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.
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.
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.
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.