Why Knit?

I recently enjoyed the extreme pleasure and honor of teaching a dear friend to knit. You could say that I've been recruiting her for months now, constantly gifting her with handknit items for her entire family and bragging about how happy and relaxed the hobby makes me. When she sent me a pattern she liked (100% garter stitch blanket), I assured her she could make it herself, and a date was set for a lesson. Being a clever gal, she picked it up very quickly and is clicking along with a practice doll-sized blanket. In a recent email, she bemoaned her lack of speed and wondered how long it will take to create a blanket large enough to cover an entire child. Ever since, I've been pondering how I could best encourage her...you know...without lying.

Knitting is slow. You may pick up speed and you may not (just like reading, some people just indulge in a slower pace no matter how adept they are), but you will never be FAST. It is not a practical way to avoid shopping for clothes or linens, nor is it a way to save money. Yarn is expensive, and if you truly love fiber as most knitters do, yarn can be very expensive. Using comparable fibers, a store-bought sweater or blanket is, in most cases, both faster and cheaper. So why torture yourself with these pointy sticks?

Because knitting is slow. The act of knitting is a rebellion. It is as diametrically opposed to values and vices of modern culture as one can achieve in a matter of seconds. You will NOT be instantly gratified, as you've come to expect. You will NOT achieve perfection, no matter how smart or rich you've made yourself. You will NOT outsmart your competitors and save a buck. You will NOT consolidate tasks to get ahead. You will NOT one-up the Jones' or ride the crest of technology ahead of your peers. Knitting is demurely hostile in every way.

But knitting is not just antagonistic behavior for me. Knitting is warm. Warm with human hands, animal fibers, wooden sticks. Warm with imperfection and sighs and self-deprecating giggles. Warm with tiny prayers folded into each stitch, a wooley kiss, an whispered I-love-you to the recepient. Warm with the now melted tensions of afternoon traffic or the unraveled sting of some bad news. When I hand over to a friend a pair of handknit mittens or a baby blanket for their soon-to-be, I give an bundle of love and warmth to which no store-bought gift can compare, and I give a generous slice of my life.

There is another reason. Sliding a stitch into place: a single movement now in my hand, the soft "sshh" of the needle rubbing against its mate through the loop, "wwhh" as I whip the strand through the air and around the needle; with a "sshh thm tick" it sidles under the loop toward me, lifting the higher needle ever so slightly and letting it crack quietly back down, "then more swift woodeny whispers as the needle deftly peeks through it's new window, leans across the other like a violin bow, and then whisks the stitch off in a brisk movement that resembles sharpening a knife. It calls to me. This complex ballet of my fingers doesn't even ask my brain for permission or guidance anymore. The yarn dances back and forth before my startled eyes as if performing for me after months of exultant rehearsal. My fingers itch when they're not swathed in yarn, cradling bamboo, sshhing and wwhhiring away. I concede, this part may be some genetic predisposition, the joy that comes with working with your hands. It finally found me.

Whatever your reason, embrace all the hand-knitting is. The rewards are rich, indeed.

On the needles: Temple and Dustin's wedding blanket; my Clapotis; Jake's lap-top cover; EZ's Baby Surprise Jacket (whee!)

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