemplate knitting.  I didn’t buy into this stereotype when I taught myself to knit a little under four years ago, as I had a vague idea that that somewhere in the world there were young knitters (some of them even celebrities), but I did accept the solitary nature of the craft, as I had no notion of the vibrant social aspects of knitting.  At that time, I picked up yarn and needles in the cold and dark of December and taught myself to knit.  I did view online instructional videos and had heard Ravelry mentioned a time or two when I made initial forays to the knitting store, but ultimately my activity was a solitary one.  

As my knitting skills have progressed, however, I have found that my private knitting has evolved into an avenue for me to make connections with other people.  Last spring, I participated in in a Downton Abbey knitting exchange sponsored by two bloggers.  I not only loved the time I spent browsing the internet and magazines, looking for inspiration for pieces reflecting the time period in which the program is set, I also was able to share gifts and correspondence with a hospice nurse in Colorado.  When I traveled to Italy last summer on a school field trip, I mentioned to a teacher at a school we were visiting that I loved to knit.  Her mother, who had recently passed away, had been a knitter, and touched perhaps by the fact that I shared an enthusiastic interest in this same hobby, this woman offered to drive me (in her neat little Smart Car) to a yarn outlet, an amazing place with room after room of low-priced gorgeous yarns.  This Italian woman and I now exchange letters, the real kind, and discuss visiting one another someday, and I continue to knit with the yarn I purchased on this trip.    



I received these items as a part of the Downton Abbey exchange. 
There is nothing like the pleasure of receiving a real letter, delivered to my mail box in front of my house. 

While taking part in Knit and Crochet Blog Week last year (sponsored by Eskimi Makes), I spent some time reading other participants’ blogs.  One of these, struck me---not only for its aesthetic and oh-so-British appeal to my Anglophile sensibilities but also because its crocheting creator and I seemed to share an affinity for certain interests, including but not limited to:  Beatrix Potter, British literature, baking, and English country life.  In response to some mutual correspondence, Mrs. Thomasina Tittlemouse sent me a care package to feed my love of all things British (and my love of knitting), and I sent her some books we’d discussed as well as some other items, including a handmade crochet hook holder. 
 

My new British friend sent me some wonderful yarn from her region of England, which I'm using to create a swatch for future fingerless gloves.  She also sent me the book below (which presents a warm and witty vision of a teacher's life in a village in England some years ago) and a beautiful journal with a cover she'd made from scraps of Liberty Fabric. She also included some family recipes.   
 
Interestingly, cheese straws are British fare, but are a part of southern American cuisine as well.   I'd never heard of them until I moved south. I tried the recipe this past weekend, and my family enjoyed the small dainy snacks (so much so that they were gone before I remembered to take a picture). 



In addition to meeting other knitters at the rare, but so precious, times when I am able to take a class or venture to a knitting event (such as Vogue Knitting Live that I’ve raved about in past posts), knitting has also forged a link to the past for me.  I recently learned that my great grandmother was a knitter, and an aunt has given me a copy of one of her patterns as well as a diminutive needlework book that belonged to my grandmother.  This work's prose has a  a formal tone that speaks volumes about how our language (and body of seemingly intuitive female knowledge about needlework) has devolved over time.  I love how some of the knitting patterns include words such as “invariably” to discuss how simply and easily the knitter will find a certain number of stitches on each needle when working a complicated pattern using fine cotton thread. 
 

     Serendipitously, at a time in my life when I am burdened with a barely manageable schedule of work and family demands, a time when a visit with an actual flesh-and-blood female friend might happen once every couple of months (if I’m lucky), I have discovered a way to make connections through my knitting.  But both the social and solitary aspects of knitting have their place.  While there exists an element of shared excitement and pleasure when my knitting and the outside world intersect, there is something pleasing about sitting alone (or curled up with a cat), in a house that is quiet and serene, moving my needles, satisfied as rows incrementally  increase to build a garment.

4 comments:

  1. Nice! I can totally relate. I scrap alone these days and rarely have the opportunity to do what I love with my friends any more. I'm working on all of this when the boys go back to school. I work so hard on improving the lives of my family that I do very little to improve my own life. I'm sure the happier I am, the happier they will be, too. Thanks for sharing, Liz.

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  2. You write of the connectivity so beautifully! Similar but different thoughts from over the pond! E x

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  3. Great post :) Love reading your blog :) I crave more of the social aspect right now and wish I had some friends close by who knit.. I do have lots of lovely friends from all over the world who share my interest in knitting and I am grateful I have found them through this shared hobby :)

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  4. I've just redirected here from Thomasina's blog - this is a lovely piece of writing and I too am experiencing serendipitous knitting at the moment - I recently wrote about my own knitting experiences and was thinking about how my mother used to make jumpers for me - my first son is off to University and I feel that giving him a jumper to keep hime warm while he's away from home is a vital part of my caring for him. And only this weekend I was teaching my very trendy young niece (25) who lives in London to crochet a granny square - we have been talking via email ever since, I only wish that I was closer to her so that I could be on hand to help. I think that it is so important for older generations to pass on the handcraft skills, and I feel as if I am a link between my niece and her grandmother, who taught me. Thank you for the blog - I shall follow! Judy.

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