Monday, August 6, 2018

Be Here (Knitting) Now.

I used to crochet until a bit of arthritis in my thumb joints made it unpleasant. So I took up knitting. I’m now SO into knitting that my daughter and I decided to make and sell handmade, adorable knitting needles:

And here’s my obligatory Ravelry scrapbook of projects:

But this post isn’t about tools, stitches, projects, patterns, etc. etc. etc. Rather, it’s a meditation, a philosophical exploration, a self-reflective hypothesis sounding board, on WHY I knit.

Prairie folk often attribute their craftiness to pragmatism: we make things because we need them. But trust me, NO ONE I KNOW NEEDS ANOTHER KNIT HAT. EVER. Admit it…you’ve got a Rubbermaid tub in your hall closet overflowing with hats, mittens, and scarves. Your drawer is stuffed with untouched handknit socks you’ll re-gift as soon as the knitter has forgotten she/he gave them to you. So no, it isn’t about need. It’s something more…

1. “Idle Hands” Knitting. My grandma, a fairly stoic Presbyterian, reminded me often that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” When she sat to watch TV, she was also knitting an afghan, mending (including socks…people used to mend and keep wearing holey socks!!), folding laundry, or writing letters. I’m not religious myself and don’t believe in devils, but I have to admit that when my hands aren’t busy, I’m twitchy, and I watch around corners.

2. Knitting as Mindfulness Practice. Though I’ve been practicing for years, I admit to having a hard time with meditation ( I’ve heard the mind compared to a willful horse that’s always distracted by sounds & sights, and that constantly wants to turn back to the barn. So for me, mindful knitting helps me rein in the horse, instead of letting the horse take me astray. It’s a chance to PAY ATTENTION to each stitch, to the feel of the yarn, to the sound of the needles, to the rhythm of the rows. It’s a chance to stay in the present moment. I’m pretty much Type A+++, so knitting helps me slow my breathing & heart, lower my BP, and let go of the day/plans/regrets/schedule/lists for a time.

3. Cheap Gift Knitting. I’m a perpetually poor teacher. Ray is a printer (he runs a Heidelberg press). We live in South Dakota, where K-12 teachers are the lowest paid in the nation. IN THE NATION. And where post-secondary teachers don’t do much better and sometimes do much worse. And where wages in general are woeful. So yes, kids & siblings, you’re getting another funky knit hat and more fingerless gloves for Christmas.

4. Social Anxiety Knitting. You might not know this about me, but I’m an introvert. I do well in small groups of intimate friends, but put me in a large group, or any group of folks I don’t know, and the outer me will be charming and all smiles. But inner me might be bug-eyed, quaking, and hanging by her fingernails from a wall sconce. I’ve discovered that taking knitting everywhere I go can help in several ways: (a) some people will stay away because they think I’m “busy”; (2) some people will approach and ask about the knitting, which breaks the ice; and (III) I can effectively “time out” when I need to by concentrating on the knitting for a bit.

5. “Ignorance is Bliss” Knitting. I have a LOT of responsibilities and stress. A lot. A shit-ton, as the kids say. Knitting can sometimes signal others to steer clear because, dangit, I’m “busy” doing something constructive and important. And trust me, EVERYONE I KNOW NEEDS ANOTHER KNIT HAT. RIGHT NOW.